There are no simple answers to the question of how to educate children to the issues and dangers of modern technology. It is clear, however, that the problems are much too serious to ignore and just hope for the best.
There must be preparation in advance, because the tests pop up suddenly, without any advance notice. The child must be inoculated to resist the attack before it happens.
This does not mean, however, that the parent must explain all the details of Android and iPhones. If the child develops a desire to avoid these dangers, he will find out the details when he has to. The important thing is to create the correct perception of the issues and a desire to avoid the pitfalls. In order to do this, some direct confrontations of the issue are necessary from time to time, as well as a healthy atmosphere in the home.
In order to transmit the proper values, it is important to place the concern about improper use of the technology at the center, and not just a focus on the greatest convenience. The focus must be the dangers and the importance of avoiding them for the sake of our fate in this world and the next, and any benefits we can have from the technology are just a bonus. If we have trouble and inconvenience from the necessary avoidance of the dangers, it should not be seen as a sacrifice since there is no alternative.
A sign with a message
In most cases of a young boy or child backsliding, it was the result of exposure to a technological device, either through a friend or neighbor who owned one and suggested he take a "peek." When the temptation stems from curiosity, the more he recoils from it, the greater is his power to overcome his inquisitiveness. But in many cases, the temptation is really a desire to see what is there so much as being embarrassed to turn down his friend's offer. This weakness applies not only to the technological area but occupies a central role in the whole concept of a `bad friend' which has felled innumerable victims to date.
In order to immunize him, a strong fortification is necessary in advance to make him able to stand up against peer pressure. One must create opportunities for the child to avoid being swept up with negative behavior on the part of his friends, and to compliment him for this. Praise, in this context, should not focus only upon his avoidance of this act, per se, but on his power to withstand the pressure from his friend. He should be commended for the fact that he was strong enough to say `No' to his friend.
The Golden Mean
There are additional very vital points which we must imbed in his chinuch, such as total subjugation to the words of our rabbonim, for only this can guarantee protection from hazards.
A long range education still does not absolve a parent from ongoing vigilance. But here, too, is the question: use extreme watchfulness in keeping track of from where the child has come and where he is going, and to require him to give account of all his comings and goings. Or perhaps it is wiser not to be over-protective and not to track him from a point of wariness, suspicion and lack of trust, whose side effects are equally undesirable.
As always, the best way is the middle road. To be sure, one must be watchful, not out of distrust but out of full awareness. Where your child is at any given time and with whom, can be ascertained by showing a healthy interest in his life, which is important in any case. When one is involved in his child's life, one can detect aberrations. Suddenly, one may learn that the game did not take place in his friend's home but in a yard or playground where marginal youths who possessed the forbidden devices hung around. This is no cause for panic but certainly requires checking out to make sure our pure and innocent child was not exposed to danger.
If he is in the vicinity of a threat, one must see to it that he is kept away from the minefield, but not from the stringent approach of, "Don't you dare go there. Because I say so and that's that." Rather, use the opportunity to explain that those devices seem very enticing and interesting but in truth, are altogether destructive to life. And since it is very difficult to prevent this danger, the only protection for him is to keep a healthy distance and not be exposed at all to a test. It is for his own good that we permit him to be only in places that are safe and not exposed to danger.
The Great Hishtadlus
What has been written here was examined by a well-known mechanech, who is also a father of seven, who reacted with uneasiness. "You have raised the matter of the danger in its full sharpness. You have presented the reality of these days where a single evil perpetrator can present himself at any corner or lamppost and strike at our children's lives. But the solutions you offer are not effective enough in view of the great danger. An embracing chinuch and vigil is surely important and effective, but the feeling is that these nonetheless fall short of providing full security for our children's safety."
Very true, this is not enough. And even if we add a whole slew of tips and advice, they could not provide full assurance in view of the great danger. Therefore, first and foremost, we must make every effort, the supreme hishtadlus being prayer from one's innermost heart. "O Merciful Father, Who watches over each and every one of us, especially so on the Seder night, the leil shimurim, but throughout the year as well, that the destroyer not enter our homes to strike. You, Who sits and waits to hear our voices, our supplications and hears that we seek His protection, we beg You to preserve our souls and the souls of our children."
We are obligated to actively guard our children to the best of our ability, but the most effective effort on our part is the request and plea to our Father in Heaven that He have mercy over us and implant in us and our children a pure and unblemished heart.
Impose watchmen over your city all day and all night, and together with this elevated vigil, may our eyes merit to see Your great light when that time comes that all impurity pass away from the land and the light of day will illuminate the darkness of the night.