Our church recently held a seminar with a guest speaker who specializes in a few topics dear to my heart. Specifically, parenting in our digital age, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It was an intense weekend that covered a lot of ground. And it was time well spent.
These kinds of topics can be hard to address — and can be hot button topics for a lot of people. But we need to talk about them, constantly, for our kids are growing up in a world far, far different than the one we grew up in.
I wanted to share a few of the key ideas that I took away from the sessions.
- God is still in control
- God is for us
- God has called us
We don’t have to fear these things. While culture is changing greatly — good in some ways, bad in others — he is still a sovereign God. And he has called us to such a time as this.
It’s crucial to remember these points on any issue where we feel passionate as it’s far too easy to focus on our own efforts. Or worse, to feel like things are “going to hell in a hand basket”. And when it comes to facing how our culture is changing in regards to technology and sexual orientation and identity, the seminar speaker (Sid Coop) put it well:
There were no good ol’ days. They’re a myth!
It’s easy to look back and think, “Things were so much better when I was a kid.” But culture is not wrestling control away from God. Everything happens under his sovereign eye.
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding
Our session covered a lot of material and some good discussions. Our take-home was the following list:
- Think about technology in a Christian way
- Evaluate our (adults) personal use of technology
- Create and re-create boundaries for your family
- Delay smart phone / social media use (don’t get them phones before grade 9/10)
- Where appropriate, engage your kids in their digital world (text them)
- Teach discernment
- Invest in shared experiences and activities
- Make character development a priority
- Remember, relationships win
- Pray, like crazy
Some of my thoughts on this list:
- 2 D’uh. Remove the speck in your own eye first, right? Of course, you don’t have to be perfect with your own usage before you set limits.
- 3. You’re not going to get this right the first time. Or the second or third time. So it’s a good habit to talk about our screens and our habits using them over and over. And, as your kids grow and circumstances change, so too should your boundaries.
- 4. There’s likely no perfect time as kids are all different. But grade 9/10 (14–15 years old) feels good to me. Our daughter was slightly younger and our son even more so. Looking back now, we’ll be waiting a little longer for the next (and precedent can be thrown out the window — again, the kids are all different).
- 5. I can’t recommend this enough. We preach the value of face-to-face interaction as the best form of communication, but it’s important to interact with our kids with the tools they love as well. Example: my wife follows our daughter on Instagram and checks on her content regularly. We refrain from commenting though — we save that for IRL.
- 7. This is so well said. Sid made the point that we can’t just take things away — like it or not, our kids social lives will run though these devices. If you choose to withhold, you have to replace it with something. Shared experiences are key.
It was reassuring to see from an expert that we’re already on a good track in our home. And back to the title of this section, it’s all about conversations. Lots, many of them long. I often have to battle my desire to just head to be and instead engage in listening.