Recently I was surprised to see an online news headline proclaiming: “1 in 10 Americans think HTML is an STD!” http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-1-10-americans-html-std-study-finds-20140304,0,1188415.story?track=rss#axzz2v3zQeAtN
HTML stands for “HyperText Markup Language (yes, I had to look up those initials), a computer language for the creation of websites. STD stands for sexually-transmitted disease. (No, I didn’t need to look up those letters, and you readers likely didn’t either.) While the erroneous association is amusing, it illustrates the confusion that can arise when digital technology gets ahead of the average adult’s knowledge base. Another form of digital ignorance is far less benign and brings up Reason # 5 to conduct sex education at home:
Because you can teach & supervise appropriate use of digital/internet technology and protect children from sexting, predators, porn sites/porn spam, cyberbullying etc.
Many parents—including Christian parents—feel alarmed, overwhelmed and under-informed about modern technology, especially about ubiquitous wireless devices that deliver continuous internet access and defy adult monitoring. These moms and dads aren’t sure how to protect their children from digital dangers while instilling responsible use of smart phones, tablets etc. . . . especially if the kids are more tech savvy than the parents are. But Deuteronomy 6:6-9 still applies here, and uncertainty & ignorance can be overcome in the fulfillment of God-given parental duty. One need not be versed in HTML to establish some common-sense family policies regarding digital devices:
• Parents must role-model disciplined, balanced “screen time” . . . for example, no phones allowed while driving or at family meals, and no posting of personal information on social media.
• Parents shouldn’t give very young children internet-connected devices as “babysitters.” I’ve seen toddlers sitting in grocery carts manhandling, chewing & slobbering all over mom’s smart phone or tablet while she shops. She may have cued up a cute game or cartoon for the child, but little fingers on a touch screen can inadvertently bring up something unsavory while she selects fresh produce. Youngsters can’t yet respect/appreciate/carefully handle these delicate, expensive items. A child’s physical & cognitive development is better served by observing or exploring the surrounding environment with an attentive parent, rather than myopically staring at a handheld electronic screen.
• Long before kids start using digital devices parents can teach “best practices” in the context of honoring God with all His gifts to us. They can also layer warnings about internet dangers in age-appropriate doses and equip their kids to resist peer pressure.
• Parents control the purse-strings. They can exercise wisdom about when a child actually “needs” his own computer or cell phone . . . maybe in the middle school years. A trac- phone with limited minutes and no texting or internet capability is a good first choice . . . just to call home for after-school pickup or emergencies.
• Again, parents control the purse-strings. They can cancel a cell phone plan and confiscate a device that is being misused. Conversely a young teen who demonstrates digital responsibility & compliance with household rules can eventually earn the privilege of an upgraded device.
There are monitoring and safety measures beyond the scope of this post that parents can employ to guide their children’s use of digital technology. An entire chapter in my book will be devoted to this issue. For now though, I hope reason #5 has contributed to your motivation for home-based sex-ed . . . even if you think a gigabyte is a giant South American insect and Blu-ray is a sea creature. 🙂