Eye Opening

(Photographer unknown)

Huh?  French Kiss?  That is what I secretly remember thinking the first time I heard the word.  I recall being in elementary school, on the playground, underneath one of those half-dome monkey bar things that all of the playgrounds used to have, when I first heard of a French Kiss.  I had absolutely no idea what those kids were talking about.  But they all seemed to know so there was no way I was going to ask and let it be known that I was clueless.

It was most likely a few years later before I used all of the many context clues I had gathered to really know what a French Kiss was.  There was not really much on television I watched that would explain this, I would never have asked my parents, my brother was younger than I was so he naturally didn’t know anything (at least that is what I thought), so I just had to wait and piece it all together.  At some point I do recall the stunning realization that some of these words I had been stumped by could be found in the dictionary.  I suppose that was pretty helpful.

Have you considered how this process will work for your children?

Until recently I just expected my children’s experience with sex and the like to be similar to mine.

Today I read a post by a thirty-three year old, daughter of a Southern Baptist Preacher and recovering addict, entitled “Three Things You Don’t Know About Your Children and Sex.”  Wow, huge eye opener!

This is what made the most impact on me: Miller states, “Google is the next Sex-Ed.”

Just like we use Google to search for anything else, children are using Google to search for these phrases, like “French Kiss.”  Why not?  Google won’t laugh, criticize or condemn.  This is very logical.

Although the thought of the Pandora’s Box this innocent search might reveal is sickening to say the least.

My desire to maintain my children’s innocence and joy for as long as possible is a constant concern.  Too often it seems our children are approached by evil.  It is reassuring for me to remind myself evil can only be defined by what it is not – the good in the World.  So in order for evil to exist there must also be the good.  We just have to look for it.

This is another good reminder.  Talk to your children.  Talk to them often.  And let them know they can ask you anything – tell them this.  It is my hope that my children will be comfortable asking me, not Google when they really want to know something.

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Technology is such a quandary to me.  Laptops, Ipads, Notebooks,  Email, Facebook, Twitter, texts, Skype, Instagram, and on and on…  How connected do we really need to be?  I am not really sure, and truly I could argue thoroughly for either position.

But, as a parent we must decide how this is affecting our children.  At first I thought, oh this is simple, limit screen time, cancel cable, don’t buy video games.  And sure, that was a great game plan when we only had elementary age children and babies.   Eventually though, they start to grow up – and the Internet and Social Media are still around.

Recently I sat in on session discussing teens and social media.  I learned a lot!  The speaker was a current high school teacher who had taken the time to survey and discuss social media and internet/cell phone usage with her high school students.  In this survey the students were asked, If you were the parent, what would you do differently regarding your child’s (your) use of the Internet, cell phones and/or Social Media?  Overall, with the exception of maybe one or two, these high school students agreed their parents should monitor their usage more closely and limit their time spent on the Web, Facebook, texting and other similar things.  It was generally agreed that when doing homework while sitting in front of Facebook the homework took significantly much more time to complete and likely was not completed as thoroughly as it could have been.

This observation was amazing to me.   Sure this is nothing new, but this shows even teens recognize how easily one can be drawn in and consumed by all of this.

Recently I have changed my opinion of technology and social media.  I do still have my moments I would prefer to live Little House On the Prairie style, but in the end I have decided technology, media and the Internet are here to stay so we might as well adjust, teach our children how to use it in a healthy way most benefiting to them, and most importantly, as a parent, lead by example.

Every family will have to find rules to best suit your own family, lifestyle, schedules and needs.  These are some ideas I really like:

1.            Limit screen time each day.  (Did you know on average children are in front of some sort of screen somewhere between 5-8 hours per day?)  Find an amount of time that works for your family.  For our little children I believe 30 minutes a day is plenty.  Although for my oldest who reads on his iPad and uses the computer for his homework this amount of time is adjusted.  I have spoken with families who require their children to earn their screen time.  This could be from anything you choose – reading, outside play, completing academic worksheets, push-ups (yes, one dad I spoke with rewarded extra screen time for push-ups).  Like I said, you have to decide what works best for your family.

2.            Maintain a purpose.  Don’t sit down to “surf” the television or internet.

3.            Let it be known from the beginning that you will sometimes be browsing your children’s phones, texts, social media sites and emails.  Explain this is not because you do not trust them.  It is because you do not trust others.  Always know their passwords and always “friend” them on sites like Facebook.

4.            In regards to number 3, teach your children of the responsibilities of using the internet.  Warn them of stalkers.  And explain the permanent fingerprint the internet leaves and how this information can and will be used in the future by college admission counselors and future employers.   Also be aware of what others are posting on your pages.  There is some truth to the adage, “You are only as good as the company you keep.”

5.            Set a media curfew.  Take phones, iPads, laptops and other devices away for the night.  Sleep is a good thing.

6.            Don’t text and drive.

7.            Don’t talk on the phone and drive.

8.           If it makes you more comfortable, use filters to block inappropriate sites, applications to duplicate texts being sent to your child’s phone, activate the GPS locator.   My only caution to this would be to be open about it.  Furtive actions on your part will only create motive for lack of trust and sneakiness from your child.

9.            Lead by example.  Use technology in the ways you would like to see your children using it.  This will be more effective than any rule you could ever make.