Parents, Phones, and Privacy

Does a child have a right to complete privacy regarding technology?

The two parental extremes are:

  1. Grant your children complete privacy because you don’t want to push them away.
  2. Grant yourself complete access to everything possible so you can discover what they are really doing because you know the dangers.

There are many options in addition these two, but every parent must make a decision.  In reality, if you don’t make a decision, you have made already made one.

What role should parents have regarding their children’s media devices and privacy?  Here are a few things to consider:

Privacy Principles

  1. If you have a receipt for it, you have the rights to it.  If you have purchased the device, it is yours until that child buys it from you.  While they may not like it, that device is yours.
  2. Anyone younger than you is smarter than you regarding technology.  When children have devices in their hands at an early age, they go further and faster in their understanding which means they know how to see things and to hide things of which you may not be aware.
  3. You can trust your child but not trust the situation.  Many parents worry that children will feel distrusted if a parent looks behind them, but you can communicate that trusting your child doesn’t mean you trust everyone and everything.  There are other people on the other side of that device as well.
  4. Set the barrier and the standard.  As the parent, you have the right to set the standard that the children have to obey, but it might carry even greater weight if you imitate what you want from them.
  5. Your child doesn’t have to look for immorality, immorality looks for your child.  Years ago, people would have to work hard to view pornography, now it is rampant.  It is also available in hidden containers.  It is everywhere.
  6. Don’t wonder if your child is being exposed, discover how much your child is being exposed.  If you think your child isn’t being exposed to immoral material, language, and media, you are beyond naïve and your children are in danger.  They are exposed – the question is, “how much?”
  7. Don’t give into parental peer pressure.  Just because Johnny’s parents let him do that does not mean you have to let yours do that.  Johnny and his parents are the way they are for a reason.  Hold fast to your convictions for your child.
  8. Be on guard against isolated engagement.  Evaluate your home and notice if all media is being consumed in isolation.  If everyone is constantly hidden behind screens and not viewing each other or viewing something together, who knows all what is behind those screens?  It might be time to rearrange your home.
  9. It’s better to provide new freedoms rather than revoke old ones.  Reverse the parenting funnel.  If you give open access early on, it becomes uncontrollable to reign back in.  Give minimal exposure in early years and allow your children to prove their maturity and increase their opportunities.
  10. Don’t depend on methods apart from sanctification (but don’t neglect methods either).  I can’t expect the fruit of the Spirit in my children’s lives if they aren’t Christians.  So I know that no amount of filters and software and monitors can make my children holy.  But it is also negligent to think that those things don’t help protecting them from unholiness.  Think of parenting methods as train tracks – they can’t make the train move but they can help you keep them on the track.

For more on this topic, check out the sermon about Nehemiah’s method of handling “The Exposed Places.”

Nehemiah knew that an enemy was trying to invade and endanger the homes of the workers.  He stationed the men in the exposed places of the walls and prepared them for battle.  We have to visualize our role as protecting our families and being willing to take a stand and fight for their security (Neh. 4:13-14).

Will you do all you can to protect your family?

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.