When I was a young boy in Northern California, the only time I wanted to go inside was dinnertime. All other hours, I wanted to be outside playing.
Playtime for today’s young people, however, has transformed into screen time. The nature of community for twenty-first century children and teens has been radically changed.
The typical teenager today spends over 7.5 hours each day connected to some form of media.
This many hours of screen time poses serious concerns for the hearts and souls of young people—on every level.
One of these concerns is purity.
For today’s teens, technology and purity can be incredibly connected. Twenty percent of all teens say they have sent/posted nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves. And there’s worse…but I’m stopping there. The point is that today’s Internet makes moral sins incredibly accessible (and deceptive) to young people at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.
At the same time, I was reminded anew of the relevance of God’s Word to every generation. We studied Ephesians 5:8–15 and drew many practical instructions from the principles clearly set forth in these verses. (Click here for a message summary.)
Around the same time, our son, Larry Chappell, taught in teen Bible study on the importance of accountability, especially with parents. He invited the teens to make a commitment between their parents and the Lord regarding being responsible in their use of the Internet. (The commitment he gave them was adapted from an appendix in the helpful book The Digital Invasion by Dr. Archibald Hart and Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd.)
Larry also explained the commitment to parents in a teen parent meeting and encouraged them to review it with their children, and even to tweak it as appropriate for their child’s needs.
When it comes to technology, it’s important to realize that the tools are always changing. Frankly, large portions of the commitment below may be outdated in two years. But the Bible principles of purity and accountability will never be outdated. And making specific commitments to honor those principles will never be outdated.
Here is the commitment as given to the teens and their parents:
Teenager’s Pledge: Purity & Accountability
Although technology is always changing, my commitment to remain mentally and physically pure for God and my future spouse is settled. Because of my desire to abstain from the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), and to respect my parents’ wisdom and loving care to protect me from any harm the Internet might cause, I promise to do the following:
- I agree to be open about my use of the Internet with my parents. While they agree to respect my right to privacy, I will be transparent in my use of the Internet so they can come to trust me completely.
- My parents and I will regularly review my use of the Internet, and I will respect their wisdom and cautions they may give to me.
- Together, we will establish rules about when and how I can use the Internet. I agree to abide by whatever time limits and access sites they may set for using the computer or any other communication device, understanding that these are privileges that they are granting.
- I will never use any other computer or device to access the Internet (such as a friend’s computer) without keeping my parents informed.
- I will never give out my Internet password to anyone (even my best friends) or let anyone besides family members have access to my Internet connection without my parents’ knowledge.
- I will never agree to meet or go with someone or have any contact with anyone I “meet” on the Internet without my parents’ permission. I will not enter a chat room without my parents’ permission.
- If anyone I meet on the Internet tries to give me information or send me something that my parents would be upset about, I will tell my parents right away.
- Realizing that identity theft is now epidemic, I will never give out any information over the Internet, like my family’s address, telephone or cell phone numbers, or any other personal information. If anyone requests personal information about me or any other family member, I will report it to my parents right away.
- I will never use the Internet inappropriately, such as to “bully’’ or threaten anyone over the Internet or anywhere else.
- I will never send any sort of picture of myself or any family member to anyone who asks for it, without permission.
- Because Internet pornography addiction is now rampant, I will never access or download any pictures or information of a sexual nature that my parents would disapprove of.
- I will be conscious of how much time I spend on the web, phone, and other devices and will not let the use of these distractions interfere with my sleep, schoolwork, and face-to-face relationships.
- I will never send pictures or messages that would be considered “sexting.”
- When I am worshipping at church, I will not text or surf the Internet.
- I will try my best to show my parents that I can be a responsible user of the Internet, so they can be proud of me for being responsible.
I agree to all of these pledges:
Teenager’s Signature: ______________________________
Parents of teenagers need to be vigilant as you work to guard the hearts and minds of your children against dangers you did not face at their age. You need to have open discussions with them regarding the temptations they face on the screens at their fingertips. And of course, you need to guard your own heart as well against the same temptations.
Above all, we need to pray for our young people. Pray that God will protect them from temptation (Matthew 6:13), that they will purpose in their own hearts not to defile themselves (Daniel 1:8), and that they will keep themselves pure (1 Timothy 5:22).
(Click here for a printable download of this pledge.)