Is it any wonder today’s teens, and adults as well, have a pretty short attention span?  According to Nielsen’s newest 2012 Cross Platform Report, the average American spends 34 hours a week in front of the TV.  Though that’s a profound amount of time with eyes glued to the flat screen, that’s not exactly the attention-grabber…it’s the way they’re watching TV.

There’s not too many North American households that don’t have a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and according to the survey mentioned above, 40% of folks surveyed are whipping those bad-boys out during the majority of the time that they’re spending watching TV.  In fact, TV & media marketers are banking on you to do this.  That’s why you see so many shows flashing social media advertisements during their programming: “Don’t forget to visit Hawaii Five-0 online at…” and “use hashtag ‘Idolwatching’ while you….”

Our friends @ Nielsen provided a jack-dandy infograph showing how people of different ages browse social media on their tech devices with one eye, while they keep the other eye on the TV.  This just serves to further my concept of ‘Close Proximity Disconnection‘…

So…should we incorporate more of this multi-tasking into the normal learning experiences of youth/teens?

Should we (parents/teachers/youth workers) also provide some breaks from technology where people can just unplug?

What would/could that balance look like?

 

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“Should I read my daughter’s text messages?”

“Should I limit the amount of time my kids spend online?”

“How can I prevent my kids from downloading raunchy music?”

These are all common questions parents across the planet are asking, and most likely, you’re asking them in your household too!   Most parents see the need for rules or “guard rails” with their children in every area from toy-time, back yard playing, playmates/friends, and especially media consumption.  Our family has 2 kids in the public school system, and as they continue their journey of growth and experience as grade-schoolers, we have the critically important task of figuring out which guard rails to set….and the best, healthiest way to implement them.

So how do we as parents, trying to set godly and healthy boundaries, implement these guard rails to our kids without going over the top?  How do we communicate the need for, as well as facilitate the consequences for straying outside of the guard rails?  In other words, how strict is too strict in today’s over-saturated media-driven, YOLO culture of teenagedom?

Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, posted a 3-part series recently about setting realistic guard rails in the home. Although there’s no instruction manual that comes with our kids @ birth…wait a minute…actually there is…the bible!  However, it can often be frustrating trying to navigate the waters of parenting teens, and although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all book to download from Amazon, I think you’ll find these posts pretty informative and helpful…I did!

Guardrails Are Only as Good as The Road
No Rules by Age 17½
Actually Setting Guardrails

As an added bonus to your pre-Christmas holiday shopping season, Jonathan also revealed some real-life application of what these guard rails can actually look like in his 2-part blogpost, Can I Smash My Daughter’s Cell Phone?

If you want to check out even more great articles and resources like these, then take a visit to TheSource4Parents.com (also a highlighted resource on the Family Corner @ Here & There...).  I hope you find these resources helpful and useful in your household, and in your quest to raise a godly and healthy family!

With kids and parents across North America set to hit the streets tonight for Halloween, I thought I’d post this re-blog article from Winfield Bevins at The Resurgence re: a response for those Christians who aren’t quite sure how to handle Halloween.  For me personally, I’ve always held the opinion that I respect either stance…both for and against participating in Halloween, but withhold respect from those who try to push their conviction & agenda, either way, on the rest of us.

I will say that I think there’s a difference between celebrating, and participating in something.  The differences may be subtle (i.e. we celebrate Christmas, Easter…we participate in Halloween, ).  Often times participating can denote acceptance, or at least tolerance.  But I think Christians on both sides get a bad rap on the Halloween debate.  Those that choose to refrain from anything to do with the event get labelled as freaks, bible thumpers & irrelevant, and those that chose to participate get tagged as hypocrites, worldly and endorsing paganism.  Obviously there are those who sit waaaay too far on the left & right on the debate, and those are the ones that generally cause unwarranted stereotypes and stigmas.

So I’ll refrain from getting into further ‘preaching & teaching’ mode here, and leave you with the article.  Enjoy!

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confess,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

William W. How

I am the proud dad of three little girls, and recently they have been invited to several Halloween parties, not to mention their school’s annual Halloween bash. It’s not always obvious, and I am not alone—many Christians are baffled at what to do with Halloween.

So what are we as Christians to do with Halloween? Here are a few things to take into consideration as you discern how you, your family, and your church should handle Halloween.

1. DON’T BE A FREAK
So many Christians are just downright weird when it comes to Halloween. What I mean is they retreat from the world, lock their doors, turn off their lights and get under the covers on Halloween night. Worse yet, they judge other people by whether or not they celebrate Halloween. I think some Christians can and do turn non-believers off by their attitudes about Halloween.

2. BE MISSIONAL
I think Halloween is one of the best opportunities to be missional throughout the year. Every year, my family and I get together with some other families for a meal and then we go through a small, kid-friendly neighborhood together to collect candy. It is very innocent. Every year I have a chance to talk about Christ as we walk through the neighborhood. Don’t miss the moments and opportunities that the Lord may be giving you to share and live out your faith.

3. SET BOUNDARIES
I am not advocating a wholesale celebration of Halloween. Much of it is dark and can introduce your children to the occult. I encourage you to use discernment, prayer, and set boundaries as needed. There are times when we can and should say no if it is going to compromise our faith in Christ. I can’t tell you what to do in every situation—how that plays out depends entirely on you and your context.

4. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN
Talk to your children about Halloween. Tell them about the history behind it and warn them about the dark side that can and does so often get associated with the holiday. Children are smart, and Halloween can be a teaching time to share with your children and others the gospel of Christ.

5. DON’T JUDGE OTHERS
Lastly, don’t judge others when it comes to celebrating Halloween. Good Christians can and do disagree on this issue. Some Christians feel very strongly about not celebrating Halloween while others have no problem with it at all. I believe that it is an open-handed issue, and that each Christian must seek the Lord and obey their conscience. You have to decide what is right for you and your family when it comes to celebrating Halloween.

For further reading on the history of Halloween and more on what Christians should know about the holiday, read last year’s article from Justin Holcomb

It goes without saying that life is full of lessons, but how much we’ve really learned from those lessons of life…that’s the question!  These past 2 years, especially, have been chock full of lessons for myself, as well as our family.  But as any student fully realizes, success is not all about the information and amount of lessons we sit through, but it’s how we assess and implement that information into our lives that is the real measuring stick of ‘success’ in life.

In one word…it’s all about wisdom.  Wisdom is taking information and life lessons, and learning how to assimilate that knowledge into practical life transformation.  From the observations I’ve made in my life journey, the wisest people I have met are the ones who have a teachable heart and spirit, or as I like to refer to them, ‘open door‘ people.  An open door person is someone who can freely give and receive correction & advise..the door swings both ways and is just as open on the way in as it is on the way out.  They’re people who can both teach, and be teachable.  They’re open to learning without being defensive when someone suggests there could be a better way.  On the other hand, brick wall people are those that always think theirs is the best way, and become very defensive when their way is called into question.  Unlike open door people, brick wall folks are not very teachable, and when dealing with them…well…it’s like walking into a brick wall!

I’m thankful I’ve come a long way into increasingly becoming more of an open door person, but unfortunately I’ve found myself living as a brick wall person more times over the years than I’d care to admit.  I’ve learned and grown a great deal over the past 10+ years, with the past 2 years being some of the deeper growth I’ve ever experienced.  I fully believe that God speaks to us through His revealed Word (bible), His Spirit, and also through circumstances and people.  There’s been many times in my life where I was heading in the wrong direction, and needed a little course correction in my journey.  And one of the ways God often brings this awareness to us is through the words of those godly people around us who care enough to have the hard conversations with us.

One of the voices I’ve found quite helpful and have learned much from afar is from James MacDonald, sr. pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.  Here’s what he had to say recently in one of his weekly Walk in the Word devotionals;

ARE YOU TEACHABLE? –James MacDonald 

Are you a teachable person? Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” In other words, you can get more ROI (Return on Investment) from a wise person in one gentle conversation than you can gain from a fool by whacking him with a board a hundred times. Which are you?

If you’re not sure how you rate on the teachability meter, take this five-point quiz:

1. I know I’m teachable when people give me input. When people feel free to give you a word of improvement, it’s a good sign that you’re teachable. Nobody wants to risk cleaning up a meltdown if the person can’t receive a difficult word. Don’t try to tell him he’s not headed in the right direction because he’ll bite your head off. The fool is always deeply persuaded that what he is doing is right. A teachable person will receive input.

2. I know I’m teachable when I see measurable growth and character development in myself. If you’re changing for the good, then you’re teachable. If you’re not the same person you were last year at this time, godly instruction has produced results in your life and there’s growth because of it.

3. I know I’m teachable when I don’t have to answer a critic with a defenseMore often than I ever want to be, I’m in the uneasy position of giving people input. As hard as that is, I love to sit down with a person who can hear a difficult word with an open heart and without defensiveness. It’s been my repeated observation that those who are receptive to criticism flourish!

4. I know I’m teachable when I don’t have to criticize back. The classic symptom of an unteachable person is that they will listen to what you say, all the while framing their comeback, “Now let me tell you something . . .” Can you keep your defenses down and pride in check?

5. I know I’m teachable when I’m learning new ways to growIf people have been telling you the same stuff for years, you’re not teachable. If you’ve grown out of those old issues and are now on to new lessons, you’re on the right track.

So let me ask you…are you more like an open door…or a brick wall?  What evidence do you see in your life to make that evaluation?  It might be worthwhile to ask someone who you trust, and who knows you well, for their honest input. And when you get that input…take their response to heart!

There’s a few sports I really look forward to in the fall…hockey, baseball playoffs, the NFL & NBA…but there’s one ‘sport’ I’m hoping falls flat on its face.  The Bikini Basketball Association…yes…bikini basketball!  I’m not sure where to start about how the values and morals of our society have eroded to such a degree that people would invest money into a league that promotes the lust for “sexy athletic ladies from around the world.”  With teams like the New York Knockouts, Hollywood Hotties, and Orlando Lady Cats, it’s not too difficult to figure out that ‘fans’ won’t be as interested in points and wins as much as they are watching ‘players’ run around the court with the anticipation of a uniform ‘malfunction.’

It’s idiotic ideas and corrupted morals like these, this over-sexualization, that are vastly infiltrating our society’s perception of women, and especially the self-image and perception our younger girls have of themselves.  The American Psychological Association describes ‘sexualization’ as;

when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics.”

In addition to that definition, I would also add at the end; “…and for satisfying the desires of others.

So in other words, who cares about athletic skill level, competency, character…but are you sexy and hot in a bikini?  That’s the message the BBA is sending out to women, and it’s a message influencing more that just aspiring athletic young ladies.  Think about the pressures our young 14+ year-old girls are facing today in the attempt to keep up with the frantic and lustful expectations to be sexy, hot, attractive, and noticeable today.  The images and marketing ploys are aimed at raising all the wrong ‘standards’, and lowering the ones that matter.  

Don’t believe me?  Take a look at this article about how marketers are targeting younger girls and women for Halloween costumes.  Just like the base of a cliff, every year the morals and values of our society are eroding and fading away…until eventually there’s going to be a huge mess that can’t be cleaned up!  And don’t even get me started with those ridiculous child beauty pageants….yikes!  What was once tagged as too provocative or ‘offsides’ yesterday, is now seen as no big deal or just part of the times we live in.  But our culture is just providing fuel to feed the desires of lust, immorality and sexual idolatry.  

So I’m hoping, like me, you’re reading this and seeing the unnecessary conduct and offended by the personal fouls of pursuits like the BBA, and the marketers who peddle ‘kiddie porn’ and attempt to seduce our young women into falling prey to the trap of sexualization.  Instead of silently complaining about what’s going on, let’s clamor together to get the word out that this kind of conduct and attitude is unacceptable.  Let’s raise our hands , blow the whistle and yell ‘foul!’…but while our hands & voices are still raised, also point to God’s much healthier standards and morals!