As we close our thoughts on this book, I just want to take a moment and restate that I’m very grateful for parents who are engaging topics like this. While I have found the book very helpful in terms of how I think about this topic, I keep wishing that there was some kind of silver bullet for conversations like these. Thankfully, we are not alone as we navigate these kinds of conversations!
The final chapter focuses on the future, and how we can prepare our kids to transition into digital independence. As much as we can control what they do and see while they are in our homes, they will eventually be making digital decisions for themselves.
I think the majority of what I want to reiterate about this chapter can be found on pages 134-137. There are five tips there that do a great job of summarizing the whole book, and are worth a re-read. Without spending too much time in the book though, I want to take a moment and share some of my own thoughts on our digital world.
While things like this are always helpful resources, and we should keep reading them, they are just that - resources. This book does an excellent job of leaving you “room to parent,” because there is no perfect solution for every family, child, or parent. When we get down to brass tacks, we find ourselves navigating an ever-evolving piece of our world that is simultaneously beautiful and destructive. Technology is a tool, and the way that our children use it will continue to be the subject of conversation well into the future. Lets keep talking about it!
If I could leave you with anything, it would be a plea to model for your kids how they should use technology, and make a point to establish clear expectations. I think the most significant thing we can do for our kids is clearly communicate expectations, and practice what we preach. I have gone on the record multiple times talking about my dislike of social media, and as a result of that, I don't have any. Imagine how ridiculous it would be if I told our students “that stuff is toxic” and turned around to check my Facebook or Instagram. This goes without saying, but if we want our kids to be “present” at the dinner table, we should start by making that a clear expectation, and ensure that we are modelling those expectations.
Finally, give yourselves grace and reach out to people when things get hard. Different perspectives and strategies are always helpful, and most parents are happy to share!
Josiah and I will work on setting up a small workshop around practical understanding and tips around technology and shoot to get that on the calendar early next year. We would also love your feedback on how this kind of resource was or was not helpful. We want to keep building bridges and relationships with you as we all strive to help our kids navigate this crazy world!!
John Mark Comer, pastor in Portland Oregon and really a large spiritual influence on me notes that “The digital age is making us more anxious, more depressed and the data is showing, its making us plainly… meaner.
So the question we are asking this week seems to agree with him and is of great need. How can we become and develop kids to be good citizens of the digital age? As the book points out, the digital world, creates spaces where we tend to know or think....
1. Digital Content Feels Non Permanent.
2. Uses can be anonymous
3. Digital actions seem to lack consequences
4. Bad behavior is the status quo
Frankly, this is not a kid problem, but more a world problem, and certainly an adult problem. No question it is a problem also that lives in the church. People easily have weaponized their words online and done real damage, but with little thought about the real world implications.
The helpful thing for kids is that they are digital natives, they understand a bit more the integration between digital life and real life.
So part of helping students become good digital citizens is helping them become good citizens.
The digital world creates spaces where authenticity is hard to project, and empathy is harder to feel.
So my hope and my prayer for you and for us together is that we can be intentional to have and show kids and students how to be authentic, and to feel empathy, even across digital platforms. This means being slow and thoughtful to respond to things. We so often fly off the handle and respond to things right away, but a calmer more collected, thoughtful approach to our digital interactions may be the example kids need to see that the digital world is more nuanced than we often give it credit for.
Grace and peace be with you,
As someone who has spent a long time doing tech related jobs, I’m no stranger to online monitoring. In fact, when Fellowship Fridays began almost 4 years ago, I immediately started blocking certain sites on my router. It took a grand total of two weeks (two days for them) to discover that I hadn’t put VPN protections in place. I don’t say this to scare you, most of these students were already using a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) at school to bypass the social media filters there. It’s not like they had to get creative or change the way they were used to accessing the internet, I just never expected such an obscure workaround to be “normal” for our students.
This chapter brings us into the thick of that conversation, prompting questions like “how do I protect my child from the negative influences on the internet,” and “what methods of supervision are effective without making my child feel like I’m invading their privacy?” Those are excellent questions, and like most of what we have been suggesting in this book, require a fair amount of clarification and creative implementation.
When it comes to monitoring what your students do online, I think I can safely say that there is not a single comprehensive solution that is currently available. Most efforts to track online activity or ensure that your children are using the internet safely are easily bypassed, and students are getting more and more comfortable with the work arounds. This means that parents have to get more creative with restrictive solutions, or, as this chapter suggests, accept that treating the symptoms of a predatory internet is less effective than having hard and honest conversations at home.
One of the most important suggestions in this chapter (in my opinion) is to trust your kids. I know that might sound counterintuitive, but the truth is they are likely able to bypass most online security you have in place. Prevention offline then becomes the top priority, and in order to have meaningful conversations, I think we have to start from a place of trust. Most students I know who have struggled with pornography would never tell their parents about it, but if we can foster a culture at home where students feel like they can ask for help or admit fault, we may have a better chance to speak into their struggles.
While reading this chapter, I kept thinking that it might be helpful to have a parent seminar on online security and accountability. There are many great tools available to us, but implementing them well and understanding their scope is often hard. So as we continue through this book, Josiah and I will be working on planning a parent night where we can talk about some of these things in person.
I want to close with one more quote that stuck out to me from this chapter. It’s on page 82, and reads “The real problem here is not typically our kids. It’s other adults.” I find that quote so sobering, and I often have to remind myself that the fight our students find themselves in is not a fair one. Adults are preying on their natural curiosity and naïveté to sell products, make money, or generate web traffic. As much as I am fighting to help their online experience be a healthy one, someone else is fighting harder to profit from their attention.
Thanks again for stopping by and reading our thoughts! Have a great rest of your week!
This chapter is so interesting to me, its about attention and presence. In a world where we believe that presence is so important to spiritual relationship.
But also as we see, so important to human relationships.
I think this chapter hinges off of the idea in this quote "When we are on vacation with our families, our various devices are like ocean currents that can cause us to drift apart from each other. At home, the tidal wave of technology that pulls us in separate directions is usually even stronger. In the midst of the challenges of finding tech-free shelter in an uber-tech world, the goal of this chapter is to help you create healthy media rituals and routines that fit your family and works with the ebbs and flows of your unique schedule."
This goal is a good one and I think it will look different for each and every person and it may even look different in different seasons.
But I would encourage you, to find holy rhythms, even as parents, to connect with your kids, and invite them into the same space. Because this chapter touches on something I think is a bit overlooked when we think about kids and tech.
"Kids live in a world filled with grown-ups who seem to be constantly checking or using their phones or laptops."
If we desire for kids to be engaged, so must us adults. In other words, adults must lead by example, and then invite kids into spaces where they are not going to be on digital media.
Or the quote from the son in the end of the chapter strikes me "Dad, I'm glad you didn't bring your phone. Now you can be with me a the game instead of telling all your friends on Facebook you're at the football game with me."
In short, Create spaces and rhythms in life free of tech, and lead by example.
Your kids are digital natives, you may be digital immigrants. I love this language because it captures the framework of understanding that the digital world is a place that is understood with nuance and degrees of complexity that only come with being born into a digital world.
When we realize that kids are digital natives we realize that their desire to always be on their phones may not be inherently bad or evil. The chapter points out that the digital world is what holds kids social lives, and social media platforms may be places of connection similar to the lunch room or how kids once called each others houses on landlines.
There is a level of social connection that is healthy for all kids, who are constantly asking themselves the question of "who am I", which is on repeat in their minds constantly. (Whether they recognize it or not)
So the chapter gives some general rules:
Place healthy limits on screen time: not all screens are evil but too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing.
Doctors suggest 2 hours of screen time a day, and recommend having "screen free" zones and times. Such as bedrooms and meal times.
Other recommendations: the magic age is 13, and being intentional with your kids, possibly creating a digital covenant.
Personally, this chapter takes a more gracious stance than I sometimes feel for social media, but I understand where they are coming from. I appreciate the compromise here, recognizing that digital engagement CAN be good. Often however, without intentionality, we allow it to take over our emotional and social lives without even realizing it.
I wish this chapter would stress just a bit more about healthy boundaries and limits to maintain healthy relationships with digital engagements. The 2 hour recommendation by doctors is fascinating to me, my hunch is that is much lower than most adults engagement.
I know other parents who give their kids the choice for social media at 15 and even encourage them against it, at that stage many kids choose to stay off of social media rather than ready to jump off.
I encourage you to think about what may be healthy for your situation, and whatever you do. Have intentional conversations with your students.
Grace and Peace,