Kids and Technology (Finding the Balance)

Kids and Technology

Can I play Minecraft on the ipad?

Lydia wants to know if she can do Starfall on your computer?
Can we play Wii for 15 min.?
Can I text Anna back because she asked a question?
After dinner can we watch a show tonight?
David asked if I can follow him on Instagram?

My nightmare.
Well, one of them anyway.

There are times when I’d love to just get rid of it all.
There’s a reason I returned the iphone my husband bought me a couple of years ago.
I have a definite love-hate-relationship with technology and all things screen-ish.
And yes, I get the irony of sharing this in a post as I type away staring at a screen.
My tendency would be to bury my head in the sand and just wish it’d all go away.

But—there has to be a balance—right?
And that’s part of our job—
To help our children find the balance and to help them learn how to keep it,
To help them learn to use technology and all things media for the glory of God.

First We Must Look at Avoiding the Dangers and Negative Impacts of Technology:

1) Overuse:
There’s a definite tendency for overuse. And that’s a real possibility for all of us. Screen attachment can become a borderline addiction (or real for some) and we must set limits when it comes to using technology and screen time.  The balance will be different for every family and should be age appropriate.

Exceptions are made as needed, but in general, as a family, we have some guidelines that have eliminated the need for constant decision making about usage.  When it comes to television, we watch a weekly show together on Thursday nights and then after evening chores are complete, our crew is allowed to watch something for half an hour while we are waiting for dad to get home (for us that is 6 to 6:30). Unless it’s a special occasion– online games or Wii games are reserved for the weekends and this has eliminated the requests for permission that were driving me bonkers.  For now, we also have decided that devices will not travel with the kids to most social functions (church, Bible study, friends’ houses etc.).

I’m not at all suggesting this is what every family should do, but the point is to have an actual usage plan.

2) Safety:
Dangers lurk on every corner when it comes to technology and this is an important discussion to have with our children.  As parents we need to explain why it’s important to never share personal information or open emails/photos from strangers and why downloads need to have approval.

There is wisdom in keeping computers and devices centrally located and for putting safeguards in place to protect our children.  Pornography is just one unintentional click away.  We must make safety a priority.
This recent article has excellent suggestions specific to creating a porn-free family plan.

In our home, our kids’ profiles must be kept private and they are not allowed to accept friend requests from people they don’t know.  And until they are a bit older and wiser, we’ve asked them not to search and click on unknown sites without our permission.  A central family docking station, ensures that all devices are accounted for.  Open communication is huge when it comes to safety…our children need to feel comfortable coming to us if something negative happens online whether intentional or unintentional.

3) Costly Words:
Words have the ability to cause great damage and it’s so easy to quickly make a comment online without realizing the hurtful impact.  It is important to explain that a text, email, comment, or post is often irretrievable and that “when there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).  As a family, studying James is a great place to start when discussing how death and life are in the power of the tongue.

4) Missed Opportunities:
The choice to engage in screen time is also a choice to not do something else. Technology often replaces good conversation and face to face relationship building. It can isolate family members from one another and it can lead to a loss of other interests.  When we start noticing that our children are choosing screen time regularly over other activities, that’s usually when we implement a technology Sabbath.

5) Lack of Courtesy:
It’s also important to stress courtesy when it comes to all things screen.  And sometimes it’s as simple as the basics– when you are in the company of someone else, it’s unkind to be glued to your phone.  If there’s any opportunity for conversation, it’s rude to not make eye contact and engage.  These are words we must preach to ourselves as well.

docking station

Then We Must Encourage the Positive Aspects of Technology:

1) Building relationships and friendships:
Technology creates a wonderful opportunity for building connections and encouraging others.  If we can help our children view it in this light, technology can be a blessing in their lives and in the lives of others.  We want to help them consider:  Who can I encourage with my comments?  What friendships can I strengthen by online connections?  What family members or friends can I reach out to?

2) Developing Skills/Creativity:
Creativity is limitless when it comes to technology and it’s important to encourage our children to develop skills in this area.  Many excellent typing, programming, and coding programs are available.  Our boys enjoy stop motion and creating videos.  All of our children enjoy photography.  These are skills and interests that God can use in their lives and we want to encourage their curiosity and delight in these areas.

3) Sharing the Gospel:
Technology offers incredible opportunities for sharing about Jesus’ rescue mission to save us, bring us forgivingness and how He made a way for us to live in deep, real relationship with God.  We want our children to approach technology with a heart to “(make) the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16).

4) Keeping us in the tension:
It might be easier to just do away with it all, but instead we have to listen for God’s whisper that we may be out-of-balance or over-balanced or missing– Balance.

It might be simpler if God just gave us Commandment #11– Do not use Facebook.
But instead, He gives us a relationship where we must come to Him regularly, willing to lay it all, all the techno-everything-options, at His disposalTechnology and all things “screen” create this opportunity for our children as well.

I am sure there are many other positives and negatives that I haven’t considered…
And I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions below in the comments.

For now though, I’ll just admit that I did eventually get a smartphone.
Smile.
And truthfully, I use it, enjoy it, and find it very helpful.
But it’s a constant battle to keep the balance.

And it’s in that place of tension that I want our children to stay…
Where they are constantly asking–

How can I use this _________ (insert your device of choice) to bring glory to God?

Our God is a God who redeems.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” ~Psalm 24:1

With Love,
Kara @ The Chuppies

This post is part of our series Finding Balance as a Busy Mom. 

Please check the series page for all of the posts! 

Finding Balance as a Busy Mom

Learn to Take Better Family Photos for FREE!

Recently I was asked to take a look at a website called Craftsy. To be honest I had never heard of Craftsy and didn’t expect to find such an extraordinary resource.

Click here to see the FREE class I took with Craftsy!

Now I wouldn’t call myself a “crafty gal”, but I do admit to occasionally daydreaming about making my own jewelry line or knitting a trendy scarf. The problem is… I wouldn’t even know where to start. The other problem is… I don’t have time to go take classes and learn said craftiness. This is where Craftsy comes in and saves the day!

I was able to take Craftsy’s free Professional Family Portraits class and test it out for myself. It was an easy to understand course broken into four sections. The instructor was very clear and knowledgeable in regards to the topic. A few of my favorite things I learned from the class were the use of lighting and some tricks to light your subjects well (who knew you could just use a white board to reflect light back on your subject?!). I also really enjoyed the section on locations for group photos. He gave good suggestions and ideas for finding the perfect spot to set up a portrait, as well as help in making ANY location work.

One of the best things about taking the class online besides the valuable information, was the ability to start the class and pause the class whenever I needed to. When the kids were in bed or when I had a few minutes during the day to spare I would sit down and watch a bit of the course in the comfort of my own home. It was so convenient! Craftsy is the perfect solution for us busy moms who want to learn but don’t have time to leave the house and attend a class.

Here are a few pictures I took after taking the course. In my photos I tried to focus on lighting (better on an overcast day outside), as well as capturing my child’s personality.

Here is a little more info about Craftsy:

Craftsy offers online crafting classes, taught by world renowned instructors who love the craft as much as you do. Craftsy classes are online, so they are available to you anytime you want for as long as you want, there are no scheduled class times, so you can enjoy them entirely on your own schedule. Each class is taught by an acclaimed instructor and consists of several hours of HD-quality video content… but Craftsy classes are much more than just a video!

While taking a Craftsy class, you can:

Ask your instructor questions, upload photos, and get personalized responses

Participate in discussions with your classmates

Access supporting class materials – including recipes and helpful tips & tricks

Bookmark your favorite moments in the video so that you can easily re-watch them and take notes that you can refer back to anytime

The great thing about Craftsy is that there is a class for everyone! You can learn knitting, photography, cake decorating, sewing, cooking and more!

If you are ready to start learning check out Craftsy for FREE below!

Learn how to take beautiful, professional-looking photos of your own family with Craftsy’s free Professional Family Portraits class. Sign up now for this free Professional Family Portraits class!

Blessings,

Ruth Schwenk

Learn how to take beautiful, professional-looking photos of your own family with Craftsy’s free Professional Family Portraits class. Sign up now for this free Professional Family Portraits class!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Craftsy. The opinions and text are all mine.

Instawhat? Navigating Social Media with Your Kids

Instawhat? Navigating Social Media with Your Kids

I have two middle schoolers now. Two. At one time. It’s intense sometimes. (And fun.)

Since I’m an online publicist, I thought I knew a lot about social media. But, alas, having middle schoolers has awakened me to a whole new side of social media. One that is really kind of scary. Just in the last week, I have read two sobering articles on some of the problems that come with this social experiment – everything from cyber bullying to sexting to hooking up with random strangers.

Someone has said that this generation is the “technology everywhere generation.” No matter where or what they are doing, our teens are usually connected to some social media network. For better or for ill.

So, what’s a parent to do? Like other cultural issues, there are several ways loving, God-honoring parents might choose as an approach to social media. Rather than evaluate each of those, I want to give you two simple challenges: be aware and be involved.

Navigating Social Media with Your Kids

Be aware

When it comes to social media, two kinds of parents come to mind. You might consider yourself “out of the loop” when it comes to online technology. You don’t own a smartphone and you don’t have time for Facebook and you’re fine with keeping it that way. But, unless you’re keeping your kids pretty insulated, I would advise you to become a little more aware of what is going on in the world around you.

Social-Media-Icons

As I type those words, I realize that it can be a very tricky balance. On the one hand, you might be trying to keep healthy social media boundaries yourself. The online world can be a black hole for your precious time – keeping it at bay keeps your life simpler. I get that. Like most things, social media has its pros and cons. But, the reality is that as your kids get older, they are most likely being exposed to social media in one form or another – even if they don’t have their own accounts.

There is another kind of parent though that feels pretty tech savvy. I’m more in that category. I’ve been on Facebook since our kids were little and we were in college ministry. But, your teen does not necessarily use Facebook or Instagram the same way that you do. Don’t assume that just because you know these tools, that you don’t have some learning to do. Because, I’ll be honest, you probably do. To that end, I want to share with you a great resource from my friend, Austin McCann. Austin is our Student Ministry Director. He does an incredible job of keeping the parents in our church equipped to deal with the things that our culture is throwing at our kids. He’s done some great work on his blog to resource parents particularly in this area of social media.

Be involved

Being aware is only the first part of the equation. The second step is being involved. You’re going to have to help your kids navigate this area. Don’t just leave it up to your youth pastor. YOU have to be hands on. And, I’ll tell you, it’s going to take some of your time.

How can you be involved?

  • Do some research. Know which apps your kids are using and how they are using them. Whether it’s a smartphone, an iPod or a personal game system, is there an internet browser available to your kids on it? If so, check the parental controls and filters that are available to you. Don’t assume anything. Your kids might be great kids. But, they are susceptible to temptation just like all of us are. My son is 14 and has chosen to totally get rid of the browser on his phone. He decided it just wasn’t worth it to risk being tempted to look at porn.
  • Have an open door policy with your kids. Put parameters on when and where they can be on their devices. Our kids aren’t allowed to have them in their rooms with the doors closed. Warn them that anything they post or text can be checked by you at any time without warning. I know this might mess with your desire to give them some privacy. Over time, you might be able to give them more and more freedom in this way. But, right now, they’re your kids and their online engagement isn’t really all that private anyway. So, it’s certainly fair game for Mom & Dad’s eyes.
  • Talk with them. A lot. As you go. Listen to their banter in the car. Be the one driving the carpool on a regular basis. Have their friends hanging out at your house a lot. Make sure you’re “friends” with them on Facebook, etc. Read their posts. My 12-year-old daughter and her friends think selfies on Instagram are the greatest. I’ve had to talk with her about that whole phenomenon. I’ve also had some great, teachable moments with her about comments that can get misunderstood in a text or online comment. Those conversations go well, in part, because we talk often about other everyday stuff too.
  • Follow up with them. When you see something online that makes you uncomfortable, don’t shy away from the awkward conversation that needs to happen with your kids. I’d rather be uncomfortable for a few minutes than see my kids fall prey to bullying or sexting or inappropriate images. Our conversation about twerking after the MTV awards was not the most comfortable one I’ve ever had. We don’t watch MTV but I knew my kids would likely see or hear about that footage. I wanted them to have our perspective before they saw it on YouTube or had their friends’ perspectives.

If you’re not able or willing to put this kind of effort into their online engagement, then I might suggest holding off on an iPhone for Christmas. The commitment isn’t just theirs. It’s yours too. And you just have to know that going in. If you do, the social media world can be a fun place. If you don’t, it can be a dangerous place.

Grace and peace,

ShannonMcKee

It’s Not a Game…

It's Not a Game...

If I post about parenting–  but ignore my child’s needs…

If I tweet about marriage–  but am too tired for intimacy…

If my Facebook status is for friendship–  but I’m too busy for my friends…

If I text about service–  but do not respond when my neighbor’s need is clear…

If I Pinterest-pin verses–  but don’t actually read my Bible…

If I say “I will pray”– but forget to follow through…

If I speak about love–  but fail to love in action…

If I– fail to love in daily-real-in-the-flesh-life?

Oh it’s not a game.
Let me live the walk I talk.

For little eyes are watching to see what truly captures my heart.

“…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” ~1 John 3:18

With Love,

Kara @The Chuppies

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