The Internet… so widespread and yet, as a cultural phenomenon, still so recent. Children know, on the whole, much more about this world than their parents. That, perhaps, explains why today's parents have not always been successful in providing (moral) guidance to their children in their roaming the computer world.
Bradley J. Widstrom of Denver Seminary in Littleton, CO, has made some observations that parents may find helpful. He referred to a recent comprehensive research study made by the University of Wisconsin Human Subjects Committee *).
Here’s a summary of Widstrom's helpful remarks:
Participants in this research projects were recruited from youth leaders, computer experts, young people, therapists, educators, academicians, and church leaders. One important question: who is best qualified to provide leadership for youth in internet use? By far the majority (97%) pleaded for parents to assume a leading role. The participating young people endorsed that notion (74%). Guidance needs to be afforded children at a young age: seven. By that age children are well introduced to the computer world. They must by then already integrate healthy skills and responses to prevent negative consequences.
Parents may feel under-prepared to give effective guidance. Mutual help is, therefore urgently needed. Ministry professionals, teachers, clinicians, counselors, youth leaders, etc., all need to come alongside parents and share in the responsibility. Internet Safety Instruction will need much attention.
This research study spells out both risks (though it is a bit sparse on that score) as well as benefits. The amount of time spent on the net is a huge factor. Cyberbullying has made many victims. Also mentioned are: harassment, unhealthy sharing of personal and identifiable information, privacy violations, and online activity addiction. In extreme forms some of these have led to suicide. On the positive side: the value of academic enrichment, cultural enhancement, and increased social connectedness should not be underestimated.
The research project concludes its finding by stressing again that parents need to play a key role in the holistic development of their children. The Internet with all its fascination for youth, deserves closer attention from parents and youth leaders than it seems to receive at present.
How are the leaders of your church supporting parents in these efforts?