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A little over eleven years ago, I published Save Them From Secularism. I wanted to fill a gap in the parenting literature. As I see it, the majority of helpful Christian parenting books deal with the heart, motives, behaviour, correction, communication, and roles. Few deal with a child’s deep view of reality: his imagination. The shaping of the child’s overall picture of reality is the most fundamental shaping force in his life. In the book, I argue that the imagination can be shaped, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

When I originally wrote, social media was just hitting its stride. There was no such thing as ten year-olds with smart phones and multiple social media accounts. Child YouTube stars hadn’t even been dreamed of. No one yet saw that screens were going to become the new cocaine. But in the online world, ten years is equivalent to a whole generation. It’s occurred to me to add some chapters to the book.

In the last few years, some good literature has come out that helps parents with the dangers. Predictably, the first Christian responses were all about the content: pornography, violence, and false teaching. That remains an important area to guard and shape.

More recently, writers have been dealing with the negative ways people use the internet: time-wasting, pseudo-relationships, addictive scrolling, gossip, and the negative traits that come out in people: envy, boasting, narcissism, lust, voyeurism, ungodly speech hiding behind anonymity, and covetousness.

Finally, what has been the least discussed, but is almost certainly the most powerful, is how digital media and technologies shape us and our imaginations. The craving for updates, the addiction to the new, perpetual distraction, superficial reading (and therefore understanding), and shallow focus are powerful shapers of what it means to be worshipper. The digitisation of relationships also has a powerful effect on our understanding of what it is to be human. The mediation of reality through a flat-screen is itself a massive change in human civilisation: we now all use hand-held windows to look at the world.

But the technology is here to stay, and can be harnessed helpfully. We can worship, work, and play as worshippers and image-bearers without a total ban on screens or online access. But such spiritual success will only come with some vigorous cultivation. Parents will need to plan very carefully what their children access, how much of it they consume, when and why they use these technologies.

In this series, we’ll try to outline how to prepare and shape your children to have Christian imaginations amidst the digital deluge. Here’s a partial list of the kinds of advice we’ll be giving:

  1. Particularly in the early years, teach children the importance of play, creation, and outdoor living without the continual use of devices.
  2. Don’t use unsupervised watching or playing of phones or tablets, gaming consoles or the TV as a continual and regular babysitter.
  3. Read to your children often when they are young. If possible, listen to audiobooks. Teach them some poems to memorise. 
  4. Let your child learn a musical instrument, and try to teach them the ability to listen to serious music for short periods of time. 
  5. Set time limits on game consoles and for Internet use. 
  6. Do family devotions, and explain that the Bible is a book of imagination that requires a healthy and Christian imagination.
  7. Be pro-active in selecting what your child will read, watch and listen to. Don’t just avoid what is destructive, manipulative and deceptive. Seek those media that strengthen a Christian worldview. Look for lists of good Christian books, music, movies, TV shows, websites, YouTube channels. 
  8. Use filtering software, devices that limit time and content, and services that remove offensive content. Perform regular checks on your child’s laptops, iPads, phones. 
  9. Be concerned about formation (the type of media, the time used, its effect), not only information. 

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  1. Pingback: Digital Discipleship for Your Children, Part I

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