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When are kids ready for smartphones or other devices that give access to the cyber world?

I often speak with parents whose children are addicted to video games or other appetites awakened on the Internet. They are dismayed, and their alarm is appropriate. The Internet provides access to questionable friendships, interests, ideas, and delights that may be perverse and degrading. Children enter a cyber world that parents know little about and cannot easily monitor. Parents are shocked by their son’s computer history. They catch a glimpse of their daughter’s Facebook page and see her withdrawing into a social network that does not include family. Their son plays video games for hours, and is angry and hostile when he is called back into the real world.

So, when are they ready? Maybe a better question is, how do I get them ready for the cyber world they have inherited? I pursue meaningful relationships with them. I prepare them through careful, thoughtful instruction. I wow them with God’s character and attributes. I speak about being creatures made in His image to be dazzled by His glory. I excite them with humanity’s grand and noble calling to make the world a place of beauty and justice so that people may flourish. I open up the problem of the fall and its effects on them and all humanity. I help them see the sneaky ways of sin and our profound need for grace and deliverance. I extol the virtues of Jesus as the Savior, who abandoned glory to live in our world, and who, though sinless, died to secure our reconciliation to a holy God. I seek to persuade them of the glad delights of walking in God’s ways. I mentor them on battle strategies for the sins that war against them.

Two cautions: First, this is only a suggestive outline of instruction needed to navigate the dangerous waters of the youth culture. Second, this is not a monologue they hear only before opening their new iPhones; it’s a long-term training process.

Back to the question: When are they ready? When they reflect their embrace of the things you have taught, then they are ready to navigate these dangerous waters.

Parents mistake their kids’ intuitive ability to use electronics with the maturity needed for wise use. My four-year-old grandson learned to ride his two-wheeler, but his dad still won’t let him ride his bike to Grandma’s. Why not? He can operate the bike, but his dad knows there are dangers on the road that his son is not ready for. One day he will be. Dad is getting him ready. One day, your kids will be ready for unsupervised forays into the cyber world. Get them ready. 


This article was first published in Tabletalk magazine, an outreach of Ligonier, and is reproduced here by permission.


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Dr. Tedd Tripp is an author, conference speaker, and elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Hazelton, Pa. He is author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart and, with his wife, Margy, Instructing a Child’s Heart.
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