I had a few different friends post a recent article on Snapchat and the dangers it poses; you can read the article HERE. I also saw a recent similar article on Catholicmom. (The actual article escapes me, but they regularly have great updated “app” articles to keep me in the loop and are my GO-TO source on all apps and tech stuff). Articles such as these wake me in the middle of the night filled with fear, anxiety and dread. Paralyzing dread and all-kinds of wild, fear-based planning to keep my children cocooned and protected from every hidden danger ever known or unknown. Makes for a super restful sleep. Not.
However, we must LIVE our life. Pray without ceasing and learn from our mistakes and move on to live another day. We must teach our children to do the same thing. No easy task in this day and age of insta-everything with no youthful mistake or regret left undocumented (to which I say daily “Thank you, JESUS, that we did not have the internet when WE were growing up”).
In this techno age there will always be a Snapchat. As soon as we parents catch on and log in, there’s a new app that’s hot and drawing the kids in by droves. We can uninstall, remove tech devices, forbid cable, internet usage, friends, etc, etc, etc. To what extent though? What choices are we left with? We have to do something and whatever we do will have a result, good, bad or ugly. We, as parents, can choose avoidance or we can face it head on. Don’t hide your head in the sand; choose to put on your gear and prepare for battle: protect your children through education and preparation. Agree or disagree or take it with a grain of salt, here’s our approach:
Lead by example. Kids learn by mimicking us. I only need to listen in on a disagreement between kids to hear how I REALLY need to work on my intonation and patience with them. It ain’t pretty. Same goes for tech stuff. If your face is constantly on your phone and every text, status update and ‘Gram is a lead-in for most conversations it might be time to step back. Let me introduce you to the “silent” feature on your phone and/or removing social apps or scaling back. Phone free dinners are mandatory in our house and so is participation in daily “highs and lows”. Sometimes it’s all we can do to get through dinner without a free for all, but expectations are there and are observed.
Knowledge is power and as parents we are called (like it or not) to be abreast of this technology, so dig in and find a few websites to regularly check in and learn about apps and how to navigate them. And for the love of Pete, find a spot to put down all your usernames and passwords, because these apps are like rabbits…the more there are…the more there are.
Communication is key. Regular conversations about life, plugged and un-plugged are key. We don’t home school (and I applaud ALL who can and do) and as a result our kids are privy to a WIDE variety of people, lifestyles and situations in their public schools, friendships and extracurricular activities. Much is cringe-worthy and the teach-able moments are never-ending, however, my personal approach continues to evolve from lecture giver to observer and navigational assistant in managing these moments. A constant work in progress, I assure you. (Hubby is often far more about keeping it simple in explanations: truthful but short and sweet). It’s getting easier for me though and when our 10yo daughter is trying to explain the friendship she has with a sweet boy as a “friend with advantages”, I quickly correct here to the correct phrase of “friends with benefits” and explain that since that means a friend who you have sex with and no special relationship and that is ABSOLUTELY NOT the way to describe THIS friendship, she is at once shocked and understands that sometimes we all need clarification. (In truth, this boy is a friend, who happens to be a boy, that she can talk with like her girlfriends and at 10 it’s such a unique phenomenon she isn’t sure how to classify him. I let her know that “friend” is purely acceptable and applicable.) Would you not be so blunt? Perhaps not. However, I am all about honesty and saying it like it is; beating around the bush is just crap.
Participation and being present. I personally struggle with this in our daily busy-ness. We both work full-time, our kids are in school all day, our oldest works, we have a variety of kid activities, church, etc. It’s busy, from morning coffee to passing out after evening prayers. The importance of chatting about our day (mentioned above during dinner) and addressing any concerns or just planning out dreams and enjoying newfound passions are crucial to a kid’s security and growth. It doesn’t take a whole evening, but a few FOCUSED minutes on a kid speaks volumes for days. You don’t need to look much further than any number of crash and burn famous kid moments (or maybe even some you know personally) to see the link between parent and kiddo is nonexistent or shaky at best.
After a long-story-short, my summary is this:
1. Set the example. Modify Ghandi’s quote to fit your family and “BE the change you want to see in your children/marriage/family”.
2. Stay informed. Be aware. Learn the trends. If we are all about it, it loses its luster and excitement and the shock/thrill loses its power.
3. Talk. Talk. Talk. And then talk some more. Communication is key in marriage, parenting and life and it is CONSTANT.
4. Be present. Listen. Ask. Listen. Learn.
Bottom line is, they are kids. They are navigating childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. They will screw up 1000 times over and they need us present to help them untangle those unfortunate moments of growing up. We can hope they will avoid the bullying, sexting and variety of other fears we know lurk daily and we will do the best we can to protect them. At the end of the day, the education we can provide for them in the school of life is the best chance they have.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’