Friday, August 31, 2018

7 Quick Takes on kids using the internet

Not a cesspool.

One of my children is a teenager, and the rest of them will be soon, and so we've started dealing with introducing our kids to the email, social media, and all the rest of the internet.

But...only one of my children is a teenager, I've raised a grand total of ZERO children to adulthood, so I can't point to any success stories here--not yet, anyway.

So this blog post is very much in the vein of Some Thoughts On the Subject, and emphatically NOT in the great writerly tradition of Do As I Have Successfully Done.

Here my thoughts:

1) Proper online behavior/use of the internet IS a skill we have to teach our children. 

I have to start here because, well...this is a parenting task I really don't want to do! But the internet is a technology my kids are going to have to use--actually, are already required to use for school. I'm old enough that my parents didn't have to teach me about this stuff when I was a kid--I didn't even get my first email address until I was in college. So I don't have a model to look at.

But I do have to teach my kids about this stuff. They're going to have to use it, and would I rather have them learn about it from me or from the world? Yeah.

2) Given that you have to teach them to use it, it's worth thinking through how you're going to teach them to use it well. 

This is likely going to look a bit different from family to family, given different personalities and resources. But, you've got to look at your kids and think, If you're going to use this, how can we help you learn to use this well?  if this is something you HAVE to do...  who do you need to be in order to do it virtuously? how can we help you become that person?

3) Rules are necessary. 

I mean...there might be a sewer near your house, but you don't let your kid swim in it, right? Likewise, there are cesspools out there on the internet (and cesspools within those cesspools , and cesspools that pretend to be swimming pools, and cesspools that pride themselves in being the STINKIEST CESSPOOL EVER HAVE YOU SEEN OUR CESSPOOL PICTURES JUST CLICK HERE).

So, no. I don't think you hand your kid a computer and say, "Good luck, champ." You don't abandon them in the middle of the internet any more than you'd abandon them in the middle of a freeway.

On the other hand, they're going to be adults soon, and then they WILL have to navigate online spaces on their own, so you want them to learn good habits now. (They will eventually be driving on those freeways. Which is good. That's what freeways are for.) The end-game of parenting is adulthood. You want to protect your kids while they're kids, but you don't want to protect them from growing up. You want to help them become good grown-ups.

And while our kids will be able to make all their own choices as adults, and it's not unlikely that they'll fall into bad habits and choices somewhere along the way, I think they've got much better chances of finally settling into good habits and good choices if they've already got a baseline of what good habits and good choices feel like. Of what it's like to live virtuously--of the joy and the light and the peace that good habits and good choices can bring.

So, I want to help them practice good habits now, while I can enforce them. Not because I think that guarantees that they'll be perfect adults. But because I think experiencing goodness is one of the best ways to learn to love goodness--and, when you've fallen away from goodness, you still have that memory, that experience, that will help keep you from denying that goodness is possible.

4) Teach it like you'd teach anything else: thoughtful introduction, plenty of practice, growing freedom, and keeping the end in mind. 

Again, this will look a bit different for each family, and maybe even for each kid. But help them learn how to use email, search engines, social media, etc., just like you'll help them learn how to balance a checkbook. Have their passwords, not because you want to impinge on their privacy, but because they're kids, and knowing Mom and Dad are gonna do random checks to make sure everything looks okay will prompt better choices. (And because, frankly, you're still legally responsible for them, so it's just prudent.) Realize you can't police everything, but don't abandon them.

And don't be an idiot--"screens stay in the public areas of the house" is probably the oldest parenting rule in this new online world, but it's still one of the smartest.

5) Talk to them about porn, privacy, and predators. 

There are plenty of people who've given good advice on these things, so I won't elaborate much here--just enough to say: teaching kids basic common sense about these things is a good idea. Being a parent who they can talk with openly about these things might be an even better one.

6) Don't be a hypocrite. 

Use the internet wisely and virtuously yourself.

7) Slowly give more freedom. 

This has to come as the capstone on building good habits.

Alright, so, that's about as far as I've gotten on this one. We're still definitely in the trial-and-error stage. You have to have a plan, if only so you have a place to start. The good thing about plans is that they can be adjusted as you go--most robust systems go through multiple iterations. That's fine.

But it's good to think about things like this--good to start somewhere.

Check out more and better Quick Takes over at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*Note: If a technology is such that it can't be used virtuously, of course you don't teach your kids how to use it. And I'd probably argue some such technologies exist. But I'd also argue that the internet is more like the printing press--using books and computers (i.e., creating a certain sort of literate/connected society) is going to be formative in a certain way, but they're still both technologies capable of being used for both good and for evil.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

spreading out the bad news (Hezekiah and prayer)

I love the Old Testament. Partly because it has such great stories about prayer. 

Here's one that struck me lately, in Isaiah 37.* Jerusalem is under threat from the Assyrians, who've been striking down their enemies right and left. Destroying everyone. Winning every battle. Terrifying their enemies.

And then Hezekiah, the king in Jerusalem, receives a letter from the Assyrians, talking about all the people they've destroyed, and about how Jerusalem is next, and so don't think your God can save you.

Hezekiah, true son of David that he is, knows that the enemies of God are especially in trouble when they defy God (think Goliath). And so this is what he does:

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.
He takes the bad news, and he spreads it out in front of God.

I love that.

Hezekiah also (again, true son of David that he is), pleads for God to help for God's own great name's sake.

Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.
You and I are not Hezekiah. But we do follow the even greater, even truer Son of David. And I think that when we get bad news, Hezekiah's example is not a bad one to follow. 

We are also not God, and so we don't know which outcomes will most glorify His great name--maybe what we ask for isn't what He wants. (To quote another good example, "But if not..."

But we are God's people, and so when we get bad news, we can spread it before Him, and beg Him for His help.

And we can trust in Him who alone can save us.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

*The story is also recorded in 2 Kings 19.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

linky-linky links!

Here are links to some good reading and watching, for what's left of your weekend:

-God always pouring himself out: "Well-Spring of Salvation." 

-I really enjoyed this video on "A Biblical Theology of the Household."

-Likewise, I enjoyed this article by a man who "eavesdropped on a saint"--i.e., learned about prayer from one of the little old ladies in his church: "Lessons from a Prayer Warrior."

-Nifty! "5 Hacks That Make Flowers Look More Expensive." 

-Um, so I truly want to put at least half of these hacks into practice in my own kitchen: "Here's How Hidden Cabinet Hacks Dramatically Increased My Cabinet Storage"

-Mmmm...sleeeeeeeeeep.... "How Many Hours of Sleep Do You Actually Need?"

(And for more links than I ever manage to post here on the blog, follow me on Twitter!)

That's it for this week! I hope you have a restful Sunday.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

"The Newest Love"--a new short story at Spark magazine

Hi folks!

I'm happy to announce that I have a story in the latest issue of Spark magazine! It's a flash fiction romance piece titled "The Newest Love," and it's set in a NICU. (Hey, love can happen in the stressful places as well as the relaxing places!)

And, I have to admit, as a writer, I am more than a tiny bit thrilled to see that not only did my story make the cover (!), but it also is the very first story in the magazine (!!!).

Hope you'll check it out; these days, a collection of short, cheerful love stories might be just what the doctor called for--an antidote to all the grim headlines.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price. I will probably use it to buy more books. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)

Saturday, August 18, 2018

a few recent publications: "The Miracle of Love" and "The Life-Changing Magic of Volunteering at Church"

Hi folks! I haven't been around here much lately (though I've been posting a fair bit on Twitter), but I wanted to stop by and let you know about a few things I've written lately.

The first is a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul's new book, The Miracle of Love. story is also the first story in the book! It was a thrill to get my author copies, open up the book, and see my name on the first page!

The second is a blog post: a little while ago, I got to guest-blog for the lovely and talented Anne Kennedy. You can read my essay, The Life-Changing Magic of Volunteering at Church, over at her blog Preventing Grace. Here's a small snippet, to whet your appetite:
Volunteering at church will change your life, but I’m not writing this as a how-to article. I am writing it as a testimony. What I have found in these last five years of service is precious, and I want to share it with other Christians who might be looking for what I was looking for: a way to really feel at home in the church, a way to really get to know their fellow believers. A way to belong.
I'm busy with a few other things I'm hoping to post here soon, including the continuation of my series on writing a Rule of Life. (The truth is: my own Rule has dictated that my time be spent places other than this blog for the past few months. But that looks to be changing soon!)

I hope you have a good Saturday, and an even better Sunday, full of rest and worship!

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price. I will probably use it to buy more books. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)