Good Reasons For Kids To Have Handheld Devices

Regardless of your worldview, religious stance or the people you hang with, opinions explode onto the scene when it comes to kids and technology.

I was recently encouraged to read a blog on the positive elements of kids using devices. And notice, this mother and librarian (lover of literature) is writing in response to an opposite opinion in the Huffington Post. Talk about opposing concerns….just glance at the two titles:

10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12


10 Reasons Why I Will Continue To Give My Children Handheld Devices

The two articles perfectly sum up my position. I’m all over the board. I’m here today and over there tomorrow. And like most of life, balance only occurs when we properly embrace the tension.

Ever been out of the country and stopped by a straw market? You know, the places that sell ‘local’ stuff on the cheap? Over the years I’ve watched kids look at guitars at such markets, watched their brains calculate the price compared to back home, watched the light come on. “Hey, I’ve got to pay $200 back home and it’s only $40 here. I’m in.”

Ever tried to tune one of the $40 types?


They can’t hold the tension. They sound like crap.

Back to technology for kids. Avoid the extremes, enter the tension, up the responsibility (both yours and your kid’s). Check out both articles and how they specifically apply to your parenting concerns. Take one or two ideas and fine tune the guitar.



The half-girl rules the land.

Each of us, regardless of gender or stage of life, find ourselves increasingly in world of commercial sexualization. And no one has suffered more than the girl. Like a strip mine destroying the land in search of the precious metal, the girl has been commercially harvested for her apparent value. Her body.

She is now a half-girl.

Technology brokered the deal and it was fast. Real fast. But the misuse of technology often leads to disconnection. Consider some of the fallout from our rapid-fire change

  • Separation of pleasure from procreation – contraception technology has allowed broader culture to harvest sexual pleasure from its intended purpose- to create life. As a result, the woman loses her distinctive life-giving role and begins to look more and more like….a man. Our culture’s current confusion about marriage and gender remains intricately linked to our technology.
  • Separation of body from soul – a girl’s true power comes from her feminine being. Her body merely enhances her person. To isolate her body from all that she is brings an objectifying strip-mine approach and sets society up for massive social problems.
  • Separation of the real into the virtual – Further disintegration occurs as people bail out of the physical real. Once the girl is harvested and packaged into a pleasure-dispensing image, the ratio of risk to pleasure is inverted. Many guys opt for the “pleasure only” package, avoiding deep relationships of commitment.

But the Christian fights against anything remotely resembling the half-girl. Our opportunity is both timely and potent. Consider the power of a life that is distinctively set apart from the half-girl world, where the whole person is developed and valued. How are you doing with the following checklist:

  • I resolutely resist the half-girl menus of
    • Soft porn magazine covers in the checkout lane
    • The mall’s sophisticated package of the half-girl
    • The online secret delivery system of the half-girl
    • Erotic books that explore explicit content through private e-devices
  • I view girls first and primarily as a person, complete with a set of vulnerabilities, concerns, dreams and a growing need to relate with God
    • The girl running the cash register. What’s her name? A fear that she has?
    • The co-worker. Where is she most vulnerable and how do your prayers reflect that tension?
  • I help develop my family and friends in terms of how they think, work and love far more than how they look
  • I think in terms of two worlds operating together (spiritual and physical) as it takes both to make sense of one
  • I spend more time talking with young girls about their journey with God, their relationships and their future than I do about what they’re wearing or how they look

As you evaluate your interactions with the world’s half-girl, what customized list would you put together to ensure that you’re at a much better spot next year at this time?

Marriage & Same-Sex-Attraction

You may find some great topics of conversation below, even for parents of middle-adolescents. It provides parents a non-flashpoint chance for a good discussion. See what you think….

The benefit here is to show what life can look like beyond the cultural argument. Far too often our kids are held hostage with media phrases:

  • Why did God create me this way?
  • Its not fair to deny me my sexual preference
  • Blacks used to be prohibited from certain restaurants too
  • A person’s sexual orientation is their own right

Once we admit to living in a fallen world, where we all have our hangups and orientations, we can advance the discussion to a higher level.

Talking With Our Children About Their Future Occupation

Here is a good discussion starter for you and your high school student. The younger ones might roll their eyes, but once talking, I think you’ll pick up some momentum.  I suspect that we’ll all have to work extra hard at ‘occupation’ type talks since these kinds of choices are being delayed on the adolescent scene.
Taken from Life on the Edge, by James Dobson
1. It must be something you genuinely like to do. This choice requires you to identify your own strengths, weaknesses and interests. (Some excellent psychometric tests are available to help with
this need.)
2. It must be something you have the ability to do. You might want to be an attorney but lack the talent to do the academic work and pass the bar examination.
3. It must be something you can earn a living by doing. You might want to be an artist, but if people don’t buy your paintings, you could starve while sitting at your easel.
4. It must be something you are permitted to do. You might make a wonderful physician and could handle the training but can’t gain entrance to medical school. I went through a PhD program in graduate school with a fellow student who was washed out after seven years of class work. He made it to the last exam before his professors told him, “You’re out.”
5. It must be something that brings cultural affirmation. In other words, most people need people need to feel some measure of respect from their contemporaries for what they do. This is one reason women have found it difficult to stay home and raise their children.
6. Most importantly for the genuine believer, it must be something that you feel God approves of. How do you determine the will of God about so personal a decision? That is a critical matter we’ll discuss presently.
You’ll notice from a brief survey of culture that many students change their minds. No sooner do they lock into a degree path and graduate than they look at the mountain of debt and change their dreams. The challenges of extended adolescence include later dating and marriage, deferred career paths and certainly, pushing their family off into the distant future. Still, the dialogue is crucial for our kids- the exchange of thoughts and ideas as they center on future dreams and careers.
And remember a few key points. Use open-ended questions like, ‘what excites you the most when you think about your future?’  When they express things that seem a bit unrealistic, let it slide. You’re simply exploring together.

Hooking Up

I vividly remember my first trip to Mexico. The heat, the smells and the litter. The ground looked like the day after a tornado with pop cans, wrappers, empty oil containers and discarded crap of all sorts. Ditches were full. It took me awhile, traveling back in time, to reflect on the America I once knew- where throwing litter out the window of a moving car was socially acceptable.

Picture a McDonald’s bag today, half eaten and discarded, laying in the middle of an otherwise pristine university lawn. It wouldn’t last long right? But litter of another sort adorns our college campuses, discarded from the roving hands of our middle adolescent crowd. A scourge more pervasive than ugly, smelly paper blowing in the wind.

An extraordinary article was posted recently at Princeton about the hookup culture on campus. “Love and lust in the bubble: Falling out of hooking up” reveals the emotional struggle of one very courageous young woman. For it takes guts to admit mistakes and even greater strength to write into a predominant culture. In her article, she states,

“During the second semester of my freshman year, two of my closest female friends and I created an “Accomplishment Chart,” complete with a star for each “accomplishment” we had achieved.”

“The author continues, talking about what it’s like to arrive on campus at age 18, finally independent of parents:”

“I think we forget how stupid we can be at age 18, finally free from our parents, but anxious to be accepted and afraid of being alone. I used to believe that dance floor make-outs and invitations to frat formals were indicators that I was happy. I am convinced that most of my hookups happened because their occurrence assured me that I was desirable and that I was normal. It’s fine to feel desirable and normal, but it’s perverse and counterintuitive when one of the only ways I felt desirable and normal was to do something I wasn’t completely comfortable with.”

Even more compelling was a comment that an older woman posted after reading the article. Check out her wisdom after tackling another two decades of life:

“The sorry tale is long and complicated. In many respects, we women of Gen X simply aren’t sure of ourselves. We give you, the current college coeds, the same advice we were given, put yourself and your career first before you burden yourself with the commitments of marriage and children, because we want your endorsement. Imitation is some proof that we were right…right? In fact, if you pay close attention to us, you will find that we are obsessed with being right–in the Mommy Wars, individual marriages, parenting theory… This is not a position of confidence. Frankly, it is mother guilt. In one of the many and varied illusions of feminism, independent modern women are oddly susceptible to it. They made our career success possible, and if we subvert that success to anything else, then they think we have thanklessly tossed away hard won freedoms they gave to us. We owe them, you see. If this piece gets any circulation, you might find comments that you are not allowed to think this. That it is somehow disloyal or backward. That feminist mother guilt is the root of those arguments.

It is why we encourage your little star charts of “accomplishment.” It is the fastest way to career success—or at least it was for us GenXers who left college and grad school for high paying jobs. With this economy you might not even get that, though you will still have our trouble adjusting to marriage. It is not a selfish institution and all the focus-on-the-self practice and habit formed in the hookup culture complicate marriage. And then there is motherhood. It is the antithesis of selfishness. Plus, push it off, and you might not get it. IVF and other fertility treatments might have lessened the urgency of our biological clocks, but it has many costs: financial, physical, generational.”

The battle rages for the hearts and bodies of our adolescent girls. For what happens in college doesn’t just….stay in college. On the one hand, it trickles downward into high school and junior high versions. On the other, hooking up attaches itself like litter to the remainder of life’s journey, unable to be swept away by the winds of time.

Boys to Men

Much has been written lately about the decline of men, or more precisely, that boys are delaying the all-important process of becoming men. As you wade through the literature, you find plenty of factors combining to make their assault on our sons. But rather than focus on the challenges, let’s rally around some solutions.
Boys often grow through the process of hands-on-learning. Through experiencing. So check out this list of ten experiences on how boys can move towards manhood:

Disassemble an Engine – Many lessons come from this fun, shoulder-to-shoulder experience. Boys learn the value of tools, of two-way ratchets and the smell of oil. They get their hands dirty. But it goes beyond that to conceptualizing how an engine works and learning the difference between a piston and a valve. And notice that it doesn’t take a mechanic to rip it apart. Once the project is finished and all the parts are in a box, the boy can learn the value of recycling. If taken to a local scrap yard, his view of the world will grow a bit and the money spitting out of the machine (for his contribution of scrap) becomes the icing on the cake.

Raise Something & Keep it Alive – A friend of mine has several young children who’ve gone into business raising chickens and selling eggs. The day-to-day responsibilities of caring for and feeding, the responsibilities and enjoyment of handling money, and the interaction with customers have become an incredible education.

Earning by Reading – Most of us have some type of chore list and allowance for our sons. If we begin early enough, our boys can grow in their ability and enjoyment of reading. We paid our son $1 for every book he read (commensurate in size for how young he was at the time).

Hunting, Skinning & Processing – I don’t hunt. But a friend of mine does. So when my son began asking questions, I got the two of them together. Not only did Matt get a deer in his first season, but the seasoned mentor made him experience every phase of the game. From scoping out a blind, to wind direction and most importantly, gutting a deer. ‘Yep, reach your arms all the way in and pull out all the stuff.’ How do you think my son viewed the meat department in the grocery store the next week?

Sports League – Numerous lessons abound in the world of sports. Life is unfair, bad calls, coaches who favor certain players, lucky bounces. Perhaps most important for a young boy is the opportunity to get knocked down and discover that he can get back up. Leagues range from high-end competitive schools to social, pick up games. At our church, two boys started a league 13 years ago after getting cut from the local school team. Extraordinary? Not at the time. But the league now has over 300 boys playing, reffing and speaking at halftime.

Work Camp or Mission Trip – Multiple opportunities exist for connecting with a small group of students to serve. From local food banks to extended trips, boys need to get beyond themselves and see the real world. A curious thing happens when the Xbox gets left behind. It gets left behind.

Restoration Project – The book, ‘Dallas & the Spitfire’ (Bethany House), chronicles a mentoring relationship that occurred while restoring a car, it’s humor captured in the fact that the mentor didn’t particularly know much about cars at the beginning. A longer, more detailed project like this can be the perfect antidote for apathy and technology overdose. And the shoulder-to-shoulder payoff is incredible.

Join a Small Group – ‘Into-It’ groups or all-guy groups are fantastic experiences for adolescent boys. What is he ‘into?’ Find other like-minded guys and start something. Examples could include: soccer, readers-writers, car repair, gun care, business and micro loans. In an increasingly non-relational world, where technology is mediating relationships, small groups offer gut-level relating.

Study Abroad – Admittedly, this is a large endeavor but we’re discovering a need for boys to get out of this culture for a several month experience. Popular at the college level, it won’t be long until it trickles down to the high school scene. Mission experiences are fantastic opportunities to blow up a small mind and a small vision.

Ceremonies – This is becoming increasingly popular in an attempt to restore ‘rites of passage.’ It usually involves gathering some men (those close to your son) and having a shared experience signifying that the boy has now moved into a new stage. Think of the stages of a boy’s life: 4-8 years of age, 9-12, 13-15, 16-18. Catastrophic change happens biologically and socially. And we can take advantage of celebrating movement. Often commemorated by a sword or some manly object, the experience and the gift mark a new beginning, calling something from the boy. A great book (shameful plug as I co-authored it) hit the market called ManMade: Reclaiming the Passage from Boy to Man. Lots of stuff about ‘rites of passage’ in it.

Between the Shire and Mordor

When our kids were born, the curtain raised and we watched their show- the unfolding drama that bounced between comedy and tragedy as they performed under the shadow of our safety. Then came the disruption.

This temporary suspension, the age of adolescence, ironically begins their journey towards adulthood. But safe arrival requires a strong vision of what they’re actually aiming for, commitment to overcome obstacles and perseverance to navigate around and avoid the endless maze of dead-end options. Vision, commitment, perseverance. In a culture that despises all three.

Here’s where we can help. This second act of their play, where so many bog down, is about forming identity. Body image? Virtual status? Academic power? Queen-mother resume building?

If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I think I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. Between these two answers you can determine the identity of any person –Thomas Merton

The adolescent treadmill overheats. What they do, they do in excess. Most kids want what they don’t need and need what they don’t want. Our role as parents involves creating space and time for Merton’s two essential questions to be addressed. Regularly and thoroughly:

1. What am I living for?
2. What is keeping me from living fully for that thing?

Notice the precision of Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9,10 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ…” Knowledge, depth of insight, discernment and best. These words can lead our kids to a precise identity and form the basis of our daily, prayer-breathing.

We know America is profoundly into worship, not at all the god-phobia country it presents itself to be. Its basic belief is in the deity one sees in the mirror whose singular purpose remains under the influence. To accumulate attention, comfort and affluence. “One nation, under…..”

Not so for us. Picture the setting. The place, the amount of time and the mood. Where will the conversation take place in which you address the two fundamental questions that form identity? Both yours and your child’s? Plan for that to happen.

The Shire is nice. The Shire is safe. But it is, after all, merely the first act of the play.