* This article was copied from fulleryouthinstitute.org
How to talk to your kids about sex (with as little awkwardness as possible)
Nervous to talk with your kids about sex?
You’re not alone. Especially if faith is important to you.
According to two different sets of data, the more important religion is to parents, the more difficult it is for those parents to talk with their kids about sex.
That’s both sad and ironic. As followers of Christ, we should be at the front of the line to talk with our kids about sex. We know that sex, as something God created, is good—really good. And yet somehow with sex (as well as other controversial topics), our families have been robbed of healthy, balanced, scripturally guided conversations, the type of conversations that foster good decisions and strong faith.
This Valentine’s Day, topics of romance, love, and intimacy are bound to be at the forefront of our teenagers’ minds. Furthermore, young people today are inundated with notions and standards that fall short of God’s good intentions for sex—and they need us to help them discern what is true and what isn’t.
So how can we leverage Valentine’s Day, or other cultural references, as springboards for better conversations about sex with our kids? Here are four suggestions to help you have better “sex talks” at home.
1) It’s about listening, not lecturing.
It’s the rare teenager who looks forward to talk to their parents about sex. Not only is talking about sex with parents awkward, it usually devolves into a lecture.
Parents who are best at talking with their kids about sex bite their tongues—sometimes literally—when they feel tempted to lecture their kids. The reality is that your kids probably already have a hunch about what you might say about sex. So do your best to let them do the talking.
2) It’s about asking, not judging.
Wondering how to get them talking? Most teenagers won’t launch into a monologue about sex, so if we’re going to help them do the talking, we have to ask questions. And it’s best if we avoid the “What are you thinking? You must be crazy!” tone of voice when we ask.
In one of the parental interviews we conducted for The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, one amazing dad described inventing a family game called “What do you think will happen next?” During car trips, over dinner, or at bedtime, the dad would give a challenging ethical situation, often involving sex. And then ask his kids, “What do you think will happen next?”
So if he wanted to talk to his daughter about date rape drugs, he’d start with, “You go to a party and are handed a cup. You’re not entirely sure what is in the cup and you don’t know the guy who handed it to you very well. What do you think will happen next?”
His daughter would give her best answer. And then he’d follow up with, “Okay. So what do you think will happen next?”
She’d answer. And he’d ask the same question again.
He would do this for as many rounds as his kids would play along because he had one main goal: He wanted his kids to think ahead. And he used questions to help them learn how.
3) It’s about them, not me.
Maybe asking, “What do you think will happen next?” would never work in your family. If so, then take the cue from wise parents who use what’s happening to other people to launch their families into discussions about sex.
The bad news is that sexualization has infiltrated our culture from top to bottom. The good news is that gives us all sorts of conversation fodder.
Valentine’s Day cards. Movies. Music. What’s going on with your kids’ friends. Politicians. YouTube videos. News headlines. Clothing choices. School policies about dating.
If asking kids directly what they are thinking and feeling about sex feels too pointed and all too likely to cause your kids to shut down, start by talking about all of these topics—and other people (whether they are your kids’ friends or media celebrities)—and see if the conversation organically progresses to get more personal.
4) It’s a process, not an event.
Are you gearing up for “the sex talk” with your kids? Looking forward to crossing it off your list? Maybe even planning on having that discussion this month?
Well, it’s not about one sex talk. It’s about lots of them.
With both of our two older kids, and we’re about to do this with our youngest, we’ve bought them a book and read through it with them together—two chapters per week. Dave and I read through it first, underlining the portions we want to discuss with them, and then our child reads it.
We have intentionally made those discussions about book chapters as natural as possible. We’ll have them while we’re talking in our child’s bedroom, or sitting on the couch in our living room after dinner. We want talking about sex to feel as normal as possible.
If you want to do a special weekend away or purity ritual, by all means go ahead. Just don’t view it as a one-time event. It’s more like a series of conversations, because sexuality involves a lifetime of choices.
What other steps have you taken to leverage cultural references for better discussions with your kids about sex?
 Those two data sets are the National Study of Youth and Religion and the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Mark D. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 60-73.
**This article was copied from allprodad.com
6 Short Sentences Your Child Needs to Hear You Say
In raising our five children, Susan and I have tried to consistently convey to each of them these 6 short sentences. We’ve done it with our words and our actions. And, as I write this post, I’m realizing I need to say these things even more because they can’t be said enough.
1. “I’m here for you.”
Being available for your child is incredibly important. They may not need you when you tell them this, but they’ll remember you promised to be available to them when they need you the most. This sentence is more than just giving them permission to find you when the going gets rough…it’s an invitation to them. It tells them, “I will do whatever I can to help you whenever you need me.”
2. “I’m proud of you.”
Some middle-aged men I’ve talked to have never heard, or have waited years to hear, their dad say “I’m proud of you.” And many of them thought if they just performed better, if they just made it big in sports, or if they just had a thriving money-making career, their dad just might notice. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t make your kids wait. Tell them today.
3. “I believe in you.”
Remember back to your teen and early adult years? How confident were you in yourself? And how confident are you today in yourself? Self-doubt and second-guessing come with the territory of being human. And you can be a great source of support to your child through these struggles. Your child needs to know that somebody somewhere in this world believes in them and their immeasurable value.
4. “I want the best for you.”
This sentence has a couple of benefits. First, it tells your child that you have a purpose behind your parenting. They may not understand how you see “what’s best” and they may not even agree with you, but they will hopefully start to appreciate it over time as they see you working hard to do what’s in their best interests. I have often said to each of my kids, “I’m doing this or saying this because I always have your best interests at heart.” And they know they can always trust me. Second, it puts you in their corner. Again, they may not always see how your ideas, your standards, or your consequences are really for their benefit, but giving them this regular reminder at least assures them, in the depths of their heart, that you are for them, not against them.
5. “I will stand with you.”
I saw a video recently of a dad dancing with his daughter at a talent show. The girl had a severe and rare disorder that keeps her from having almost any muscle tone, control, or physical abilities of her own. But as her dad picked her up out of her chair and danced around the stage, her nearly inexpressive face suddenly blossomed with a huge smile. This girl knows that her dad is willing to risk embarrassment, harassment, or scorn from any person in order to be counted with her. This sentence tells your child that you are willing to be identified with them even when they’ve made a mistake or have to do hard things.
6. “I love you.”
This is, quite simply, a sentence that cannot be said too many times. Big family moment? “I love you.” Quiet and quick goodnight? “I love you.” Dropping them off at school or a job? “I love you.” Just for no particular reason at all in the middle of the day? “I love you.”
** This article was copied from crosswalk.com
3 Areas in Which Parents Must Persevere
At the beginning of a new year, we often think about the things we want to do well for the next three hundred sixty-five days. We often prove ourselves to be great at applying ourselves to our resolutions for a season, but we struggle to persevere in doing these things for the long haul.
There are few areas of our lives in which we struggle more than we do with perseverance in parenting. For a while, we spend quality time with our kids, and then we get into a busy season where our kids start getting the short end of the stick. We have consistent family devotions, then suddenly cannot remember when the last one was. We discipline them consistently, taking the time to talk to them about their behavior and not letting offenses slide. Then, we go through a period where we overlook misbehavior and then lash out in frustration because they aren’t listening to what we say.
The hardest part of parenting is not knowing what to do. Knowing how to teach and pray for your kids is not as hard as you think it is. Often, our instincts about the best way to discipline our children are usually correct, and most parents want to spend quality time with their children.
The hardest aspect of parenting is often not our lack of understanding, but our failure to persevere. As parents, what we need the most is to continue doing the little things every single day.
There are three particular areas in which we need to persevere.
Persevere in Quality Time
Our children want us more than they want stuff from us, but how often do we give our children things so they will occupy themselves so we can have time alone? We need time to recharge and spend with our spouses. Our children must know how to entertain themselves, but we also have to recognize how much our children crave time with us. Fishing, hiking, reading, playing a game, throwing a ball, or sitting around a fire to roast marshmallows provide great opportunities for us to connect with our children each day.
Our children will be more receptive to our discipline and teaching when we spend regular time with them because it flows from our relationship with them. As Ted Tripp points out in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, we parent mainly from authority when our children are young. If we find them touching something they shouldn’t, we can take it away from them or pick them up and move them somewhere else. As they grow older, we still parent from our God-given authority, but our relationship with them becomes a much larger aspect of our parenting. They tend to listen more and be more receptive to our parenting when we spend consistent time with them.
We often find that this is a joy to us as well. Our children are a gift from God. Spending time with them often leads to fun, laughter, joy, and lasting memories. Each of our children has unique personalities and are fun and funny in their own way. Spending time together brings this out, so stop thinking that you will magically “find time” to spend with them and make the time.
Persevere in Teaching and Discipline
The Bible calls parents to teach and discipline our children. Moses’ words fromDeuteronomy 6:7 provide insight into how we do this. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Much of our parenting takes place in the context of ordinary life. We teach, correct, instruct, and discipline our children while we are doing the things we usually do every day.
In addition to teaching as we walk through life, we need to set aside time for teaching through family devotions. When we hear about family devotions, we shouldn’t picture Dad preaching a twenty-minute sermon to the kids. (If your kids are small, it can’t and won’t be this.) In his book Family Worship, Don Whitney offers a simple method for family devotion anyone can do whether they know the Bible well or not- read, pray, sing. Read a portion of the Bible. If your kids are small, this can be from a children’s Bible like The Big Picture Story Bible or The Jesus Storybook Bible. When they get older, progress into reading a section from your favorite translation. Depending on where your children are, you can work on memory verses or a catechism together. Then spend some time in prayer together and sing a song. These can be children’s songs like “Jesus Loves Me” or simple hymns like “Come Thou Fount” or “Be Thou My Vision.”
We must also discipline our children. Truthfully, I find it difficult to separate discipline from teaching because they go together hand in hand. We do not discipline our children to punish them for what they have done, but to instruct their hearts so they will be different in the future. Discipline should not look the same all the time, but we should tailor it to the situation and the bent of our children. While how we discipline is a matter of wisdom at the moment, disciplining our children is not up for debate. God commands children to obey their parents, and we should expect them to obey the first time that we tell them to do something. Anything other than their first-time obedience must result in discipline for the sake of your children’s souls and your future sanity.
Persevere in Prayer
Finally, parents need to persevere in praying for and with our children. Pretend for a second that you could do a perfect job parenting your children. You always kept your cool when they disobeyed and told them exactly what they needed to hear in every situation. You read the Bible to them every day and spent the perfect amount of quality time with them. You led them to friendships with the right kids and gave them every opportunity they needed. Even if you did all these things correctly, it would not guarantee that your child would become a Christian or behave properly. Only the grace of God can take your parenting and make it effective, so you must pray.
We should pray for our children and for our parenting every day. Pray God would cover our efforts with grace, forgive us where we fail, and empower us to persevere in our parenting. Pray God would change our children’s hearts by the power of his Spirit and raise them up to follow him and bring him glory. We need God, and our children need God, so we must daily plead for them before the throne of grace.
Not only should we pray for our children, but we should also pray with our children. By doing this, they learn how to pray and what subjects we bring before the Lord in prayer. They get to see our family pray for needs and how God answers those prayers. Also, our children should hear us pray for their salvation. Our prayers teach them what we value the most and by praying for their salvation, they will consistently hear about their need for Christ.
** This article was copied from allprodad.com
How to Explain Divorce to a Child
Everything seems so perfect the day of a wedding. There is dancing, celebration, and the dream of a wonderful life together. Everyone expects their marriage to last forever. Having a relationship that lasts is hard and takes work. People get hurt, problems fester or perhaps someone wanders into the arms of another. No one expects that divorce will find their marriage—their home. However, we have all seen the statistics. It is brutally painful to see a marriage end, let alone experience one. The situation is intensified when you add divorce and children.
Children experience the most pain in a divorce. They have no control over anything and have little understanding of the why it is happening. It’s confusing, complicated, and difficult to explain. The intent here is not to debate whether or not divorce is ever appropriate, but how to explain divorce to a child.
This discussion needs to happen all together. Make sure everyone is present. Anytime parents are not unified, it creates anxiety in children. Think back to when you were a child and how you felt anytime your parents got into a fight. Obviously, a divorce brings that anxiety to its highest state because their worst fears are playing out. Being on the same page and showing respect to one another as you explain what is happening will be helpful. Be sure to coordinate what should be said and not said. It may even be good to write down talking points. Both parents should talk, not just one.
This is a time when you need to put your hurt feelings aside, regardless of who cheated or who did what to who. You can deal with all of that one-on-one. The focus needs to be on the children and what you can communicate to stabilize the situation. Any negative statement or attitude about your ex-spouse (or soon-to-be) throws the children in the middle — exactly where you need to keep them from being. Your ex-spouse may be a villain to you, but they are a loved one to your kids.
Their world is being jarred so they will need a lot of reassurance. In many ways, it is like a death in the family. A strong fear of how life is going to change will hit them. Assure them of your love for them and how that will never change. They may blame themselves or a sibling. Make sure it is clear to them that none of this is their fault. Also, reassure the areas of their life that will not change (possibly living in the same place, same school, etc.). The most important thing they need to know is that they still have two parents that love them and will take care of them.
The younger they are the fewer details they will need. However, you want to be prepared with a game plan of what details you want to communicate and what can wait until later. You don’t need to be detailed in the causes of your divorce. Keep it simple with some general concepts understanding that younger kids are going to be more black and white. Tweens will probably ask the most questions while teenagers are more aware and will probably have seen it coming. Regardless of the age, it is still painful and hard to understand. You don’t need to cover it all with one talk.
There will be unavoidable, ongoing pain from a divorce. It’s a difficult reality. Being unified as much as you can goes a long way in providing some sense of stability. Make every effort to achieve it for the sake of the children.
** This article was coped from theparentcue.org
We’ve all been there. We all have encountered struggles that felt bigger than us. And we all develop our own ways of managing emotional pain, shame, and regret. When faced with difficult circumstances, it is very normal to look for ways to cope.
Over the years, parents have verbalized their uncertainty with how best to assist their teen with effectively managing the ups and downs of life. There’s no simple response. Quite frankly, as a therapist who frequently works with adolescents, I get it. Being a teen today is tough. Teens face increasing expectations: managing multiple schedules, demanding academic loads, and competitive extracurricular activities. And above all, discovering who they are and how they fit in with their peer group and the larger world. All of which can and do cause internal pressure.
Some teens are able to successfully navigate these waters. Others may fail or buckle under the pressure. It is a normal human experience to want to escape reality.
It’s actually a great idea to take a break, decompress for a few hours in order to allow your brain to reboot and refocus. Attending a concert with friends, listening to music, going for a hike, laughing at a hilarious comedy are examples of healthy ways to take your mind off a stressful day. However, what happens when distraction morphs into something that is not so healthy? And perhaps even destructive?
Harmless distraction can often lead to prolonged engagement in activities such as video gaming, internet shopping, hours on Instagram or Snapchat, and let’s not forget the widely popular Netflix binging sessions—which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t coincide with finals week. And then there are the extreme situations when a teen begins experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and sex to numb complicated feelings.
When any of these behaviors become a way to DISTRACT, NUMB or AVOID facing hard circumstances or allowing people to see our real selves, it can lead to feeling stuck and disconnected, causing one to spiral into more destructive behavior.
What is the remedy for stuck-ness and disconnection? Engagement. As a therapist, I love introducing my teenage clients to creative strategies to address problems that appear insurmountable. Yes, that sometimes means embracing a new challenge or even doing something they dislike— like confronting the real issues. The more we can teach our children to deal with (and not run away from) life’s challenges, the better they can realize their own unique capabilities which fosters resilience and a sense of autonomy.
Parents’ task in helping avoidant teens is complicated by the contradictory impulses of teens. They want us around, and at the same time, want us to go far away. However, the research is clear: Parents are powerful pillars of influence in their teens’ lives!
Below are five ways that can help you recognize when your teen may be feeling stuck and ways you can help them pull the plug and get un-stuck.
1. WATCH FOR WARNING SIGNS
Some “stuck”teens will display difficulty concentrating and low motivation. They may be irritable, negative, easily frustrated or prone to outbursts. Some overachieving “stuck” teens may be highly sensitive to criticism and begin to withdraw from family and friends. Since some of these signs are a part of normal adolescent development, it is important to note what appears to be a change from your teen’s typical pattern of behavior.
2. INITIATE THE CONVERSATION
Demonstrate casual interest by asking questions and reflecting back on what you’ve heard. Teens can tell the difference between questions that show interest and ones that simply appear nosy. Be present but not intrusive. One conversation starter may be: “It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. I know that you want to do well (in school/sports/making friends) so I am sure that you might feel some pressure sometimes. You are not alone. I’m open if you ever want to talk about it.” Your teen may not open up initially. The key is making yourself available for when they’re ready.
3. BE OPEN
Sharing your struggles with distraction, numbing, and avoidance may help your teen better cope with their own experience. For many parents, the thought of disclosing their own teenage antics is a nightmarish proposition. However, research suggests that parents who have an open, warm, and nurturing relationship with their children can help them to buffer stresses that can otherwise be destructive. Your teen may not show deep interest or ask many questions. Don’t worry, they are listening.
4. STAY TUNED IN
As a therapist, I can’t emphasize how important it is to plug into your teen. What does that mean? Get to know their musical taste, favorite artists, even purchases. Know the names of their friends and even their enemies. Regarding social media, I am an advocate of intermittent parental monitoring. This one is tricky; teens also need some degree of privacy. But it is a parent’s responsibility to know what is going on. The content you discover may clue you into ways to better connect with your child. Or, alert you to signs of stress. As parents, we must plug into this important aspect of teen social life. Don’t tell my teens I said that.
5. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP
Part of our job as parents is to help our children find resources to be successful. That can include a school counselor, therapist, or trusted church leader. Remember that there are many avoidant behaviors that are simply a part of adolescence. It is helpful to consult with a professional who can assess the severity and offer assistance. One technique that I like to teach is mindfulness. Mindfulness is ideal for decreasing distressful thoughts. The ability to disrupt a cycle of negative thinking is crucial for optimal mental health and can help teens to “plug-in” in order to get “un-stuck.”
Whether or not they tell you or show you, your teen values your engagement. What are some ways that you can plug into your teen this week?
* This article was copied from theparentcue.org.
Throwing your heart into all you do can really make a difference. Even when you rest…rest well. When you’re home, be home. Passionately pursue your top priorities.
** This article was taken form AllProDad.com
Picture yourself hustling in the mall to get some Christmas shopping done. You’re hungry, tired, scrambling – and your kids are with you. They want lunch in the food court. You just want to get done and home as soon as possible. While you’re holding up a necklace, wondering if your wife will like it, one of your kids asks a question out of the clear blue sky:
“Dad, what does God have to do with Christmas?”
“Wha… um… what did you say?”
“What does God have to do with Christmas? I heard somebody say, ‘He’s the reason for the season.’ I don’t get it.”
“Uh, can this wait for your mom?”
“I heard somebody say that he was born in a manger, but I didn’t think God was born. And if he wasn’t born, where did he come from? And if he’s a baby in a manger, then how can he be everywhere because isn’t God everywhere?”
Are you ready for one of life’s big questions right in the middle of a shopping mall? Want a couple of suggestions, just in case you don’t have all the answers? Here are some things to know when you talk about God with your kids.
1. Don’t panic.
It’s OK not to know everything. The last thing you want to do is make stuff up. Talking about God is a serious conversation, and if you don’t have the answers at the tip of your tongue, say so. “What a great question, kiddo. I don’t know the answer to that. But we should go figure it out.”
2. Know where you can find some answers.
The Bible records Jesus’ birth and the Christmas story in Luke chapter 2. This chapter can help provide some basic answers to “what” “when” and “how” kinds of questions your kids might be asking.
3. You don’t need to answer what they’re not asking.
For any dad, talking about God or what He is like or questions of faith can make you feel out of your depth. You know it’s important, so you want to give a great answer. However, you might have to fight the temptation to over-answer. Maybe a simple answer might suffice. For example, if your kid is asking what God has to do with Christmas, instead of talking about the history of Christianity or giving a short comparative religion course, you might simply say, “Christmas celebrates how God sent Jesus to live on earth. That’s a big deal.” Then you can see where the conversation goes. Or maybe that will satisfy their question for the moment. You don’t have to fit everything that ever needed saying into one conversation.
4. Make space for the conversation.
Maybe the mall isn’t the right place for the conversation. Maybe you really do have to get home soon. If you can’t give an answer to the question right then, do honor their curiosity and tell them when you’re going pursue the conversation with them. For example, “Great question, kiddo. I’d love to talk about that with you, but that’s a conversation for sitting down at home, not running around shopping. How about if we talk about this when everybody is together tonight at dinner?” Make sure you follow up at dinner!
5. Be a learner alongside your kids.
Maybe even follow the cues of their curiosity. [Tweet This] One of the interesting features of the Bible’s story is that it teaches that we are supposed to come with faith like a child. Ever notice how concerned adults are with their image and reputation? We try to be so sophisticated. Kids aren’t that way. They ask open-hearted questions and enjoy mystery and wonder. If you find yourself struggling to answer your kids’ questions about God at Christmastime, follow their example in being child-like as you find answers. It’s an incredible story. One that can change your whole life.
Here’s one video that explains what God has to do with Christmas.
For some of us that can be a really scary word. It conjures up images of long phone calls on tech support with a stranger on the other end of the phone walking us through troubleshooting the latest must-have gadget that promised to make our life easier. We think about paper jams at the office and “404 Not Found” error codes… what do those even mean anyway? At its worst, technology brings up thoughts of cyber bullying. Pornography. Access to strangers. Lions. Tigers. And bears. Oh my.
If you’re a kid, technology is an exciting word. It means communicating with your friends. Anytime. Anywhere. It means downloading the latest games. Taking pictures. Emojis. And being connected to the world around you in ways that were never possible before. Technology means freedom. It means fun. And they can’t wait to get their hands on it.
Technology freaks you out. But your kids are eager and ready to jump in. So, what can you do? We’ve got it. Stick your head in the hand and hope it all goes away. Yes, that’s it.
No! Our highest calling as parents is to engage. If you are a parent that is reading this we celebrate your desire to do just that. We want to help you. So, if you are ready… read on.
How is technology affecting us?
Overexposure to technology is associated with:
decreased ability to self-regulate
Overuse of technology is associated with:
problematic child behavior
71% of teens have done something to hide their online activity from their parents.
9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18.
What good is technology?
Sounds scary, doesn’t it? In reality, there are many benefits to healthy use of technology. With each new iteration of technology there is a promise of more meaningful ways to connect with others, new ways of being entertained, of interacting with the world around us, access to information that helps us learn and new ways to help keep our loved ones safe and secure. These are all good things. In fact, you might say that healthy use of technology is marked by its ability to help us enhance our real lives. Technology can make our lives better. However, if this is true then unhealthy use of technology would necessarily detract from our real lives and cause us to become isolated. Technology has the potential to make our lives worse. Its all about how we engage with it.
Quick Fix versus Long Term Game
We often look for easy answers to questions. Tell us what to do and we’ll do it, right? When it comes to technology though what is often required is intentional, consistent, ongoing dialogue to help our children develop a healthy relationship with technology. In the next section we will attempt to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about technology. Be prepared for answers that will require you to be actively engaged with your kids and up-to-date on what they are doing to help them navigate this new world.
At what age should I give my child a phone?
Instead of looking at your child’s age, we would suggest that you consider a few other factors. Specifically, you may consider whether they need a phone, whether they are responsible enough to have a phone and if they would benefit from having easier access to their friends.
Do they need a phone?
If your child is playing after school sports, walking home from school, going to the movies with friends on the weekend or if they need to be in touch for any other reasons a cell phone may be a good idea. Although they may ask for the latest iPhone, you may consider that your child’s first phone does need to be a smart phone. Their are many inexpensive phones that would give your child the ability to make calls
and send texts that would address the need to be connected. This could allow you to have the convenience and peace of mind knowing that your child is simply a call or text away without giving them full access to the world of information they may not yet be mature enough to handle.
Are they responsible?
This one is pretty easy. If your child is constantly losing things like their backpack, homework or toys then it might stand to reason that they
could lose their very expensive phone too! Additionally, if they have a
habit of not taking especially good care of their things… well, you get the idea.
Are they missing out on any important social interactions?
Whether we like to admit it or not, the way kids communicate with each other has changed. Kids plan the weekend activities via text, they talk about what happened at school via text, they send pictures to each other via text, they do everything via text. In fact, a recent study found that young people between the ages of 18 and 24 send and receive an average of just over 128 text messages per day. That is an average of 3,853 per month!
So, when you child says that they are not getting invited to things, that they are missing out on what’s happening with their friends at school and that they are feeling left out their may be some truth to their concerns. We’re not suggesting that you need to get your child a phone or their future social life is doomed… but this is factor you may want to consider.
What is an appropriate amount of screen time?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines previously suggested that zero hours of screen time for kids under age 2 and two hours between the ages of 2 and 18 was most appropriate. For a long time, this was the gold standard. But as technology has evolved, newer guidelines have been updated to incorporate the changing technological landscape and to address findings in more recent studies as well. Among the most important changes is the idea that not all screen-time is created equal. For example, on any give day your child may participate in any of the following:
Watching TV, reading, and listening to music
Playing games and browsing the Internet
Video-chatting and using social media
Using devices to make digital art or music
We all understand that using a computer to make digital art is inherently more beneficial than watching TV and so greater emphasis on the way that screen-time is being used should be taken in to consideration.
You might also ask how screen time (or lack of screen time) affects your child’s behavior. For example, if after spending an hour watching TV your child is more irritable, tired or temperamental you may consider having them spend less time watching TV. Here are a few questions that will help you make the best decision for your child:
Are they using high quality, age appropriate media?
Is their behavior appropriately positive?
Is their screen time balanced with plenty of healthy screen free time?
If the answer to these questions is yes then you are likely on the right track.
Most importantly though, be sure to model appropriate use of technology. Have healthy boundaries for yourself. At the end of the day, regardless of what rules you put in place… the best predictor of your child’s future relationship with technology is what they see you doing. So, if you have agreed upon tech-free times, locations, etc. be sure an honor those rules as well. If your technology use is getting in the way of authentic relationships with the people in your life, some changes are in order. Don’t just say it. Live it.
How can I monitor screen time and what my kids are doing on their devices?
For starters, always have access to your child’s phone. No need to be secretive about it. Know their passcode and check their phone often. Recently, a parent suggested that they couldn’t check their child’s phone because they changed the passcode. Their child wanted privacy. You wouldn’t allow them to change the lock on their bedroom door, would you? You are the parent. More than likely, you pay for the device. You might even say that its your phone. You simply allow your child to use it. So have courage. Have conversations up front about the kind of access you want to the device. You can do it. We promise.
If you are concerned about what your kids may see online their are some steps you can take to help protect them. First, consider contacting your internet service provider to see what protections they can offer on your home network. Second, research and implement how to setup parental controls on the device itself. And finally, you may want to consider a monitoring service that will allow you to have further control and oversight of your child’s device. Their are many good options and any internet search will yield some great information. We checked out a number of these services and would suggest that you give these few a look:
FamiLoop — https://www.familoop.com
Netsanity — https://netsanity.net
Disney Circle — https://meetcircle.com
It is important to remember that these tools are simply conversation starters. If these services make you aware of some troubling use, go talk to your child about it. Remember, no one solution is perfect. The best protection your child has online is you.
Additionally, be curious about what they are doing. Use the device together with your child. If they are playing a game, sit down and play with them. If they want to download a new app, download the app and use it with them. Be prepared to have lots of conversations.
If you are not sure how to start those conversations, here are a few tips to help you get started.
Always remember to ask open-ended questions. In other words, ‘have you seen anything bad online?’ does not lend itself to a conversation. The answer is either yes or no. Ask questions that will spark a real dialogue. We’ve found these questions to be extraordinarily helpful:
What have you seen recently that was really interesting?
What’s the craziest things you’ve seen your friends doing?
What is something that has surprised you?
Can you show me how? Let your kids be the expert!
You will be amazed at what your kids will share with you. Remember, they are just as curious about what’s out there as you are. Its a great big world out there. Don’t send them off alone to figure it out. Commit to go on the journey with them.
Encounter. Formation. Expression.
One of the things we talk about at Port City Community is the idea of Encounter, Formation, Expression. The basic concept is that what we encounter in life will help to form what we think and believe. What we think and believe will inevitably show up and be expressed in what we say and do. As parents, part of our job is to help our kids maneuver in a world that is ever changing and build a solid foundation in Christ. When i comes to technology, we need to remember that what they encounter is forming who they are. We can’t protect them from having bad encounters, but we can help them think through how these encounters are forming their identity. The only way we’re going to know about some of the things they encounter is to have a real relationship with them and ask them questions. When the door seems to be shut, we need to keep knocking so we can let our kids know that we love them and want what is best for them.
Get a PDF of the seminar recap – parenting-through-technology-and-social-media-re-cap
Get the digital book “Right Click” – right-click-digital-edition