Going There Together: The Jesus Model & Technology

Training Kids Online

I am a mom of two tween boys, ages 8 and 11. They don’t own a single internet enabled device, and they realize it will be awhile before they do. I realize I am the poster-perfect “uncool” mom for injuring their social status by depriving them of the basic technological necessities in life, and I’m totally willing to be that mom.


But I also know we’ll eventually have to cross that bridge into a world where they have smart phones, social media profiles, email addresses, and YouTube channels. And although there are a lot of unknown variables when it comes to their future selves and how wise or foolish they will be online, there is one thing I do know—they will have been trained for wisdom. Whether or not they choose it, well… that will be up to them.


We’ve already started laying out a template for them about how technology will be gradually added into their bucket of responsibility. My husband and I learned a great mentorship principle our pastor refers to as “The Jesus Model” and it applies to this situation just like many other parenting scenarios. Here are the basic stages of The Jesus Model: Continue reading…

Calling All Fighters!

Parents Who Fight Night

How can you protect your kids from explicit material online and in social media? Beyond protection, how can you train your teenagers in wisdom when it comes to choices made in cyberspace? Parents need a strong strategy to safeguard and properly train their children and teens, but keeping up with technology can be challenging. This seminar will equip you with practical strategies, tools, and resources to help protect your young children, guide your teenagers, and assist all ages in winning the battle for purity. Light refreshments served, childcare provided.


Whether you are parenting young children or teenagers, join us in Whitehouse, Tennessee on May 6th at The Church at Grace Park!

Facing the Giants: Cosmo, Target, & WalMart

Facing the Giants2

A lot of you probably remember my infamous run-in with WalMart execs where I begged them to take Cosmopolitan Magazine out of my local neighborhood’s WalMart Market check out aisles. It was the day before Thanksgiving, and it went a little something like this:

While putting my groceries on a conveyor belt at WalMart this afternoon, I noticed a half-dozen people in suits walking by, which is highly unusual there. My eyes locked on a badge hanging from one man’s lapel — a WalMart badge. I looked up and a woman from the suited crew greeted me with a “Happy Thanksgiving!”

I instantly connected the dots and replied with great enthusiasm, “Are you guys WalMart executives?!” 

I instantly connected the dots and replied with great enthusiasm, “Are you guys WalMart executives?!” Slightly taken aback and not sure where I was going with this, she responded tentatively, “Yes…”

I smiled and said excitedly, “Oh great! Can I show you something?” 

“Sure,” they all said, smiling and curious. I walked about four feet over to the magazine rack at the checkout and explained my plight to get sexualized magazines like Cosmo removed — relocated to the magazine section instead of on every aisle. I explained that I cover them up with recipe magazines every time I come in, and I will continue to because they are inappropriate and a lot of people think so. Many families with children shop at this market, and the headlines full of “adult content” are always front and center in the rack.

The executives listened, nodded, and said they would make my opinion known to their peers. They were clearly surprised that I was so enthusiastic about voicing my concern… but they heard me. And they will continue to.


That was November 2014. Just one month prior, I had a similar experience at Target, and wrote this post about how simply voicing my concern to a manager got Cosmo pulled from every aisle (truthfully, they were probably restocked the next day… but it was a small victory to see I could really make an impact by speaking up).


TODAY, I heard some FANTASTIC news about some really influential people about to take the fight against Cosmo in the checkout aisle to a whole new level. Victoria Hearst, the granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst of the Hearst Corporation Empire, and Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, are teaming up with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formally known as Morality in Media) to launch the #CosmoHarmsMinors campaign, with a press conference scheduled for April 22! The primary demand of the campaign is that Cosmo would no longer be allowed to be sold to minors.


I literally raised my hands in the air and let out a “Hallelujah!” when I read the news. Who says the giants are too great?! We are seeing momentum, and we believe change is coming! We are so thankful for all the organizations and leaders who are creating a national dialogue about this important topic. Moms and dads, we could be just steps away from seeing this pornographic magazine removed from the checkout stands at grocery retailers across the country. Please watch for tweets and posts with the #CosmoHarmsMinors hashtag, and consider voicing your support to the retailers in your community. If we ALL STAND UP FOR OUR KIDS, we can make a huge difference in the world they grow up in!


Also, join me in praying for the influencers who are taking on the giants! Go get ’em, ladies!!

Putting Down Your Devices is Kinda Like Eating Your Carrots

carrot-photo-770x400I didn’t grow up eating vegetables. Like, at all. So it took me a long time to really discover that I might actually like them, as well as the fact that even if I didn’t like something, it would still be worth eating. I think teaching our kids to survive without mobile devices to entertain them is much the same.


The parent go-to these days is often allowing kids to entertain themselves on devices so they can sit still and be quiet. I’ve done it, and you probably have too. On one hand, it seems like a practical solution. I remember a whole season of my life where I would think, “Why did I even try to come to this event?” after constantly shushing, feeding snacks, holding, scolding, and disciplining my rambunctious boys in the back of the room at a function. It felt pointless. So I admit, when I first got a smart phone that had game apps, my boys played on it a lot…after church, waiting for food at a restaurant, while I was trying to connect with a friend at the school, etc. But then I started noticing whole clusters of kids all huddled around my boys holding my phone. Like moths to a flame, kids flock to those glowing screens. I also noticed my boys asking to play on my phone a lot.


All of it just started to make me feel more and more uncomfortable with the idea. When I finally got a new iPhone, right around the time I started really needing it to run social media for work, I felt a deep resolve to end the trend we had accidentally begun. Then I had a very vivid dream that confirmed this conviction. Continue reading…

Why Kids Don’t Belong on Instagram

Instagram web

Instagram is a popular social media app among teens, which comes as no surprise. They love to take and share gagillions of photos and videos with their friends and the world. Photos have become a kind of currency among adolescents, and he who has the most “likes” or “follows” swiftly moves up the social food chain. Businesses, causes, and plenty of moms and dads alike all have accounts too.


But what about children — the “under 13″ crowd? Do they belong in Instagram land? Two words:  NO  WAY.


Although the age requirement for the app is supposedly 13, there is nothing to verify this age when activating a new account. In fact, there is no mention of the age restriction whatsoever in the set up, which I completed in under a minute for a dummy account I created for testing purposes. All you need is an email address or Facebook log in (I made up a fake email, and they didn’t verify it). Then I tapped the arrow to indicate I’d read the Terms of Service (and we all know EVERY kid will do that, right?) and I was in. What happened next served as an eerie kind of warning, sort of like the creepy music that starts before someone gets killed in a movie: the first person the app suggested I should follow was Kim Kardashian. Oh, great.


Once you’ve opened Instagram, you have unfettered and unrestricted access to millions upon millions of photos from users all over the planet, and more adult content than your child has ever had access to all in one place. Don’t believe me? Here are just a few of the things your child will now have the opportunity to learn about from complete strangers:

  • Suicide
  • Cutting / Self-harm
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Masturbation
  • Eating disorders
  • Drug & alcohol use
  • Profanity
  • The occult


On top of all that, your child can have access to unhealthy adults who have serious boundaries issues. Even worse, these adults can have access to them. Does the child have a public or private Instagram account? One parent of a 10-year-old user I talked to didn’t even know. The child himself may not even know, because there’s no step in the set up process to ask you which one you’d like to have. The default is public, and you have to go to settings to change that. Even if your child has a private account, that only protects his or her identity from any unapproved follower. It in no way keeps your child from searching and finding plenty of garbage in an instant.


Could a complete stranger see the locations of where your child snapped their photos, such as your home? If the profile remains set to public, yes. Although the default on what Instagram calls “photo maps” is set to OFF, it’s easy to change, if your child decides they want to use that feature. Location and time information may be automatically stored in any photo your child uploads, unless you have set your child’s phone to NOT store it ahead of time. When my brother started using Instagram for his business, I had to let him know that I could see his home location in his profile quite easily in photo maps, since he had not disabled geotagging and had snapped some of his photos at home. He has young children, so he quickly figured out how to turn that off.


Part of my day job includes running social media for a non-profit, so I could go on and on about all the raunchy and disturbing things I’ve seen on Instagram that you don’t want your kid to see in their lifetime (I report photos and users regularly!). The bottom line is this: Instagram does not have enough safety measures in place for kids to use it because it wasn’t made for kids. I highly doubt many 13-year-olds have the wisdom to navigate those rough waters successfully either. Heck, I’ve been known to hide my eyes a time or two myself! It’s impossible to “unsee” that kind of stuff.


If your kids have an account without your consent, you can get Instagram to shut it down.* However, since it’s so easy to lie about your email address, it’s just as easy for kids to simply create another profile. Actual names are not required. If you’re worried about your kids opening their own Instagram accounts without your knowledge, you can also set restrictions on the age-range of apps they are allowed to download to their devices. (I would suggest this as a basic digital parenting principle, no matter what.)


Also, it’s extremely important to talk to your kids about the dangers these kinds of apps present, and let them know that when you think they are mature enough to venture into that world (which won’t magically happen at 13), you will be willing to go on that journey with them. NO becomes NOT YET. I would encourage you to bring up this kind of conversation before your child ever owns a smart phone. Make it part of your regular family dialogue as soon as you can.


Remember, when it comes to parenting in this digital world, you don’t have to figure this all out on your own. We need each other, because we’re all in this together. We are fighting for the healthy futures of our kids!


*The actual “terms of service” on Instagram says this in regard to age: “The Service and its content are not directed at children under the age of 13 without parental consent. In the event that we learn that we have collected personal information from a child under age 13 without parental consent, we will delete that information as quickly as possible. If you believe that we might have any information from or about a child under 13, please contact us.”