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The Digital Age and Parenting
The Digital Age and Parenting

Our children will experience an unprecedented trail of history of their childhood including HD video recordings, pictures, tweets, blog posts, text messages, Instagrams, Snapchats, and who knows what else will be the fancy in a few months?

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The record of my childhood rests in the memory of friends and family, a few videotapes, and many pictures. This is in stark contrast to the current time period in which we live. Our children will experience an unprecedented trail of history of their childhood including HD video recordings, pictures, tweets, blog posts, text messages, Instagrams, Snapchats, and who knows what else will be the fancy in a few months? Can you imagine having a digital trail of your various haircuts/hairstyles? Your fleeting moment of trying to be something you are not? Your brief effort to be good at break dancing? Your failures as an adolescent? I cannot even fathom it. I look at my school yearbook picture and get embarrassed with my bowl cut hairstyle.

When I was an adolescent, I tried to become a skater (one who is into skateboarding). Yes, I had the Vision Street Wear shoes, a skateboard, and the hair to go with it. It lasted about a year, but it was a fad. I was trying to figure out who I was in this world. It is obvious that I did not become the next Tony Hawk. My point is this: your teenage children are in the process of forming their identity and part of this formation in a Digital Age will occur using the Internet. We must be prepared and savvy in order to lead and direct them well. If we take a passive posture, we will lose significant ground as parents.

The rapidity of sharing information in a Digital Age is unparalleled to any time throughout history. The problem is not access to information, but how we think about the information we receive. How do we respond as parents? I think the same steady biblical truths need to hold true for how we shepherd the hearts of these teenage children in an age of digital information. As I have been a student of teenagers for the last 20 years in working with them, I realize how much they need to be anchored in biblical truth. They need to know that you know what and how they are using the Internet. Believe it or not, they will find security in this fact. We must be active and knowledgeable of the devices we are placing into the hands of these tween and teenage children. This does not mean monitoring all their use all the time. This would be more than a full-time job. It does mean shepherding their hearts so that they have accountability and will seek out accountability in the future as young adults.

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I want to encourage you to listen to the new ECS Equip podcast conversations with one of our parents, Brian Housman. Brian is a prolific writer for parenting magazines, most notably Parenting Teenagers and Parent Life. He has written three books: Engaging Your Teen's World, Tech Savvy Parenting, and Raising Responsible Teens in a Digital World. The Equip podcast is a two-part series on Social Media. In the first, we seek to answer the question: Is social media an area to redeem or reject? In the second podcast, Brian and I explore the benefits and dangers of social media. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or listen at ecsequip.com. After working with teenagers for two decades, I put this list together to help you think through navigating this new digital era.

10 Things You Need to Know to Strenghten Your Child in a Digital World

By Dan Peterson

  1. Kids are seeking what is best received from parents and friends face to face: attention, affirmation, and validation. Give that, and they are better able to see technology more clearly. Don't give it and they will be tempted to think they can find it there.
  2. Be a good role model for mobile device usage.
  3. It is addictive – can become one's idol and steal joy and valuable time.
  4. Your child has accessibility to almost anything imaginable with a Smartphone.
  5. Top applications students are using: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Ask.fm, Yik Yak, Tumblr, Pinterest, Omegle, Hot or Not, Chive.
  6. Social media is both networking and educational.
  7. Heart - Seek to shepherd their heart – teach and train.
  8. They need accountability – a barometer will be inviting accountability into their life as they mature.
  9. Be a communal people willing to make a hard phone call to another parent or receive a hard phone call.
  10. A guiding question: Is this something to reject or redeem?
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