As my husband and I prepared to teach the Come, Follow Me lesson for September 2-8, 2019, we felt impressed to ponder the following verse, “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification” (1 Corinthians 14:10).
Consider a typical evening I face as a mother: kids are in pyjamas; we read scriptures; we say prayers; they know it’s time to go to bed. I say, “Good night, I love you, see you in the morning.” They ask questions, need a drink or a snack, cuddle the dog until she runs away. I say it’s time for bed again, a little louder this time. Still they stall and find excuses to stay up. Sometimes it’s cute, sometimes annoying. There have even been some nights (in the summer) when I go to bed before them. The question I am pondering is how do we as parents teach our children which voices to listen to and which ones to turn down or even off completely?
To Follow or “Unfollow”?
We live in a world that is full of voices: family, friends, teachers, peers, and strangers. We literally hear external voices on television, radio, and movies. Silent voices—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.—may, however, be the loudest of the day. What are those voices telling us?
I have learned that Instagram can be a noisy voice. As I scroll through and see perfect faces or perfect families on perfect vacations, I sometimes think that they are much happier than I am. Sometimes I find myself making instant judgments about someone’s photo or story. I don’t like having that critical voice.
President M. Russell Ballard has counselled: “Handheld devices, such as smartphones, are a blessing.” But they can also distract us from hearing the still, small voice. “They need to be our servants, not our masters.” (R. Scott Lloyd, “Make Technology Your Servant Not Your Master, Elder Ballard Says,” Church News, May 5, 2014).
I am learning that I can control many of the voices in my life. It’s really easy to “unfollow” someone, and no one gets a notice when you “unfollow.” It is a continual task to make sure the social media accounts I follow are uplifting.
Safely Navigating Today’s World
If media is hard for me to filter and control, imagine how hard it is for our children. It is vitally important for us to teach them how to navigate the world we live in today. Satan is doing everything he can to be the voice that they listen to. He makes evil enticing and pretty. He puts it in front of them every chance he gets. Our job as parents is to teach our children how to turn the volume down, turn it off, stop listening, or walk away.
President Thomas S. Monson urged: “We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still small voice which will guide you to safety” (“Keep the Commandments,” Ensign, Nov. 2015).
So, how do we teach our children to recognize the still small voice? We need to talk about it—often. It takes consistent effort to help them understand and recognize how the Holy Ghost talks to them. I love the seven tips for learning the language of the spirit from an April 17, 2017 Church blog:
Following these tips can help our children recognize when they are feeling the spirit. I hope that the more we are talking with them about following spiritual promptings, the more fluent they will become in the language of the Spirit. They can learn to understand what Nephi and Lehi learned: “when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul” (Helaman 5:30).
Safeguards of the Heart and Mind
As my children have started wanting smartphones and devices, I have found many resources to help us. There are many filters that can be used to protect them, but it is also important to teach them proper use without filters. Elder David F. Evans explained: “The only really effective filter for lifelong technology use is the individual heart and mind of the individual young person … We have great faith that … thousands of [youth will] develop worthy lifelong digital habits, which will bless their lives and their families forever” (Safeguards for Using Technology, , 4).
The Church booklet Safeguards for Using Technology is used to train missionaries on the appropriate use of technology. This booklet is now available for parents to use in teaching their children. Below are some of the safeguards and choices of actions that I find helpful for parents:
“SAFEGUARD 1: Be in Tune with Spiritual Promptings.” Pray daily for guidance, heed warnings from the Holy Ghost, record promptings in a journal.
“SAFEGUARD 2: Be focused on Your Missionary Purpose.” Ask how it will help people; use with clear intent; plan use; limit the use when feeling vulnerable or susceptible; select an inspiring background screen image.
“SAFEGUARD 3: Be Disciplined.” Avoid use when talking with someone; do not use devices as an excuse to avoid talking to people; avoid checking or sending messages during sacrament meetings; minimize during meetings, appointments, or conversations.
“Choose to Act.” Pray for strength and protection against temptation; talk through your feelings with parents and leaders; get up, move, walk, exercise; recite a scripture or sing a hymn; stop, breathe, count of four, and don’t resume online activity until purpose is clear; address physical needs (i.e. water, snack, rest); take a mental break by recalling a spiritual experience or a beautiful scene; list five blessings; write in a journal. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/safeguards-for-using-technology/contents?lang=eng)
I am grateful for such Church-supported resources and for the guidance of the Spirit as I strive to teach my children what they need to know to be strong and courageous in difficult times. I find great inspiration from Elder David P. Homer’s testimony: “In a world with so many competing voices, I testify that our Heavenly Father has made it possible for us to hear and follow His. If we are diligent, He and His Son will give us the direction we seek, the strength we need, and the happiness we all desire” (“Hearing His Voice,” Ensign, May 2019).