Answering top questions from today’s parents PART II

Posted on: 11/15/17 3:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Yesterday we already tackled some of the big ones…

What age do you recommend allowing children on social media?

Is there a way to filter the stories on SnapChat?

How do you prevent sexting?

These are just a few of the countless questions I just received from parents… and for three days I’m going to answer all of them in this blog. Each day I’m going to narrow it down to the top 10. (See yesterday’s 10 answers HERE.)

Here are today’s 10 answers to 10 questions…


1. What is the downside of waiting until 9th/10th grade to give kids access to a smartphone or data plan? What are the compelling reasons to do it before then?

The only downside to holding out is that if your kids are surrounded by friends who all have devices, they might whine and complain that they are the only kid without a device. But this doesn’t mean give in. In fact, here’s the link to some great ear plugs Amazon sells.

Funny… I know lots of parents who actually give their kids a device before they even ask for one. We don’t need to feel the pressure to give a device when most experts are recommending wait. See my answer to questions 1 and 2 in yesterday’s post.

2. I’m concerned about how to regulate screen time with a high functioning autistic child when their social skills are so limited and their peers are so unwilling to engage them, what do I do?

This is a tough situation, because once again we’re learning that parenting answers are not always “one size fits all.” Ongoing research has shown that social media can actually provide a comfortable means of interpersonal communication for people with autism, although it might be noted, that even this research reveals that social media does not cure loneliness—face-to-face interaction is necessary (something we are definitely seeing in young people without autism).

My sister-in-law Amy (who happens to write our free Stranger Things Netflix discussions) works as a speech therapist with autistic kids and constantly shares with me how she encourages letting them express themselves, but at the same time provides boundaries of acceptable/unacceptable behaviors. In other words, she might not even require a boy with ADHD to sit in a chair in her classroom, allowing him to stand and move/fidget. But hitting another kid is unacceptable. We can do the same with boundaries in our homes. For example, we don’t want to turn our kids loose on social media or 10 hours of video games per day just because they have a learning disability.

Amy pointed out three things to consider when working with children with autism:

1) technology has actually shown some great ways for children with various diagnoses to connect with other similar children.  Often times, it is true that kids with autism have more difficulty with peer relationships at school (often because of the low number of students with that same diagnosis), the internet provides amazing forums, blogs and chat rooms (however, it needs to be noted that strong parent oversight and regulation is important – ie, consider having a common computer area for all eyes to see).

2) Kids with autism have a harder time reading emotions and do need to have technology limited and sculpted to address their actual needs (for example, parents could play a game of charades using technology to drive the game) but simply allowing your child to watch/interact with tech devices unsupervised and without limit is not good.

3) Kids with autism crave structure – which is one reason why predictable video games are so comforting to these kids.  One way to establish structure is to designate specific times of the day for specific technology uses (ie from 3:30-4:30, Jonny may play ____ game).  This way, you are acknowledging how helpful technology is to your child, but also limiting what is being accessed and for how long.

This research is ongoing. I recommend talking with SEVERAL clinicians who are trained in working with kids with autism and see what they recommend. Look for the common truth in all their advice.

3. What are the dangers of the app is a popular app where kids can create and share music videos to their friends/followers. So like most social media sites, they need to be careful WHO they allow as friends (a good rule of thumb is no one they haven’t met face to face) and WHAT they are posting (are they posting their location, are they posting anything inappropriate). As for inappropriate… anyone who has been to one of my parenting workshops has gleaned a taste of what today’s music videos look like… these are many of the videos that are passed around. So young kids are exposed to pretty raunchy and sexualized content.

It’s sad, because it allows kids to be creative… but can expose them to some raunchy content.

Many parents are not aware of how much kids are exposed to pornographic videos on this app. Even if they carefully select their friends and who can see their videos, the video search feature is not filtered and they can access anything through that search feature.

Age is also a concern. In their privacy policy  they aren’t as clear about age… just that they won’t “keep” or “collect” information from anyone under 13. It never asks if you are 13 when you sign up, so many young kids have this.

Here’s an article sharing concerns.

And Common Sense media goes into some detail about what parents can expect in their review of the app.

4. What is the easiest way to monitor a child’s online activity for parents who aren’t tech savvy? Specific app or software?  Do you recommend any phone/internet filters?

Same answer as question number 3 in yesterday’s post.

5. When your kids push you away and go silent how do you reconnect and bond and know that they are okay or know what’s going on in their world?

This all starts with NOTICING our kids and making time to connect on their level.

In the Virginia panel, a youth pastor named Chris shared a compelling story about difficulty connecting with one of his sons. Chris and several of his boys enjoyed sports like basketball and football, but one of his sons enjoyed outdoors activities like kayaking and elk hunting… something Chris had never done. Chris could have done what many parents do and just shrugged his shoulders. But he didn’t- instead he took an interest in “elk skinning” and took his son to the big outdoorsman store, and that opened his son up. Chris said, “When we were walking through the isles of this outdoorsman store, my son lit up and began telling me about all the cool things he was seeing. Now, I spend time with him doing outdoor activities he enjoys, and he actually reciprocates, sitting down with me at his brothers’ Basketball games asking me questions.”

Many parents don’t take the TIME to NOTICE and enter their kids’ world.

What is it that your kids love to talk with their friends about? Where do they spend their time?How could you enter their world this week?

For Further Reading: If I Had a Parenting Do Over, Chapter 3: Notice

6. Is there a way to receive your child’s text directly to your phone or laptop? Can kid’s screens/apps activity be displayed on a parent’s screen?

There are apps that can do this, but personally I don’t recommend them. I recommend just setting the parental restrictions on the phones appropriately for their age, then having conversations about content. See my answers and links to question number 3 in yesterday’s post.

7. For kids who want to be “set apart” are there suggestions or resources regarding these types of things? For example: 14 yr daughter recently had a teammate tell her she was “pan.” Our daughter came to us and asked what the best way to respond to that type of confession? As a believer, she wants to be a safe/non-judgemental place. She asked, said girl, if her parents knew and thanks for sharing, but this is a heavy burden to carry.

This is so common, and I think the answer we need to keep pointing to is Jesus himself, because Jesus showed such compassion and love for sinners, but yet didn’t bend on morality. We need to continue to share stories of Jesus with our kids where Jesus showed compassion to the lost (John 4- woman at the well, John 8- woman caught in adultery, Luke 19- Zacchaeus, etc.) and ask our kids questions about how we can respond like that when we meet the lost.

At the same time it’s okay to dialogue with students about the realities of much of what the world says is okay, but isn’t actually healthy. Here’s a recent blog I wrote about dialoguing about gender identity with some good discussion material to talk about.

For Further Reading: Sex Matters, Chapter 1: Why Wait, Chapter 5: Tough Questions

8. Do you think there will be a new “norm” of culture for our kids when they are adults because of the seismic change of the smartphone?

This is all pure speculation, but I think we are seeing changes in our culture in the way we communicate with each other (poorer), the amount of entertainment media we’re absorbing (more each year), and the change in morality as we slowly are adopting the morality of our entertainment we love.

Here’s a powerful interview with Simon Sinek about some of the changes in communication—an interview I highlighted in my blog a while back.

And here’s an article I linked yesterday about some of the consequences we’re seeing as a result of this constant connectivity.

Will the “new norm” be increased anxiety, self absorption and social isolation? I hope not. I’m hoping humans will recognize this and the pendulum will swing back.

9. Jonathan mentioned some additional authors/resources beyond his books, can you please share those resources?

Yes, in addition to many of the books I’ve already linked, here are a few others I mentioned and often plug from my parenting workshops:

CURT STEINHORST- and I teamed up for this book to leaders in the workforce helping today’s worker accomplish focused work in a world overflowing with distractions: Can I Have Your Attention?

SHERRY TURKLE- New York Times best selling author talks about how tech is killing relationships: Reclaiming Conversation

KARA POWELL- and a few others wrote a nice little guide to parents about parenting your teenager in a digital media world: Right Click

And the other source I kept quoting was COMMON SENSE MEDIA, a free online source for parents:

10. What suggestions do you have about young people creating their online identity? For example: professionals are told to have LinkedIn with followers because we have to network. As adults, we have a social media presence or we are considered odd. How do we guide them in understanding their online identity?

I think here’s a perfect opportunity to teach our kids truth and see how that truth seeps into the other areas of their lives like “online identity.” In other words, the more we teach our kids who they are “in Christ” (II Cor 5:17) and their mission of “we don’t preach ourselves, we preach Christ the Lord” (II Cor 4:5), the more they’ll know how to live this out in every area of their lives, including online.

For Further Reading: The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, Chapter 8: Take more “Selflessies”, Chapter 9: Like Me