Parent Tech 101
Technology changes so quickly these days that it’s challenging to keep pace with all the hottest sites, devices, and fads. But the Internet, cell phones, and iPods have become such an integral part of youth culture that parents need to stay in touch with them in order to stay in touch with their kids.
Two-thirds of America’s teenagers say, “Digital technology is an essential part of how I live.” Consider these developments: Social-networking sites have led to an explosion of interconnectedness. Blogs (Like Face Book & My Space) allow kids to reveal their innermost thoughts throughout cyberspace. Camera and video phones permit everything to be documented and posted for the whole world to see. Text-messaging is now the primary communication method for almost half (44%) of all teenagers.
All this technology has significant impacts on impressionable, developing young people. Kids are expressing themselves more than ever, friends can almost always reach one another, and teenagers can access lots of inappropriate material. Despite some potential dangers, the Internet and high-tech tools are here to stay.
So it’s up to parents to provide oversight and guidance. But you can take that one step further by helping your teenagers think critically about high-tech influences. When kids learn to evaluate technology and media from a Christian perspective, they can make wise decisions about what they “consume.”
Text messaging (or “texting”) might be the most surprising cultural development of the last decade. Despite the tiny buttons, small screens, and cost involved, texting has flourished. Here’s why:
1. It’s convenient and inconspicuous. Texting lets kids be expressive even in situations where other forms of communication aren’t appropriate (classrooms, middle of the night, etc.).
2. It allows “micro-coordination.” Kids no longer have to plan their get-togethers; they can do it on the fly. Texting lets kids change last-minute details about where and when to meet.
3. It provides gratification. More than half of all text messages are “singles,” with no response. Researchers say texting allows kids to subtly re-establish their significance.
4. It fits into kids’ “hookup” culture. Technology has contributed to the obliteration of sexual boundaries. Underage kids (all middle schoolers and nearly all in High school), with the perception of anonymity, are now texting or “sexting” explicit photos of themselves, which spread quickly.
You may have heard that the greatest threat to come out of all of this technology is “stranger danger”. While this is a credible threat and probably the only one with life threatening consequences it is probably the least likely to happen out of all of the possible dangerous and/or inappropriate things that come along with teen tech.


The following are a few examples of teen tech in use.
1. You probably already know cell phones can be set to vibrate (alert the user silently). While this is a good way to be discreet in public, it’s also an easy way to make secrets happen at will. Have you ever imagined your teen sneaking out at night for some sort of covert rendezvous? I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind at least once. Now imagine him or her getting a text around 10pm from friends to come hang out with them after 1am! They’re going to be at another friend’s house where the parents just shut the bedroom door and go to sleep because the kid(s) of that house have set a pattern of staying awake till 2 or 3 in the morning. Your child goes to sleep and around 10:30. You think “My kid(s) are so responsible and sensible!” and settle in for a good nights sleep. You child has the cell phone under his or her pillow and dozes for the next few hours silently texting friends and making plans, maybe even dares about the coming “party”. At 12:45 a car stops near your house and texts that they are waiting. Your child gets up and walks quietly out the front door, gets in the car with friends and they’re on the way to a great time. Around 3am your kid(s) makes it home, slips in the house again, goes to bed and sleeps in till noon – just like normal.

2. Computers and cell phones are not up close communications. It’s easy to be disconnected from the conversations that are going on. It’s very easy to post negative comments about each other on the web. Things you would never say in person are a simple mouse click away -“post” or “send”. In the news recently was a story about a girl who was tricked into thinking she had a new boyfriend because of on line communications, only to find out that another girl was trying to get incriminating information to use against her. The imposter later posted hateful and inappropriate remarks on a popular blog site. The tricked and humiliated girl then hung herself.

3. Pics & Sexting. Guess what! Your 14 year old daughter or son can take their own picture, any way they choose and send it to anyone with a computer or phone. Web sites pay for “amateur” photos. Does you child have a “pay pal” account or any other on line banking deposit account? Do you know how to set up on line banking? Have they told you they sold some old toys on line lately to make a few bucks? Now imagine a game of I’ll show you mine if you show me yours via pics messaging. With the same “safe” and disconnected feeling about texting and posting, “sexting” is too convenient. What some fail to realize is that it not only invites more promiscuous behavior it leaves the sender wide open for future exploitation. And if one of the youth involved is over 18 it becomes a crime!

4. Addictive games on line or by console can also be a problem. What does your child do all day during the summer? What happens after school? If they’re not posting to their web site, texting, or downloading illegal music and videos from so called “sharing” sites they’re probably playing a computer game. If your child is spending more than an hour a day during the school year and 2 hours a day in the summer playing games they may be addicted. School work can suffer and during the summer, if you ban the game your child will loose the ability to find anything to do that’s not boring. As with any addiction, life is consumed by whatever is the focus. Everything else is unimportant.

5. iPod and MP3 players. What can possibly be dangerous about listening to music? The “special” files. Most of these devices can store pictures, video and test conversations as well as music.