Kids and Technology

It finally happened. My kids could not be more excited. They've been asking for a least two years now, and we've been holding them off. But finally, on Black Friday, we found an amazing deal and pulled the trigger. Yep, my wife Cheryl and I have gotten cell phones for our twelve year-old, seventh grade twins.

We took this step as much or more for us than for our kids. We want to be able to reach them when needed, and we want them to be able to reach us. There seemed to be more than one occasion when I'd see an unfamiliar phone number on my caller ID. This was one of my kids borrowing a friend's phone to call to ask permission for something. They'd leave a message and then I'd call right back. Now I know just what number to call.

For my son, who at times seems to be technology dependent, this was a big step. We have to drag him off of his electronic devices on a regular basis. He doesn't seem to find joy in anything that doesn't have some sort of screen attached. Giving him something this portable seemed to feed his addiction.

When we began to talk with our daughter about entering middle school, she told us that she "had to have" a cell phone. It came across as if it were a school rule. In the years since we've given our kids wi-fi enabled devices and seen them grow in their use of it. While these devices are useful, powerful, and can do a great many things, they are limited when not connected to Wi-Fi. We've seen fruit from teaching our kids some basic skills for navigating the world of technology first by limiting access and then giving increasing freedom as our children have demonstrated growing responsibility. 

Our prayer is that God will use this new responsibility to help our kids mature. So when we gave the kids the phones, we sat them down and had a conversation.  Here were our key talking points...

  • The phones belong to mom and dad. We're only letting the kids use them.
  • Mom and dad can look at the phones wherever and whenever we want. 
  • The kids will always answer when mom and dad call.
  • The kids are responsible to charge the phone every night.

After doing a little research, we also made our children sign a conduct contract. This includes the following:

  • No cyber bullying (especially of one another). We fully expect this to be an ongoing discussion.
  • Kids must notify us if they receive or are asked to send something inappropriate (pictures, jokes, etc).
  • How to handle social media.

As we've talked to the kids, I've also come to the realization that our kids will learn both good and bad cell phone habits from us, their parents. I've committed to text the entire family a verse from the Psalms each day to encourage them. This has sparked more conversation around the dinner table. I'm hopeful this new technology can be leveraged to help us all grow.

How are you helping your kids navigate the world of technology? Leave a a story or helpful tip below.  

Parenting and Braces

Recently my daughter got braces. Our dentist has been telling us for a while now that it was going to need to be done. We settled on the orthodontist I went to as an adult (and got the family discount ... which doesn't feel like a discount when you see the full bill... but we'll take any break we can get). Now my daughter has a long road ahead of her.  And as I've thought about it, I've noticed a few similarities between her life with braces and parenting a middle schooler.

1. Applying Pressure

You apply pressure to bring alignment.

For those of you who have never had braces, here is the basic idea. You apply pressure in just the right place so that  teeth are brought into alignment. As parents, we feel pressure to bring our kid's behavior into alignment. But sometimes we can aim the pressure of discipline and instruction in the wrong spots. Instead of addressing behavior directly, we must apply pressure on the real trouble--the sinful heart behind our kids' behavior. With a pre-teen, one way to do this is by simply asking "why?" Help your son or daughter reflect on the reasons that led to a poor decision. 

2. Making Adjustments

Regular adjustments are needed in our parenting as well.

In order for the braces to complete their job, they must be regularly adjusted. Regular adjustments are necessary in our parenting as well. We need discernment to determine when kids need justice, when they need mercy, and when they need grace. If parents don't adjust the pressure they apply to their kids regularly, they may end stunt the growth they wish to see. Spend some time with your spouse or another parent. Consider whether you've been too heavy handed or too permissive. Could making a small adjustment help you better reflect God's dynamic justice and grace?

3. EXPecting Breaks

It only took six hours--a measly six hours--for my daughter to pop her first bracket. At the time I wrote this post, she had already popped two more. I should have expected it, because I don't know of anyone who has had braces who hasn't lost a bracket or unhooked their wires at some point in the process. In parenting, we need to expect and acknowledge brokenness as well. We must acknowledge and confess our own sinfulness and brokenness even as we deal with the brokenness in our kids. The last thing I want my daughter to do is hide the fact that one of her brackets has come loose because she's embarrassed or she's scared I'll be frustrated. I also don't want my daughter hiding her sin, but I know that the only way she'll practice vulnerability about her brokenness is if she sees me model the same vulnerability and expectation that sinfulness and repentance is a regular part of life. Kate needs to see what it looks like for me to confess my own sin, ask her for forgiveness, and then cry out to Christ for pardon as well. She needs to see me repent of my sin to God, to my wife, to her, and to her brother on a regular basis.

4. Joy in Waiting

While she is suffering now, in two years there will be joy.

According the orthodontist, it will be two years for the braces to do their thing. For my twelve year-old daughter, that seems like a lifetime. She told me she's looking forward to the day they come off. She's looking forward to seeing her new smile. She's looking forward to eating all of the forbidden foods again. But for now she's content to wait. While she is suffering now, in two years there will be joy. This is a lesson for parents as well. Parenting kids can, and often does, feel like suffering. But as we wait with hope there can be joy. We get glimpses of it as we see our kids grow to make wise decisions and as we graciously help them walk through life with faith.

"So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded." (Hebrews 10:35)