I’ve (Don Hampton) been doing a lot of research recently on what people see as the future of children’s ministry. Sure, everybody’s talking technology. No surprise there.
There’s a ton of great stuff out there – apps, media, online resources, gadgets – to help with even the most mundane issues we tackle on a day-to-day basis.
But the biggest issue we, as parents and educators, face is how we will fill the role of helping kids interpret what they see and do.
I love this quote from Matt Guevara:
“The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as educators in sense-making, coaching and credentialing.” (www.corycenter.org)
He is so right. Not only is technological change happening at an astronomical rate, it is not going to slow. And kids, by design, do not have the filters to adequately discern yet what is “best” or what is appropriate.
Here are four thoughts on how to help “make sense” for kids:
- Watch with them. When you start by entering in with your kids, you better understand what attracts them to a particular show or app. My 15-year-old is completely enamored with “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” I watched with her and, honestly, it was lost on me. So I began to ask questions. “What about this show do you like?” The more I asked, the more I began to understand. That kind of guidance allows your kids not only to feel safe about their relationship with you, it gives them permission to have different tastes from yours. And, in the case of a child watching something that may not be appropriate, you can do a careful redirect through your questions and answers.
- Talk with them about what “age appropriate” means. If there is content you’d rather not have them see, hear or interact with, it’s better not to just “lay down the law.” Use the opportunity to explain why. What is it about that content that isn’t okay? Get out your Bible and show them what God says.
- “Let your yes be yes.” This one is hard for me. I have the tendency to not want to “squelch” my kids’ enthusiasm with too many rules. And, of course, the problem is my kids know it. So, making sure you are clear on what the rules are and why – not just in your own mind but in discussion with your kids – will save you all a lot of heartache. It’s okay to say things like, “We don’t watch movies with cursing” or “That app is not appropriate for someone your age.” Just be prepared for the discussion that follows and stick to your guns.
- Pray. Can’t emphasize it enough. Pray not only for your children, but for this generation of kids. There is not only more amazing and beautiful technology and media out there than ever before, there is also more destructive stuff. All you have to do is watch primetime TV to see the commercials for horrific video games or watch some of the trailers for films aimed at kids that just look awful. Pray, pray, pray.
What else can we do to help make sense of it all for our kids?