Tangled Web: Internet Caution for Parents

Eee PC
source: Pete Prodoehl

Oh, what a tangled web was penned long before the Internet existed, but it’s an apt description for the lures and pitfalls that can trap preteens posting on social networks. We interviewed Detective Rich Wistocki, a veteran police investigator and parent educator, about online safety concerns.

PL: What should parents know about allowing preteens to use accounts on social networks?

Wistocki: Adults and children should not be connected to other online. You should be connected to your own children, but not others’. There is too much content on adult pages that should not be shared with kids.

PL: Why are kids under 13 restricted from social networks such as Facebook?

Wistocki: Many things can happen online that kids under 13 do not know how to handle. They typically include cyber bullying, predators, and exposure to adult content.

Predators have many tricks for connecting with kids online. Unsuspecting children want more friends, and they are more likely to accept anyone into their network.

PL: Preteens often post their school and activity schedules with captions like, “Check against your schedule and comment.” Dangerous?

Wistocki: Very dangerous! [Those posts] are alerting their entire network to where they are and when. Kids on average can have hundreds of connections and not all of them are trustworthy. Who knows who they are sharing that information with?

Parents should also note that if security settings aren’t set to “private,” kids are sharing that schedule with the World Wide Web.

PL: If parents suspect their preteens have created Facebook accounts without permission, how should they intervene?

Wistocki: I always recommend that parents [approach the subject] in a positive way prior to accusing them. You could say, “I opened a Facebook account. I don’t know anything about it. Can you show me?” Then, observe [kids’] behavior. Do they know all about it? Ask them how. Remember, you know your child best, so go with your gut. If [he] is too young, remind [him] of the rules and deactivate the account. If kids are old enough and you approve, discuss your rules and expectations for using social media.

A great family contract for social media is here:

http://www.truecare.com/sites/default/files/FamilySocialMediaAgreement.pdf

ggmathisG.G. Mathis is a mom, and preteen Bible study teacher. On days the Internet service is working, she writes and posts from Duenweg, Missouri—population 1,051.

Dumb Things Kids Do with Smart Phones by G.G. Mathis

The term smart phone refers to the gadget—not necessarily the user! We interviewed Detective Rich Wistocki, a veteran police investigator and parent educator, about problematic preteen phone habits.

Alachia Does Droid 2
source: alachia

PL: What should parents do before they give their preteens a smart phone?

Wistocki: Understand one thing: Apple handheld devices cannot be monitored. Only Android phones can be monitored. I would start off by not getting my [child] an iPhone, first and foremost.

Parents must speak often and honestly to their children about the usage expectations. Don’t forget, you are the parent! You own this phone. You have the right to monitor activity on it [and] ensure everyone is behaving as agreed to.

PL: What are some dumb mistakes make using their smart phones?

Wistocki: Sending photos and uploading them to Facebook and other sites. Cameras are so easy to use … there is no time to double-think the decision [to post]. Geotagging—a picture can contain an exact location, so when it is sent or posted online, kids are (sometimes unknowingly) posting exactly where they are through the geotags. [Parents should] turn geotags off in the phone’s settings.

PL: Free phone apps are tempting to download. Which ones are unwise for preteens to use?

Wistocki: Apps where kids connect freely with strangers are the most dangerous—apps like Taproom and Words With Friends. These are fantastic vehicles for predators to find, groom, and then prey upon unsuspecting victims. Kids know all about “not friending people you don’t know online,” but I am not sure this mindset has expanded to apps.

PL: How can parents monitor phone use?

Wistocki: Talk about it with the cell phone providers when [the phones are purchased] . They can illustrate safe settings and options. Check out outside monitoring companies like TrueCare. Kids are more tech savvy than their parents around all these new technologies. Parents need to rely on monitoring services, software, and controls to ensure everything is okay online.

 

ggmathis  G.G. Mathis is a mom, preteen Bible study teacher, and writer from Duenweg, Missouri. She still needs help setting the ringtone on her phone.

 

Prescription for Preteen Worship by G.G. Mathis

Greenstone Church
source: reallyboring

It is possible, when a church has multiple hours of Sunday morning children’s programming, for a preteen to reach the end of sixth grade without attending a single corporate worship service. The result is a group of kids who, due to inexperience, approach church worship reluctantly instead of expectantly.

You can help preteens learn how to connect enthusiastically with God in your church’s worship service:

Encourage participation

  • If your church has a contemporary worship service, note the songs you sing most often. (Your worship leader can help compile a preteen-friendly playlist of tunes preteens may hear on contemporary Christian radio.) Play the songs before, during, or after class.
  • Make a date once a month for your preteens to sit and worship together.
  • As teaching opportunities arise, help preteens recognize and practice giving as an act of worship.
  • Acknowledge that God wires everyone to connect with Him in different ways. Encourage preteens to discover the worship styles and actions that best help them enjoy God’s presence.

Discourage distraction

  • Take a lighthearted approach to the subject of worship etiquette. Lead preteens to create a list of “worst worship behaviors” or take silly posed pictures of worship do’s and don’ts for sharing and posting.
  • Discuss appropriate/inappropriate worship behavior from a “you don’t want to miss a single minute of worship!” standpoint.

Encourage spiritual formation

  • Provide preteens with inexpensive spiral notebooks or composition books for worship use. Encourage preteens to take notes instead of passing them. Suggest that for each message, preteens record the title, the key Scripture, and at least three important ideas from the pastor’s message.
  • Begin, if you haven’t, taking notes yourself during the worship service. Whenever possible, mention ideas, anecdotes, videos, or worship experiences that relate in some way to the concepts you are teaching preteens.
  • Provide copies of Bible Express and encourage preteens to develop the habit of private Bible study and prayer. When preteens connect with God alone daily, it will be more natural for them to connect with Him with others weekly during public worship.

ggmathisG.G. Mathis loves watching the preteens at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, Missouri, worship with others.

Taming a Preteen Coffee Fiend by G.G. Mathis

coffee
source: hundreds

Thick, velvety chocolate mocha agitated until it’s bubbly. A blob of fluffy whipped cream the size of a cupcake. Top it off with chocolate shavings, cinnamon, or party sprinkles … what’s not to like about a frothy latte, especially if you’re a preteen aching to look and sip like a grown-up?

If you’re a health-conscious parent, what’s not to like may be the caffeine content. One Starbucks® latte, at 150 mg of caffeine, is well past the expert-recommended daily maximum of 85 mg for kids ages 10-12. (It’s not just coffee-based drinks: a 64-ounce mini-mart Mountain Dew® maxes out the meter at 293 milligrams.) Caffeine, say pediatric medical experts, can be responsible for dehydration, anxiety, tension, headaches, and stomachaches.

Many preteens are choosing to check out coffee drinks for the caffeine rush, or the perceived coolness of striding into school sipping a frothy frappe. How can you balance your preteen’s caffeinated curiosity with parental prudence? Percolate on these points:

Monitor your own caffeine intake. Yep, your example matters! Keep an eye on what you ingest. (200-300 mg per day is considered moderate adult consumption.) If you need to dial it down, start small. Switch one caffeinated drink a day for milk, water, or juice.

Try some trade-offs. When you feel the occasion calls for a treat, provide your preteen with some lower-caffeine options, such as decaffeinated soda, flavored teas (significantly lower in caffeine than coffee counterparts), or homemade milkshakes flavored with a tiny bit of coffee or caramel syrup.

Encourage kitchen creativity. For the price of three or four expensive coffees, you can buy a blender and encourage your preteen to create sweet and healthy smoothies, shakes, and other caffeine-free drink treats. (Search on “drink recipes for kids” at www.allrecipes.com for a gallon of great ideas.) The together time as you taste and create together is well worth the investment in ingredients!

G.G. Mathis admits to needing a cup of strong tea to get each morning started. She’s a mom and writer from Southwest Missouri.

Mathis also writes for FLYTE, LifeWay’s new curriculum for preteens. 

Fun Traditions and UnTraditions by G.G. Mathis

19/52 Tristan
source: edjohnson841

The November issue of ParentLife declared independence on tired and tedious holiday traditions in the article “Freedom From Tradition.” Families were encouraged to celebrate meaningfully and playfully in ways that create lasting memories, not lasting fatigue.

Need some ideas for an out-of-the-ordinary way to observe special days at your house? We’ve compiled some of our favorites:

We bought two tiny Christmas trees, one for each of our sons to put in his room. The boys were allowed to decorate the trees any way they liked. Some years, the decorations would change daily—action figures one day, paper chains the next; even socks and underwear!

Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we stock up on take-and-bake pizzas the night before. We bake them, eat from paper plates, and spend the day playing games together, not cooking!

We decided that a bunny visit on Easter Sunday detracted from the message of Jesus’ resurrection. So at our house, by mutual consent, the Early Bunny visits on the Saturday before Easter, leaving Sunday for worship and family time.

Nobody in our family cares much about football. So we plan a special dinner out on Superbowl Sunday evening. The restaurants aren’t crowded!

In our family, Roses Day (October 1) commemorates the day I received a dozen roses and a clue to the identity of the man I eventually married. Roses Day was such an important part of our family tradition, my daughter was puzzled after school one October first: “Mom, nobody at school has ever heard of Roses Day!”

Instead of a huge birthday present blowout that’s over in 10 minutes, we leave small gifts for the birthday boy (or girl) in unexpected places all day long.

We have a Thanksgiving tablecloth that comes out of storage every year. With fabric paint, each family member prints something for which he or she is thankful. It’s a great way to remember how God has cared for us over the years.

G.G. Mathis teaches preteens at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, Missouri.

Real Men Aren’t Afraid to Carry Bibles by G.G. Mathis

This post is part of our monthly series encouraging leaders and parents of preteens. You’ll find more information and a great curriculum at the FLYTE blog

IMG_1613
source: giratikanon

Kelton’s parents gave him a Bible for his eleventh birthday, four months ago. He’s never taken it out of the box.

Jaden brings his Bible to church, slams it on the table, and sits the rest of the hour with his arms crossed.

Barrett, certain he won’t need it at home, leaves his Bible at church on Sundays.

Hang around preteen boys at church, and you’ll discover that these behaviors, though undesirable, are not uncommon.  You have a unique opportunity to help boys (and girls) recognize the value of God’s Word. Here’s how:

Use navigational aids. Remember that some of your preteens are new to church, and a thick book arranged in neither alphabetical nor numerical order is hard to navigate. Assure boys, “It’s always OK to use the table of contents!” Frequently and briefly review the significance of chapter and verse numbers.

Use Bibles every session. Technology makes it possible for teachers to flash verses on a screen, use search engines to find them, or spit out a printout of a Bible passage. Don’t forget to encourage preteens to experience the Bible the traditional way—hands-on and minds on! (You can add technological techniques as kids improve in Bible-handling expertise.)

Use affirmation. Privately recognize boys who bring their own Bibles to church. Encourage them to show you what Bible translation they are using, as well as the maps, dictionaries, or other study helps it contains. As time and conversation permit, explain which study helps are your favorites and why.

Use natural preteen curiosity. How do you get boys to use their Bibles in between Sundays? Trick them, of course! Bait boys with bits and bites of Bible stories about heroes, battles, spies, and God’s supernatural power. Tell enough of the story to pique their interest, then tell boys where they can read the rest.

Use your Bible! Let boys see you carrying, reading, and respecting your Bible. Tell them about meaningful passages you read and how they helped you make it through a tough week. Keep up the habit of marking and memorizing Scriptures and sharing them with preteens when you teach.

What suggestions do you have for making preteens excited about the Bible?  

G.G. Mathis teaches preteens at Forest Park Baptist Church in Joplin, Missouri.