With the goal of building tribes among our children’s families with shared values and intentionality, we’ve begun offering Parenting with a Purpose classes this school year. The 90-minute classes include a parenting hot-topic, some dessert, discussion time, and no judgment.  The first was Sharing Your Faith With Your Family where we shared practical ideas for holding sacred conversations, spiritual traditions, and sticky faith-formation memories for parents to initiate at home to live out Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

The second class entitled, Parenting Technology and Cell Phone Safety, invited parents, grandparents, and caregivers of children to a discussion of practical ideas to navigate parenting in a digital and electronic world as we lead families to live out Mark 12:30-31. Two hours before the event, I received a text. Our planned special guest was at Urgent Care diagnosed with strep throat. I had two hours to pull something together.

Once I caught my breath, I called on a prayer warrior to pray for me and with me. I had been reading several books on the very subject over the last several months and had just gotten one in the mail a couple of days before. I prepared a handout with a few of the items I’d underlined in each one. We opened with “What was your first experience with a cell phone?” and our discussions took over from there. These were the resources we spoke through:

  • Collin Kartchner – TEDxTalk a social media activist, TEDx talk presenter, husband and dad who travels around the country speaking to parents and kids through the organization Save The Kids.
  • The Screens and Teens by Dr.Kathy Koch
  • Glow Kids by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras
  • Viral Parenting by Mindy McKnight 
  • Kirk Cameron – Right Now Media “Engage”; Netflix “Connect”
  • Smart Phone Sanity by The Axis Team (newest book with practical exercises)

A few questions to ask to find out if your child is mature enough to figure out the best habits for themselves when it comes to Smartphone usage:

  • Does my child proactively let me know where they are going and when they’ll be home?
    This is a great way to gauge their sense of responsibility and the respect they have for open communication.
  • Does my child have a tendency to lose things?
    Phones are an expensive investment and showing a sense of care for their personal belongings means they’ll also show care for their phone.
  • Does my child respect other rules like when to turn off the TV or computer?
    Knowing your child understands why boundaries are necessary can help quiet the fear of phone addiction and over exposure to radiation/blue light.
  • Does my child show signs of empathy towards their siblings, animals and friends?
    While we all love our little darlings, it’s important to observe the way they treat others in real life. The hope is that they will carry empathy and kindness with them with their online activities.
  • Does my child know that while most people are awesome, there are people with bad intentions that prey on the young online? 
    While this is a super scary and complicated topic, having open and honest conversation about these risks and how to spot red flags is the best way to prepare any child from online predators.
  • Does my child know they can come talk to me about anything? 
    While there are years when teens and parents can feel the strain of communication we must let our children know and show them that we can be a safe space for them when they need us, to help or just to listen—even with the tricky and scary stuff.

Though not what I had planned, the event was fine. The goal of tribe-building without judgement was met. In complete transparency, this is the second time a special guest committed to me in the last six months, but was not able to follow through at the last minute. From this point on, I’ll prepare a backup program every time because my parents who have registered see these opportunities as a priority over all the other things they could choose. They deserve the best I have to offer and my job is to make sure they get it.

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21