If your teens are anything like our teens, or the millions across the nation, they're probably attached to their cell phones and/or whatever electronic device they have. In many ways cell phones and iPods and tablets are super helpful and can be great tools if used properly. But when not used properly, your child's device can potentially open the door to all sorts or questionable and dangerous possibilities.
Now I don't want to jump on the bandwagon of trashing technology and and condemning app developers for what they're creating. Instead, I want to offer just a little help and insight that can provide parents with a little education that could help them be a little more aware of what your kids are able to do with their devices.
First, full disclosure. We are a family of 7. 5 of us now have iPhones. All of my kids have or have had an iPod. 4 of us now have an iPad. 2 have Kindles. We have an older 1st generation (refurb'd) iPad that still functions well enough to run games and watch movies. And we have a 1st generation Kindle Fire HD that functions and runs games, books, and movies. These two last devices are used for our youngest when we travel or sit and sporting events for the older brothers.
Along with all the devices, I am a tech junkie, specifically when it comes to Apple products. (Yes I am excited about the most recent upgrades coming on the new macbooks.) I see technology as a tool to make life better. I dream of one day having a smart house where I can control everything within the house from my iPad. Yes, I am a geek. However, as technology advances, so do the dangers. And too often it's we parents who get left behind because we just don't have the time, or the know-how to keep up with the ever advancing pace of updates and upgrades.
But as a parent, it is super important that you are aware of what your kids are looking out, doing, and communicating on their devices. While the great majority of the apps on their devices are safe and relatively harmless, even the most innocent app can lead to dangerous usage. So the question is this, Do YOU know what apps are on your child's devices?
As a parent, it is super important that you are aware of what your kids are looking at, doing, and communicating on their devices.
Let me offer a few suggestions that we have implemented in our home.
1. Only You should have access to your app purchasing accounts.
If you are familiar with any app purchasing, you know you need an account that is linked to a credit card in order to purchase and download any app. In our house, there is account for our app store and our kindle store, and I (Jay) control it. Our kids do not have the password and cannot purchase apps without our approval. This simple step can eliminate many of the downloadable dangers run off the bat. In order for you child to download a desired app, they must come and ask you to do it. This leaves you in control of the download.
2. Learn about the app in question before just downloading it.
It is incredibly prudent that you take the time to read about the app and what it does and what is has access to, BEFORE you download it. Try to understand what it is that the app is offering. Is it a game? is it a game where others can play with your child via wifi connections? Is it an educational app? Is it a video or movie app? Is it a music app? Does it stream content? Does it require wifi to run? Does it use data and connect to the internet?
Also look to see what the app wants permission to access. Many apps want to know your location, or link to content like your contacts, or send you notifications. Some apps will go as far as asking for a credit card to enable certain features or in app purchases. Some apps connect with other users and offer the experience multiple players. This can introduce your child to a world of possible contacts. And some apps gather information about your child and their device use. This information can then be used in marketing and suggestive content.
You need to know what the app will do before the download.
3. Make random spot checks a practice.
Don't assume that your 'good' kid is always making 'good' decisions. Much can happen behind the closed doors of the internet. It is our practice to ask for our kids devices randomly and check their activity. Random is key as there are a number of actions that can be deleted from the device. We check their texting; the contacts, who they're texting, what are they texting about, and when they are texting. We check their browser history; where they're going, what they're seeing, and what they might be downloading from the internet. (Just a note, only our oldest has access to the internet via his device. Our other children do not.) We check certain social apps to see what pictures and status updates are being posted, viewed, liked, and shared. We check what their friends and followers are saying, sharing, and liking. I also check their email folders to see what might be coming to their inbox.
The other thing I check, is for personal accounts that they might have started and kept hidden. Whether it's with the App Store, an email, or a secret social media account, you have to be thorough and careful not to take what you don't see or don't know as good decision making. To assume that because you don't see it, means they aren't doing, could leave you with a little egg on your face when you discover they've been hiding stuff from you.
Allowing your kids to use electronic devices can be a little scary and intimating, but it doesn't have to be. With a little education and some diligent awareness, you can walk along side your child knowing you are doing your best to keep them safe. And while there are a great number of topics relating to apps and social media and your child's devices that I could still talk about (and I will in future posts), I hope these three little suggestion might help you begin to think about what your role as a parent looks like when it comes to technology and how your children use their devices.
PS - If the topic of technology and apps and device usages is something that strikes accord with you, let us know. One of the things we hope to do as we raise our five kids, is to teach them the value of being able to discern the dangers that come with a world that is shrinking faster and faster every day. As parents, we believe we most first be educated and do our best to understand the world around us. Jay is working to stay as current as possible as we work to raise up our kids. So there is much more to come. In the meantime, please share any questions, thoughts, or concerns you have in the area of apps, social media and technology.
Last week we crossed another milestone in the Higham house. Our first born is now a licensed driver. That's right, last week, Amy took him to the local DMV where he successfully completed his road test. There was a funny story about the actual test taking that I won't share here, but what matters is, he's driving.
I have to confess, it's a bit scary. Scary because he's actually able to drive on his own, and scary because it's another chapter in his life. But now that we're here, it is causing us to think about some things we've haven't had to thing about, such as the rules of the road.
Amy and I had already determined that there would be a set of restrictions for when our kids started driving. However, we hadn't yet sat down to discuss what those restrictions would be. I had some ideas, and I'm sure Amy had some ideas, but together we had nothing in place. Now what makes this a little different is that I didn't get my license till I was 19 years old with one foot out the door. Growing up in the city you have plenty of public transportation. You can get anywhere by riding a bus, trolly, subway, or elevated train, so the pressure to drive wasn't anything like the pressure a teenager or young adult might feel if he or she lived in the suburbs. What that means is, I wasn't driving as a teenager, so I never had restrictions.
As for Amy, she got her license as a teenager in high school. When I asked her if she had any restrictions, she couldn't remember any. Nonetheless, her experience behind the wheel as a teen offers a different view than mine. And together, we feel like there needs to be some kind of perimeters established for our teen drivers.
Here we are now with a teen driver, and we need a plan for what will become standard practice for all of our kids when they drive. So here is what we came up with...
But just having our sons phone out of reach isn't enough. Because teens don't always think about what their doing, our rule is that ALL cell phones must be secured away in the glove box. Why? Because sometimes the biggest distraction isn't us on our phones, but others in the vehicle on their phones, Oohing and Ahh-ing over something they they just looked at. Then what do they do? They say, Look at this! And the next thing their doing is putting the cell phone in their friends face. It happens! Amy has done it to me while I was driving!
So to eliminate the distraction all together, ALL cell phones must be placed into the glove box before the vehicle rolls. In the event that there is a true need to use the phone, our kids are to drive to a safe location where they can pull off the side of the road, park, and then proceed with using the cell phone.
2. No Friends in the Car for the first 3 Months!
It's one thing to drive a vehicle as a learner with mom and dad coaching. It's a completely different situation to drive a car on your own. I remember the very first time I drove by myself after getting my license. Suddenly there was a sense that I was now responsible for myself, the car, and others around me. That first outing immediately reminded me how important it was that I was completely focused on what I was doing.
For the last year, our #1 has always had an extra set of eyes in the vehicle. Amy and I took every opportunity to talk to him about the road and other cars and what to do as we drove with him. Now, he is doing it all on his own. So to help him build that confidence, we have decided that for the first 3 months, he will not be allowed to drive any where with his friends. We want to see that he is able to be continually focused on what he is doing behind the wheel, building up the confidence in decision making, timing, and directions. Friends in the car lead to conversations and distractions, loud music and sight-seeing excursions as they point out things that are happening outside the vehicle. We've decided to just eliminate those distraction so he can focus on his driving.
3. Boundaries Kept to Local Driving!
The third rule we put in place was that he must stay local. That means he can only drive within a designated area. We live in a relatively small community that borders another, even smaller, community. In between the two communities is what we might call the shopping district. All sorts of restaurants, stores, offices, and markets line the corridor. It all makes for a convenient area to create a circle of limits. This will allow our kids to drive back and forth to stores and restaurants without having to travel miles away from home. It also keeps him off the highway for a few weeks while to continues to build confidence. It also gives Amy and I the opportunity to send him on errands knowing that he doesn't have to go far. He can become all the more experienced behind the wheel while still be close to home.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of restrictions. We simply tried to think about our kids, and what we want them to be aware of. And I am sure that we will add things to this list as we cross those points when we realize we missed something, or as the other kids reach the same milestone.
But here's the question we have for you, If you have parented your teens through the driving years, what restrictions or guidelines did you place on your teen driver? We would love to hear what you have done with your kids. It might help us with something we might have missed.
If when you were a teen your parents set restrictions for your driving, what were they?
Share your comments and stories below in the comment section!
Thanks for reading!
A couple of days ago we posted some thoughts on starting a video blog (vlog) that dealt with the topics of family, marriage, raising kids, faith, and how it all comes together. You can read the original post here; Raising Stronger Families Together.
Well, we’re going to give it a shot!
Here’s the concept again.
We want to have a conversation about real life family stuff. Not reality TV. Not watching a family run around their house and go crazy. But an opportunity to talk about real life and real family issues. So here is what doing…
Starting this week, we will begin taking questions and topic ideas that you would like to talk about. The topics would include all things family; marriage, parenting, kids, discipline, tips, husband stuff, wife stuff, relationship stuff: really anything that relates to family. We will compile the questions and topics and order them in a format that makes sense for a program, then share our thoughts on each topic or question. And since we believe that God plays a super significant role in our families, our thought will reflect what we believe the Bible teaches. Then we will post the video to the blog and encourage you to share your thoughts.
So to help us get started, we’re asking for your questions and topic suggestions. As parents, what’s the big issues that you and your family are facing? In your marriage, how can we encourage both the husband and wife so that together you are growing stronger?
You can submit your questions or topic suggestions in one of two ways. You can email us at, email@example.com. Or you can jump over to our Facebook page at, www.Facebook.com/TheHighamFamily and post a question or topic to our wall.
We are super excited about this venture and hope that you will join the conversation! Our first episode will come soon! In the meantime, send us your questions!
– the higham family
Do you ever want to ask God to give you a glimpse into His perfect plan from His perspective? I’m sure at some point all of us would answer yes to that question. Many of you know that we are on this church planting journey and have been for the past 3 years. It has had its share of highs and lows and I can honestly say the one constant thing has been God’s faithfulness to show us that He is at work in ALL things. Over the last few weeks, some things have happened that have made me yearn to sit at His feet and long to see what He is unfolding.
It all began Palm Sunday weekend. We had an amazing weekend of ministry from our Friday night “Art of Marriage” study to my Bible Study ladies, afternoon Tea Celebration, to Sunday morning worship. It was a weekend where I felt God confirming our “call” to be exactly where we are. Saturday night we spent as a family running errands and as sometimes happens, Jay and I had a disagreement while we were out that turned into a much bigger one at home. It was really quite dumb but lets be honest, we all have those times in our marriages. Needless to say, I was not feeling great about heading to church Sunday morning and sit under His leadership. Quite frankly, we were both acting like a very immature couple, instead of a happily married for 18 years, couple. So as I debated not going to church, I felt that it was more important for me to go and worship than for me to sit in disobedience at home because of my stubbornesss. I’m so glad I did. It’s so easy for us to justify our actions of disobedience, isn’t It? The kids and I usually arrive pretty early to help in case the people on set up need help, but that morning I planned to get there right on time because I really didnt want to socialize with anyone (just keeping it real). I pulled into the parking lot and noticed another car at the same time with 2 women that I recognized in it. They were both friends of mine and I was excited to see them. I hadn’t seen either of them for quite some time and one of them had never come to worship with us before. For privacy of the famillies, I’ll call them Julie and Tina. Julie had come in the past to worship but Tina never had before. I was so excited!
Worship began and I was still annoyed with Jay (we had tried to work it out before he left for church but werent that successful). Being the Pastors wife, it’s often hard for me to sit in the sermon without wondering if what he is saying is affecting anyone and this day was no different, it was probably worse because we had new people there and it was Palm Sunday!! I thought Jay’s sermon was kind of a downer, but as the service ended I turned around to see another church friend with tears in her eyes-she was in awe of what God was saying to her through Jay. Then as I talked to others including Julie and Tina, my eyes were opened to the fact that this sermon was powerful for many and it wasnt about me or jay at all(something we are constantly being humbled by). I chatted with Julie and Tina. Tina said, “I’m so glad I came to worship today, I really needed to hear that. It was a good service.” We hugged and said our goodbyes and all went home.
Fast forward to this past Thursday at around 10pm, I received a text from Julie asking that we pray for Tina- her daughter just found her unresponsive and not breathing and they were taking her to the hospital by ambulance. What?? She’s a beautiful, young, and super sweet woman. How could this be happening?? Jay and I prayed for her and her family and withith the next hour received word that Tina had passed away!! Just like that, she was gone. How could that be? We just worshipped with her 10 days earlier. Especially after not seeing her for years, I had been looking forward to the possibility of catching up with her in the next few weeks as our boys would be playing baseball against each other. In fact, they would have on that Thursday had it not been cancelled! Immediately, Jay and I knew this was truly all about God and His greater purpose in Tina, her family and maybe even in Julie’s life. As I talked to Julie the next day, through tears she shared how grateful she was to have worshipped with Tina last week. You see, this church planting thing has been the hardest thing we have ever done. It has had many ups and downs, and we have questioned over and over again if this is really what God has called us to. See we are imperfect people serving a perfect God who is working His plan out all around us, and its not about us, or what we want, or how we want things to happen, or how fast we want Him to grow the church. It’s all about the Kingdom and what He’s doing that brings Him glory. I am so grateful He led me to be obedient to Him by attending and supporting my sweet hubby even when I didnt want to. I would’ve missed out on hugging Tina one last time before she entered her forever home with Our Savior! Although we may never see God’s bigger picture this side of heaven, I am so grateful He gave us a sweet glimpse and that He has a plan far greater than our simple minds can imagine.
Although we may never see God’s bigger picture this side of heaven, I am so grateful He gave us a sweet glimpse and that He has a plan far greater than our simple minds can imagine.
I don’t know where this blog finds you but let me encourage you that God does have a perfect plan and His timing is perfect in All things-both life and death. As I prayed for Tina’s family and friends Friday morning, the Lord brought Revelation 21:4 to my mind, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying…” I was reminded of the sweetness of Heaven. While I am sad that Tina is gone from this earth, I know that she is complete, whole and free of the worries and pain of this world. She is in the presence of God, forevermore!! What incredible peace that gives during these tougher times, even if I can’t see it all from His perspective right now; a glimpse is enough.
Thanks for taking the time to read The Higham Family Blog. Each week we try to share new content about something we are learning, something we love, or something to offer encouragement to the family. We love to hear from our readers, so please share your thought in the comment section of each post.