Page 1



Contents Introduction 5 Part 1/Owner’s manual


1 An age of change 2 The impact of technology 3 Technology—the players

10 18 32

Part 2/Driving lessons


4 A biblical world view 5 Building character 6 Identity 7 Parental responsibility and authority 8 Freedom, responsibility and making wise choices 9 Trust versus protection 10 Peer pressure 11 Time management 12 Maturity and conversation

48 53 65 77 82 90 94 100 108

Part 3/Defensive driving


13 Facebook and social networking 14 Cyber bullying 15 Gaming 16 Pornography

116 136 145 157

Part 4/Seatbelts and airbags


17 18 19 20 21

170 177 187 196 202

Parental controls Passwords and security A collection of practical tips Talking and walking through the online world with your kids Final thoughts


Introduction Parenting is hard work; it has always been hard work. Here in the 21st century, with the massive influence of the technological world, the parenting challenge has risen to a whole new level. It’s a different world to that in which we grew up. Our kids have an amazing ability to absorb rapid changes in technology and to quickly add new gadgets to their lives, and we parents can feel rather left behind! In our own childhood, we marvelled at the invention of Space Invaders, Pong and video arcades. Now, every child can play an incredibly lifelike game in their hand, or against people they don’t know on the other side of the world. Portable computers, portable phones, portable listening devices (previously known as Walkmans) were once new and exciting inventions. Now they are incorporated into one handheld device, accessible 24/7. In the 80s, we went to computer camp to learn how to operate these amazing inventions of advanced engineering. We learned computer languages in order to write simple programs to use those computers. Now we can deliver a solar-charged tablet to an illiterate villager in Ethiopia and, within five months, they can be communicating in English with anyone in the world.


When we were at school, there was a dedicated ‘computer room’ with half-a-dozen incredibly slow computers to share (where we programmed computers to draw squares). Interactive whiteboards are now in our children’s classrooms, and learning is an amazing blend of the interactive, online and experiential. In the past, homes had a single phone attached to the wall and shared with the whole family. Today just about every child has a mobile phone (and can text seven people or more at once), and has instant and constant access to the Internet. Dirty magazines were bought by adults and stashed under beds. Now porn is accessible to anyone, in any place and at any time of day. We used to put up with television advertisements and the occasional billboard. Today’s children are surrounded by and bombarded with hundreds of advertising images and messages daily. In our childhood, Dad was the one who connected the new television and programmed the VCR. Our own kids have an amazing ability to understand the latest technology and usually have it all working before we’ve found the instruction manual!

Cyber parenting


This decade’s young people cope well with change. Indeed, they expect change! And so, how is a parent to navigate this new world of technology—a world into which our children are born and instantly adapt, but which is foreign to many of us? How do we communicate with our kids in a world of instant communication? How do we live together with them in a world of messaging, selfies,1 flashing screens and instant information? How do we approach parenting and training our children when there are so many voices to compete with? How do Christian parents and families stand out in a world of individualism and relativism? We, the Boswells, are ordinary parents. We are not experts who have all the answers—we are living the technological change with our kids, just like you. But we are also Christian parents who view the world and all its change in

1. Selfie is a genre of self-portrait photograph typically taken with a handheld digital camera or camera phone … often associated with social networking and photo sharing services, accessed April 20, 2013, <>.

the light of what the Bible says, and we approach the modern world within that context. We hope that our experience in the technology industry and work with parents and families over many years will help you as you parent your children and teens in this technological age.


How to get the most from this book We have structured this book in four parts. Think of your cyber parenting journey as getting a new car and learning how to drive.

Part 1: Owner’s manual Part 1 provides an overview—it’s a little like the owner’s manual for a new car. We look at how technology is changing the world we live in and how it impacts us and our kids. It includes a brief introduction to some of the main technologies and how they work.

Part 2: Driving lessons Part 2 considers what we need to teach our children, in order for them to be safe and responsible drivers of technology. As we parent our kids from a biblical world view and encourage them to develop godliness in their character and attitudes, the same principles will apply to technology issues.

With some basic driving skills under our belt, it’s time to prepare for reallife situations. In Part 3 we tackle the ‘Big four’—Facebook and social media, cyber bullying, gaming and pornography. How can we prepare for the situations that might come up, and what should we do if things start to come unstuck?

Part 4: Seatbelts and airbags In Part 4 we provide a guide to important safety features and how to use them. These are practical things parents can do to respond to bumps in the road, unexpected sharp corners or cyberspace accidents.


Part 3: Defensive driving



Have you ever read the owner’s manual of your car? No doubt, some of you love to read any manual from cover to cover, filling yourself with the knowledge of possibilities. When the time comes, you’ll know exactly where to find the windscreen washer filler, even if it won’t need to be filled for a couple of years. Others will take pride in never having to read manuals—‘manual schmanual’—you’ll figure it out when you need to. It’s just a car after all—how hard can it be? Then there are those who are pragmatic enough to get in and start driving, but look to the book when they need to change a fuse or find out what that warning light on the dash means. In this section we want to pause and take the time out from the busyness that engulfs us, and stand back to observe it from the outside. We will see just how amazing the technological change of the last few years has been, and look at the issues that arise for today’s parents. Finally we will take a brief tour of the technology to help you become familiar with all the new lights and controls that may not have been in your parental car up to this point.


An age of change

Cyber parenting


As a parent, have you ever felt that you couldn’t keep up—that the world is passing you by? Is there just ‘too much information’ on a day-to-day basis to take in? Do your kids always seem a step ahead—or several steps ahead? Just as soon as you get your head around the new latest and greatest technological thing (whether it is a device, a game, a new social network or music/video sharing site), it has been replaced. ‘Oh that’s so last week!’ We live in a digital world where things come at us from every direction. There are so many ways for people to reach us: by phone and email, text messages through SMS (and dozens of free messaging services, with more springing up every day), Facebook and Twitter. We can be Skyped, MSN’d and ICQ’d, Google-talked, Face-timed and Kik-ed—and that’s just to name a few. In this plugged-in, online world, nobody travels anywhere without multiple ways to stay connected. We, the Boswells, pack a whole separate bag of devices (and all their chargers) every time we go away! Some people joke about ‘going in light’ or ‘heavy’, depending on just how much technology they are bringing (like the way those boys’ action movies refer to weapons). Teens are, in the main, content with a single handheld device, but that may change when they find they need laptops, iPads or whatever comes next, in order to do everything they want or need to do. Of course the devices

will continue to evolve, with new models replacing those that were only new just months ago. The device format and functions are still changing and evolving, and will continue to morph for a while to come. Hopes of carrying just one device to rule them all seem to be just that, hopes—always on the horizon and just out of reach. In writing a book such as this, we are very aware that the speed of change is faster than we can keep pace with. By the time the printed book finally hits the shelves, what is new now will be old. We are continually quizzing our teens on what is happening so that we can stay up to date. Keeping up with the changes is hard enough; predicting what’s coming next is even harder! With that in mind, our hope in this book is to provide you with advice about technology that will stand the test of time no matter how the technology changes. Yes, if you are reading this years (or even months) after the first print run, there will be some technological examples that are out of date. There will be some trends and practices that have fallen away and others that we have failed to predict. For that reason, as you read through these pages, it is important to look for the parenting principles that lie behind the specific situations, technologies and issues that are discussed, and do your best to ‘future-proof’ your cyber parenting.

mug’s game, but I am personally looking forward to the day when my phone is my laptop and, despite the apparent contradiction in size, is very practical to use as either. I can see myself arriving at work, leaving my phone in my pocket, and having my large screen, keyboard and mouse connected wirelessly. My phone will have enough computing power to

An age of change

Technology prediction | James: Yes, trying to predict the future is a

run my regular business applications, enough storage for my working documents, and all my files will be safely stored in ‘the cloud’.2 While this is possible in a rudimentary way even now, it will be practical enough for every day and everyone, within a very short period of time. Early adopters will be regularly working like this within three to five years and it will be commonplace by 2020—the time when our teens will be entering or in the workforce.

2. ‘The cloud’ refers to running applications or storing documents somewhere on the Internet (for example, Google Docs) rather than locally on your computer. This is an emerging and maturing trend, and will continue to develop in new ways.



Change is accelerating Not only are the devices and ways we can communicate multiplying, the rate of change is accelerating. Let’s take a look at just how fast things are changing. • •

• • •

In 2011, the world created more data each day than it did in the whole of the year 2000.3 In that same year, 300 million new websites were created, more than doubling the total number that existed at the end of 2010, after 21 years of the World Wide Web.4 Every second, 750 tweets are shared via Twitter.5 Every minute, 72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.6 Facebook grew from 600 million users at the end of 2010, to over one billion at the end of 2012. If it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world!7

Facebook user growth over time 1 billion

Cyber parenting


750 million

500 million

250 million

0 2004




2008 2009




3. Gantz, J & Reinsel, D 2011, ‘Extracting value from chaos’, IDC iView, viewed February 2013, <>. 4. Pingdom 2012, ‘Internet 2011 in numbers’, Royal Pingdom, viewed March 2013, <http://royal.>. 5. Stadd, A 2013, ‘14 Twitter Statistics You May Not Know’, AllTwitter, viewed February 2013, <>. 6. YouTube Statistics, viewed February 2013, <>. 7. Facebook Newsroom, viewed February 2013, <>.

The acceleration of this change is real, measurable and predictable. One of the reasons it seems so fast is the way innovation uses prior inventions to build newer, bigger and better things. What was designed this year from many different components becomes next year’s building block on which to build even more complex things. With each generation of technology, the amount that is reused from the past multiplies. Growth in ‘information technology’ is, by its very nature, exponential growth. The technology in computer chips gets faster and cheaper every year. Every two years, the number of transistors that can fit in a computer chip doubles.8 However, the computing power of a computer chip actually doubles faster— every 18 months—not only because you can fit more transistors on a chip, but because they get faster.9 However the amount of computing power you can buy for the same money doubles every year because the cost to produce the same technology gets cheaper.10 This doubling of computing power per dollar can be measured and has been happening for over 100 years, since the first mechanical computers were designed.

An age of change

This all means that the same amount of change takes place in a successively shorter and shorter time. The upshot is we are likely to see more change in the next five years than we have seen in the last 25 years. Can you remember the way things worked 25 years ago? At that time, there wasn’t ‘an app for that’ on your iPhone (2007). You couldn’t watch anything on YouTube (2005) or ‘like’ anything on Facebook (2004). You got the appropriate volume of the encyclopedia off the shelf to look something up because you couldn’t look anything up on Wikipedia (2001). You were not able to search for what you were looking for on Google either (1998) because, in fact, there was no World Wide Web (1991)!


8. This is known as Moore’s Law, after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, viewed February 2013, <’s_law>. 9. Another Intel executive, David House observed this in 1975, op. cit. 10. Ray Kurzweil has done extensive work in this area and put forward ‘The Law of Accelerating Returns’ in 2001, viewed February 2013, <>.

Cyber Parenting  

Do you understand your child's online world? As parents, the technological and online worlds of our children can be hard to wrap our minds...

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