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Parenting the Smartphone Generation

One of Josh Ray's great achievements this year was the Jonathan McKee parenting seminar. McKee spoke to our youth leaders, preached Sunday morning as well as addressing parents. What a great weekend it was for God! Josh created a partnership of local churches to support this event. Even McKee himself was impressed with the turn out. I came across my notes from his presentation and wanted to share them with everyone again. McKee had 8 points for parents.

1. Connect with your kids face-to-face. Surveys show adults spend nearly as much time in front of electronic screens as their children do. Parents need to take the initiative in planning and carrying out regular face-to-face time with

their families each day. Plan family meals, Corral the cell phones away from the table to make space for conversation and interaction. This is a foundation for family life.

2. Notice their world. Many of us pay little attention to pop culture and trends that affect our children. (I'm still trying to figure out Pokemon Go!) But ignorance is not a good parenting strategy. By noticing you can not only be an informed parent but you also demonstrate to your kids that they matter and you care about what is going on in their world.

3. Understand this culture affects our kids. At this point, I recall McKee playing some clips of popular music videos. Almost all of them featured women as sex objects and lyrics celebrating greed and self-gratification such as Ariana Grande's “I want it, I buy it, I got it.” With a steady drone of lust and greed coming from music videos, it's no surprise we've seen the explosion of #metoo. We are in denial if we don't think popular culture affects our kids values, ambitions and self-regard.

4. Don't freak out! Parents who suddenly become aware of the content their kids are accessing on their phones sometimes react poorly out of surprise and shock. Parental outbursts and dramatic acts rarely serve to influence kids in the long term. Push the pause button on yourself. Take a deep breath. Instead of confiscating their devices, try co-viewing videos with your kids. Engage them in making thoughtful judgments of what they see and hear. Ask them what they think? Is it a healthy way for people to act? What might be the consequences of those actions? Teach them to evaluate the messages they receive.

5. Move from reactive to proactive. Sit down as a family and decide on helpful boundaries around limiting screen time; parents having all passwords; age restrictions; having devices in the bedroom and setting tech-free times and zones in your house.

6. Don't expect parental control software to raise your kids. People are ingenious and kids often find work arounds to get past controls. Software can not teach people self-management or self-control. This can only be done through the initiative and interaction of parents.

7. Don't become so focused on blocking out the lies that you forget to talk about the truth. Don't-don't-don't is not a good strategy. As gardeners say, “Don't just pull weeds, plant flowers!” Talk about God's will for us and God's good gifts to us of money, sexuality and power. The Bible has much to say about the life-giving ways for us to receive and employ God's gifts.

8. Become a media mentor versus a limiter or an enabler. Some parents set boundaries and then walk away not really caring what happens. Some blindly provide whatever aps and games their children seek without making judgments. When your kid asks if they can have an app the best response a parent can make is, “I don't know. Let's check it out together.” This of course takes time and attention but the pay-off is a kid who learns how to discern content and practice self-control.

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