Growing up in Greece, a place known as the “cradle of western civilization” and the “birthplace of democracy,” was quite an experience. Our family was very traditional: Dad was the provider, and Mom took care of the children and the home.
But when it came to family discussions, we all had an opportunity to share our thoughts. I really appreciated that, especially since I was the youngest. It felt very “democratic.”
Raising our own family here in the United States, my wife and I decided to follow the same successful model with one major exception: electronic media. When it comes to the Internet, text messaging, music, television, movies and all other aspects of electronic media, our family is not a democracy: it’s a dictatorship!
Now I say that with a little bit of a smile, but it would be highly irresponsible to allow our kids the “freedom” to choose whatever they want.
For the time being, we try to teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves, within the bounds of safety. As I’ve lectured to youths around the country on the dangers of the Internet, there’s always one common theme. The only “surfing” allowed is on a surfboard! Internet surfing is as dangerous as literally going surfing with a boogie board on the North Shore of Hawaii in the winter, when the waves grow to more than 30 feet. The likelihood of tragedy would be quite high, just like surfing the Internet without a specific purpose could be. Believe me, trouble will find you!
I actually love the Internet and all the information you can get on it. Just think of how easy it is to find church lessons, medical information, FHE lessons, music and so much more. Then add to it the instant availability of news, sports, weather, entertainment, music — the list is endless.
The sad news is that there’s such a dark side to the Internet as well: from the mildly inappropriate to the outright dark and evil. Everything you could think of, or worse, is available to us instantly.
As parents who love and care for the mental, emotional and spiritual well-being of our children, it is our stewardship and responsibility to protect them. Let there be no doubt that if we don’t, we will be held accountable from the very source who sent them to us: our Heavenly Father!
So how do we implement control, and still maintain a loving and open relationship with our children, who are sure to feel like we’re intruding upon their “electronic space?”
Surprisingly, allowing the children to participate in establishing the family rules and limits, helps the children to feel like they have some control, and makes them less likely to resent those rules. And usually, they choose reasonable and safe limits. It is in the enforcing of those rules that parents need to keep their eyes and ears open. Because of the addictive nature of electronic games, even though the children have set the limits, they rarely can be relied upon to follow them without adult supervision and intervention.
Monitoring e-mails, text messages, Internet site history and the like can only go so far. Putting the computer in a public place is the very least we must do. Giving our children a laptop to take to their bedrooms, behind closed doors, is akin to letting a drug dealer hang out with them and hoping that they won’t be exposed to drugs! Taking away cell phones (with texting privileges) and iPods at night is a helpful rule. But ultimately, listening to the promptings of the Spirit AND acting upon those promptings, however unpopular that might be, IS the most loving act we can engage in for our children.
We know our kids are exposed to all sorts of inappropriate communication at schools and other public settings — being in the world is an inevitable part of life on earth in the 21st century. What is not inevitable, however, is being willing to stay connected to the Spirit, as it leads and guides us in order to protect our treasures on earth: our children.
Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of LDSCoaching.com. With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.