Teachable Moments

Cyber Bullying: A New Take On An Old Problem

Middle School students have a stressor in their life that is different than anything you or I ever experienced if you’re over the age of 30.  It is ever-present, could strike at any time, and there is no way to guarantee it will never happen. This very real and potential enemy is cyberbullying and it can happen on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or whatever the newest social media craze happens to be.

Cyberbullying is a form of rejection and public humiliation.  It creates social anxiety and for good reason. One negative Snap, one mean Facebook post, or one unkind Instagram can destroy any young teen’s reputation and social standing.  Worse, even if it is taken down off the internet, the student knows it will never really go away. It only takes a moment for an excellent reputation to be destroyed with lasting consequences.

However, slander and gossip are not new, even though now it is communicated digitally. One example of how to ruin someone else’s reputation can be seen in the life of Mary of Magdala. One bad report, one misrepresented comment, one error in observation – and the Mary you think you know may not be the Mary she really was.

Two Wrong Reports

1. Mary of Magdala was a prostitute.

RESPONSE:  NO!  She was not!

WHAT HAPPENED:  Where did this rumor begin and how has it been continued throughout the Western church?  In the 6th century, Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 AD) falsely reported that Mary of Magdala was the unnamed sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50 and the unnamed woman identified as a prostitute in John 7:53-8:11.  He preached in a famous homily that the 7 demons which were cast out of Mary were the seven cardinal (deadly) sins. His famous sermon has been referred to and repeated throughout the centuries including the 20th century when Mel Gibson repeated this interpretative error about Mary Magdalene’s life in the movie, The Passion of the Christ.

TEACHABLE MOMENT:  A faithful Christian can be destroyed due to a careless word that gets passed on, and on, and on.  Everyone would do well to remember the song we sing as children, “O be careful little mouth what you say”!  We are to protect one another’s good name and give one another the benefit of the doubt; whatever we say about one another should be accurate, necessary and loving.  As for our teenagers, before anything is posted on social media or they read anything posted, make sure they consider three questions:

  1. Is it that important and worthy of my time and attention?
  2. Is it written with a loving heart? (Do you trust the author’s integrity?)
  3. Is it completely true? (Or does the author tend to color the facts to fit their own agenda?)

2. Mary of Magdala was Jesus’ Wife.

RESPONSE:  NO!  She was not!

WHAT HAPPENED:  The Da Vinci Code, written by Dan Brown, was a book then made into a movie, that depicts Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus.  There is no biblical nor any extra-biblical literature that would support this in any way. This is fiction and should not be considered anything more than an author’s imagination.

TEACHABLE MOMENT:  Making things up about someone, including exaggeration of an event or person, may seem harmless at the time, but it could easily become harmful as people are just as prone to believe that which is not true vs that which is true.  Honesty is always the best policy and, even if true, we should think twice before we mess with someone’s reputation or tell someone else’s story. Before anything is posted, consider the following:

  1. What is the point I am trying to make by talking about someone else’s life?
  2. Would I say what I am writing to their face and is it not only truthful, but also loving?
  3. Have I exaggerated any detail?

The Right Report

Mary of Magdala is a role model for us; having been delivered from demons, she lived her life as a devoted disciple.  So, let’s set the record straight.  She was delivered from spiritual oppression and in grateful, faithful response, she lived a life characterized by her adoration of Jesus in generous (Luke 8:2-3), sacrificial (Matthew 27:55-56), and brave (Matthew 27:61) service.  Mary Magdalene made herself available to serve Christ during His ministry years, was present at the cross, and went to the tomb while still dark after his burial; her availability put her in a position to be the first person Jesus told of His resurrection.  Mary Magdalene has been called the “Apostle of the Apostles” since she was the one Jesus instructed to go announce to the disciples that Christ indeed had risen from the grave; Mary ran to let others know Her precious Lord lived.  Mary of Magdala was a faithful Christ-follower worthy of our respect and consideration as a role model.

Dear Reader, helping today’s teenagers handle the world of digital communication takes intentional time and conversations.  Helping them see how reputations are both made and destroyed can help them consider what to say and not say in their interactions on social media.  Encourage your teens to tell you immediately if they are a victim of cyberbullying, and help them consider carefully how much social media affects their world view.  Thinking with our teens vs leaving them on their own to figure out the world of social media is key to effective discipleship with today’s teen.

Blessings to you as you think through how to live as a devoted disciple as Mary of Magdala did while living in a virtual world.  Shalom! Elizabeth

Teachable Moments

Danger: Cumulative Screen Time for Little Ones

I tried to avoid it; I really did.  I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to deal with it.  Yet, I knew that if I didn’t deal with it now I’d regret it for years to come. So I faced it. I engaged. I chose to enter into conflict….with my preschooler.

I remember the years in which trying to set rules and boundaries with my little ones was more challenging than any other challenge I ever tackled.  I really didn’t look forward to saying things like, “Bedtime is in 5 minutes”, or “No, you may not eat that bag of cookies”, let alone – “Stop painting the dog white with the house paint!” and my favorite, “You will not spoon feed your little brother a bag of powdered sugar and spill it all over the carpet!

While I was wrestling over house paint and powdered sugar (which, by the way, is impossible to get out of carpet after children and a 100-pound Golden Retriever walked all over it), today’s parent wrangles over a less-messy yet more potent problem. Cumulative screen time for children in early childhood (children under the age of 5) has potential harmful effects which negatively affect a child’s development.

In a recent study of 2,441 children*, too much screen time before the age of 2 affects the results of developmental testing in these same children when they are 3-years-old. Consistent with these findings, 3-year-olds who have experienced excessive screen time show decreased developmental outcomes at the age of 5.  Bottom line, research shows that young children should not engage in more than 1 hour of cumulative screen time in a day. So practically, the cartoon before the play date, the iPad in the grocery store, and the computer game after dinner all add up to cumulative screen time. When you add all the screen time together, you don’t want to exceed 60 minutes (1 hour) a day.

How difficult is it for parents to abide by these wise guidelines?  Extremely. Often when children are engaging with a device it provides them an instant gratification, and as such they are likely to have a strong pull toward playing or watching it again and again. Like us, children can easily get hooked on screen time.

How do parents deal with the inevitable conflict that will result if they set and enforce limits on their child’s screen time?

  • Conflict should not be avoided and should be handled with gentleness and patience.  Limiting screen time will be disappointing for the child and may result in conflict, but it is also an opportunity to engage in discussion, spend time together, and teach the qualities of patience and delayed gratification. Help the child identify their disappointment and give them the emotional and verbal skills needed to express their feelings constructively to find alternative activities.
  • Children learn best through movement; they are kinesthetic learners as much as visual ones. Playing with hands-on games, puzzles, and blocks engages their brain in ways a screen never could.  Parents and caregivers alike can work toward understanding the stages of cognitive development of a child and what it takes to maximize a child’s potential for cognitive functions (critical thinking, decision making, creative solutions, etc.) by playing with their children and providing toys that require small and large motor movement.
  • Effective social learning, which takes place when eye contact is made in person, cannot be replaced with screen time.  Parents are encouraged not to “underestimate the value of face-to-face time” in which children learn how to empathize, express emotion, read facial and other nonverbal clues, and learn vocal as well as verbal communication.  Quality time is any time that parents and children are paying attention, listening, talking, and engaging with one another. Every day moments matter!
  • Setting boundaries on screen time is best done early in the child’s development.  A habit of non-screen time is a habit best started when the child is young and kept consistently as they grow.  Not only will the child’s potential for development be maximized, a child is never too young to start a life-long pattern of self-discipline in regard to technology use.
  • Encourage children to explore and be curious. Screen time often makes problem-solving and entertainment too easily accessible. Challenging children to work to overcome boredom or solve their problems engages the child in critical thinking, delayed gratification, and innovative creativity.

Dear Reader, I have a hunch that research will continue to show us the dangers of cumulative screen time. How can we help parents realize the dangers of setting their child in front of the screen too often? Consider passing on this blog post to the parents of preschoolers you know; join them in thinking through what and when screen time could be used in their home. At the same time, this is a great opportunity for each of us to take a serious look at how much time we spend in front of a screen. We can’t influence the Next Generation if we are not self-aware of how we ourselves are using screens. We can also thoughtfully consider how much face-to-face time we may be inadvertently giving up by picking up our screens without thinking through what we are giving up by picking them up. How precious is the time we get to spend in each other’s company without the distraction of a screen!

Many blessings as you seek to uses screen time wisely for you and your children.  

Fondly yours, Elizabeth

**The research study referred to in this article is taken from Madigan, Sheri, et. al. “Associates between Screen Time and Children’s Performance on a Developmental Screening Test.” JAMA Pediatrics. Published online 28 Jan 19. JAMA Network, URL: jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/article-abstract/2722666 **


Children and Family, Teachable Moments, Uncategorized, Young Adult, Young Adults

A Christian Guide to Technology Part 2:  A Parent’s Top 10 List

This Christmas as we think about buying our children technology, let’s keep this “Top 10 List” in mind. This Top 10 list encourages parents to think “God first” and then decide what to do for their children, since the best Christian parent is a thinking Christian parent.

  1. We want to temper our love for our children’s happiness with our wisdom to keep them safe. We know that scripture assumes a good father wants to give good gifts to their children, which we may assume will make the kids happy (Luke 11:11-13); simultaneously, one of the responsibilities parents have is to protect our children from their immature lapses of judgment.  What do I do? Don’t give your child something which may make them happy, but in the long run isn’t good for them.  We do this by making an honest assessment of our child’s emotional maturity and their ability to exercise the word “no” for themselves.  If they can’t step back and stop themselves from engaging in ungodly or unhealthy behavior when using technology, then say “no, you may not have that” or “no, you may not go onto that site.”  Be clear, explain why, enforce the “no”.
  2.  One rule for the family may not be as helpful as making individual rules for each individual child. No 2 children are the same, so the wise parent parents each individual child.  What do I do? Prayerfully consider each child’s best interests before you set rules and expectations and don’t fall to the false belief that “one rule fits all”. Example – one child gets an iPhone at the age of 14, but another may need to wait until 16.
  3.  In a family, parents count as much as the children do; as such, know yourself and embrace your limits.  You only have so much time in your life; it’s key that whatever you allow in your child’s life, you have the time to interact with your child about it.  All technology is most beneficial for a child when the parent monitors the child’s use of it. What do I do? Ask yourself, do I have the time needed to monitor this device or how they will be using it?
  4. Encourage your child’s relationship with you before their relationship with technology.  Spending more time in front of a screen and being dismayed when they have to talk to you face to face are symptoms that technology is becoming too important. What do I do? You might consider a general principle that goes something like this: If you can’t talk to me respectfully or enjoy spending time face to face with members of the family, then I won’t allow you to hide behind a screen to talk to someone else. (Take the phone away or turn off the computer.)
  5. Don’t let your love for your child blind you to their limitations. Not all kids are above average – in fact, most are just average. Therefore, don’t give your kids more credit than they deserve.  Assess honestly what they can handle. If you even think they might make an unwise decision while they are on a device, think twice and three times if you want to put them in a position to make that unwise choice.  What do I do?  Think honestly about what your child might be handle and don’t be afraid to say “not yet” if you aren’t sure they are absolutely ready.
  6. Beware of healthy fear-based decisions vs. unhealthy fear-based decisions.  Look at the realistic dangers of technology and media (healthy fear), but never forget that God has His eyes and ears on our children even when we aren’t there. Avoid having more fear of the world than faith in a sovereign, omnipotent God (unhealthy fear).  What do I do?  Become up to date on current research reports on how technology affects children and teens and while you are learning, pray for God to give you faith and discernment as you navigate the millions of questions that technology will inevitably evoke.
  7. Embrace the value and finite quality of money.  There’s only so much to go around; debt is to be avoided if at all possible and money is to be used for the ultimate good of God’s Kingdom and the needs of the entire family.  What do I do?  Look at how much things cost – notice the fine print on extra fees if there are any.  Be willing to wait if the financial resources are not there yet. Let the technology you have be enough until you can afford something new.
  8.  Don’t engage in fantasy thinking.  Technology and a social media presence will not make you more popular, smarter or better looking no matter what the advertisers say.  Also, more and new is not always better – sometimes it’s only more and new. What do I do? Like the Apostle Paul, learn the key to being content (Phil. 4:11-13). Work to find your identity in Christ by studying His word, praying, worshiping and fellowshiping with other believers who love you even if you don’t have the newest phone or best social media site.
  9. Identify the difference between wants and needs. Knowing the difference between wants and needs is key to preventing a life of disappointment.  An unwanted need puts me in the path of peril; an unmet want makes me grumpy, uncomfortable or inconvenienced.  What do I do?  Think carefully – know the difference and you have found the secret to perspective.
  10. Enjoy the fun and usefulness of technology.  We don’t have to feel guilty about having fun on our devices or even cultivating relationships through social media. As long as they are not idols in our lives, we can enjoy the creative outlet they afford us.  What do I do?  Use your devices for the purpose of communicating and connecting in appropriate and godly ways; play games that are fun and even exercise your brain. Learn and shop. Whatever you do, however, do it all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)  by displaying the fruit of the Spirit in your words (Col. 4:6) and in your self-control (Ga. 5:22,23).
Teachable Moments, Young Adults

A Christian Guide to Understanding Social media

As a parent of young adults, Professor of emerging adults and yet a member of the Baby Boomer Generation, trying to navigate my way through this new world of social media is a bit like tip-toeing through a mine (or mind) field.  I am aware that not all social media venues are the same; their respective differences are important to keep in mind or what I try to communicate may just blow up in my face. Yikes! To try to ensure safe passage, I find that my brain translates the various social media platforms into associations with which I am familiar.

  •         Twitter: Thoughts in the shower. I think best under water so this is one of my favorite platforms.  Yet, I have learned to withstand jumping out of the shower and immediately throwing my “brilliant” thoughts out there for the world to read.  I try and live with “no regrets” as a motto, and so I shut-up as much as post up.
  •         Pinterest: Post-It Notes.  Organizing all my random, creative ideas into different categories is so helpful to me, and hopefully others. For the “Tigger” in me who loves to jump from idea to idea, this is an ideal social media tool.
  •         LinkedIn:  Water-cooler Conversations  We don’t have a water cooler at work, but we do have a coffee station; it’s the same idea. I can share my experience, educational background, new career aspirations and ideas with colleagues who are like-minded.
  •         Facebook:  Coffee with Friends.  This is catch up time, random thoughts, funny moments, prayer requests, family photos, what I ate for lunch Tuesday afternoon, and what’s new at work all rolled into one.  Close friends and new acquaintances alike, I share my life, my passions and my family moments.
  •         Instagram:  Sharing photos with clever quips at a family reunion.  I share my life with others to laugh, cry and cringe over; both my very special and my everyday moments are included.  Who doesn’t want to see what I ate last week for breakfast as we sit down to a family get-together?!

Social media is a new way to do an old thing.  From the beginning, we as people were created to communicate and connect with one another.  We are created in God’s Trinitarian Image (Imago Dei). While what this means has been debated throughout church history, we find that whether we focus on our qualities, our functioning, or our relational attributes that we share with God, we are inherently meant to communicate and connect with one another.  Ultimately, this is the goal of social media – to communicate in order to connect.

As a Baby Boomer, none of these sites existed when I was a child, adolescent or young adult.  They are new to me – but not to my adult children. These are common, everyday ways to communicate and connect for them.  And, this next generation coming up will never know a time when Social Media did not exist. That is a mind-blowing thought.

Dear Reader, I hope my above guide helps you navigate the ever-morphing technological world.  I wanted to communicate my quick and quirky guide with you, to connect in fun, helpful and ever-more meaningful ways.  It means the world to me that you read this blog.

Until we next communicate and connect, Blessings Abundant – Elizabeth