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.”


Parents Who Fight

Jesse & Sarah Siegand

What we’ve been up to lately… developing a campaign on social media to educate and encourage parents who are fighting for the purity of their kids and their communities! It started out with a simple desire to bring some needed information to our boys’ elementary school parents, which turned into a parent education seminar. As we prepared for the seminar by gathering info and resources over the Christmas break, we realized we also wanted to get this info into the hands of parents on a larger scale–through social media. In thinking about catchy names for our social media profiles, Parents Who Fight was dropped into our hearts and momentum for the campaign developed very quickly!


The purpose behind Parents Who Fight is to get the information on what we’re facing with the porn industry, social media dangers, and technology developments into the hands of parents who seem to be quite HUNGRY for it. The more people who start to incur damage from their kids’ exposure to pornography, whether they’re young children or teenagers, the more interest we get from them reaching out for real help and solutions. There are already SO MANY amazing organizations working to equip parents in this area, and we want to serve as a funnel for the most pertinent and helpful tidbits… delivering them to the moms and dads we interact with everyday throughout our community.


Our first parent seminar at the school went great, and we just participated in a larger one last week at our church that went equally as well. We’ve started to get requests from other area churches, schools, and organizations, so we are working on getting more pieces in place. Look for a web site and some  video assets coming soon! We can’t wait to share more!


For now, it would be awesome if you would share our social media posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with parents in your social circles who are fighting to preserve the spiritual and emotional health of their kids by fighting the harmful effects of pornography.

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Chipping Away

chippingYes, I have been slightly MIA during the month of November. It’s been a pretty crazy whirlwind of a month, and I am nearly in denial that December is just a week away. I continue to chip away at the ugly beast of sexual brokenness wherever I come in contact with it. This month, I asked another retailer (my local WalMart) to please consider putting magazines with overtly sexual covers (i.e. Cosmopolitan) back in the magazine section of the store instead of at every single checkout aisle.  The manager was extremely easy to talk to about it and completely agreed with me, saying he would bring it up to his superior (we’ll see what happens).


One of the most exciting things that happened this month was hearing back from my sons’ public school principal that he was giving clearance for me facilitating a 3rd/4th grade parent workshop about protecting our kids from pornography. I can’t tell you how pumped I am about this!  What an opportunity to build bridges with parents and talk honestly about the strongholds that families are up against. Praying God would use it as a catalyst for healing and protection for families and generations.


This month a sweet mom from Tacoma, WA reached out to me to ask for advice about fighting  a full-color electric billboard for a strip club (pics are super disturbing).  She used to be a teenager in the youth group we were leaders at 17 years ago, and she’s one determined woman.  Proud of her fighting spirit! I was able to contact someone I met in D.C. last May who has done a great deal in the state of Kansas to clean up communities. He gave great advice, so we’re moving forward… stay tuned!


Also, I was able to meet with two other freedom-fighters in my area who are working their own spheres in the anti-pornography movement. We’re talking strategy and connecting resources, which is exciting. Even looking at how to converge efforts for a national marketing campaign against pornography. Love the fire in these ladies!


I’ll close with a SHOUT OUT to my local Kroger store… after complaining about some inappropriate movies right next to the kids cartoons (as in literally, surrounded by cartoon DVDs)… they changed their “planogram” (retail talk for the schematic that determines how items are displayed) and when I went back a few days later, I didn’t see the inappropriate movie AT ALL, and all the kids movies were safely grouped together. Way to go, Kroger!


If you’re getting the impression that I complain A LOT to retailers and others about inappropriate stuff, you’re right on the money. And I’m not going to stop. To borrow a lyric from one of my favorite songs right now:

“I’m not meant to just stay quiet, I’m meant to be a lion; I’ll roar beyond a song with every moment that I’ve got.” (Francesca Battistelli / “He Knows My Name”)


Photo cred:  © wayne denman / flickr

Speaking Up


The empty rack in this picture is where Cosmopolitan Magazine used to be at the Target closest to my house. To my astonishment, my complaint got it removed.


Just before hitting Target to help my kids spend some grade money, I had listened to a recorded Morality in Media Google hangout about standing up to fight sexual exploitation right in your community. One of the guests on the segment had specifically mentioned the fact that she has brought inappropriate magazines to the attention of store managers. I am no stranger to this concept, to be sure. But magazines are ALWAYS there, and I guess I just felt like this kind of complaint would fall on deaf ears. I mean, this is big business… Target and Cosmo. Continue reading…