Technology is amazing. As I am writing this post I have my earbuds plugged in and I am listening to a track of my son playing the piano. That will be followed by another track of a friend playing the cello. Both of these tracks were recorded on my iPhone and then copied on to my computer. If I wish, I can transfer these tracks to my iPod and easily play them anywhere. As I enjoy this music, no one else in the house can hear what I am listening to. Herein lies the problem. My family is not concerned about what I am hearing through the earbuds. If I were a 9 year old or a 14 year old it might be a different story.
This Christmas, no doubt, many of your children received new or upgraded portable listening devices (PLDs). Immediately, the concern is: “What will my kids be listening to?” In an attempt to control things, you could demand that your children show you the play lists on the PLDs. But, as I just indicated, tracks can be added or deleted in an instant. Even with daily checking, parents are really at the mercy of their children as to what they are listening to. What is the answer? Ban PLDs altogether? This would likely create as many problems as it solves. Another solution might be to have the children sign an agreement with you that they will only listen to music that meets with your approval. This solution would be of no more value than the first one. Or, you could just pragmatically concede defeat and tell the kids to listen to whatever they want to. This also is not a satisfying answer.
The answer lies not in restricting or avoiding technology and PLDs. Yes, you will have to set boundaries and guidelines for your children regarding the music they listen to. It would be good, particularly as they get older, to have them interact with you about setting these guidelines and the appropriate consequences for not meeting them. But, more than outward behavioral compliance is needed. Remember the goal is to honor God in all things, even in using PLDs. Once again we see it is the attitude of the heart that is the real issue.
Recall that the goal for your middle-aged children is to prepare them for the times when you are not there to monitor their behavior. With your teenagers the goal is to help them internalize the truth of the gospel in their lives. PLDs offer an excellent opportunity to implement both of these goals.
Proverbs 6:21-22 provide the framework for your discussion about PLDs. Solomon encourages his young listeners to have the biblical truths taught by their parents to be an intimate part of their life:
Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.
Here the goal fleshed out. The word of God is to be intimately connected to your children’s inner being. The Spirit’s words are to interact with whatever they encounter in life, or on a PLD.
I realize you can’t just tell your children to memorize Proverbs 6 and then apply it whenever their PLD is on. What you can do is to model this relationship with God’s word for them as you live your life with regard to the music you listen to. Frank Sinatra is no better role model than Adele in helping to form a biblical worldview. Talk about it. You can use the combination of pleasant words and good listening skills to create the relational climate where your children desire to talk with you. You can have the courage of the father in Proverbs 7 to talk frankly about the sins of lust to prepare your kids for what lies ahead.
In this way you can say something like this to your kids with a new or old PLD. I have just put in the parents words below. You will need to leave room for your kids to interact.
Hey, this PLD is really cool. When I was your age, we had to take the boombox out to the garage if we wanted to listen to our music. Seriously, listening to music on your PLD can be a great blessing or a curse. As we talked about, Mom and I can’t monitor everything you listen to. But God is listening. He does not ignore deceit. That is the important thing. We are going to trust you to use the PLD well. If you choose not to, we will have to implement the guidelines we talked about. What we want to see happening is that you will grow in discernment as you listen. We don’t expect you to be perfect, but we do desire that you grow. We will be here with you to work through these things. We pray that you will have the courage to ask how the things you listen to will impact your relationship with God. We pray that you will grow to understand how to view the world more clearly and that you will know what music will help you and what music will hinder you.
Think you are not there yet? Well then you have something to work on. Listen well. Love as 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 directs. Speak with pleasant words. Pray earnestly. Trust God. Good things will come.