Yesterday, I talked about one of the hardest conversations we’ve been having as a family. The one where we discuss racial injustice in our country.
But it’s not the only hard conversation I’ve been having.
This one, I haven’t had with the kids yet because, quite frankly, they are 10 and I have no idea how to have it.
Bray and I have discussed for a number of years allowing the kids to have a phone in 6th grade (that’s just over a year away now), primarily to be able to reach us during after school sports practices and events. No social media or data plans, simply a phone that enables contact.
Let me start this particular hard conversation by saying I know parents are ALL over the map on this one. In fact, there are very few issues where people are MORE all over the map than this one. Some kids got phones in kindergarten and some didn’t ever get them. This is a personal decision, and this is not a judgment zone, merely a seeking zone.
The kids have long accepted this even though many of their friends (certainly the majority) got phones this past year. One even commented to me on how useless the social media talk was at school because he knew he was never getting it. (Ha!)
Now that we are approaching this period, I am talking to parents who have gone before me and seeing ways they have implemented protective rules and guidelines. I have some ideas but I love hearing what has worked.
I recently had one of those conversations with a mom of two teens. I have known her a long time and she’s educated and involved with her kids. But her question to me rocked me and I’ve been sitting with what’s next ever since.
I told her we were delaying phones and then prohibiting social media for even longer. She started talking about a free porn site where anyone can pull up images of porn on the internet regardless of your phone controls. She suggested that if my kids hadn’t seen it yet, they surely would, as even if they didn’t have a phone, one of their friends would thrust it in their face.
Then she said this, “You have to get to the point where you ask, do I want my kids to be popular or do I want to keep them from seeing porn?”
Let’s just sit with that question.
One I’m sure my parents friends never posed.
Let’s tackle the first bit. It has NEVER been a goal of our parenting to try to advance the kids popularity. Both my husband and I were affirmatively unpopular and we survived. Yes, it was painful, but we’re better humans for it (I like to think).
Our parenting goals are ambitious, but popularity is not on the list. On the long list of parenting goals, we are seeking to build curiosity, a strong faith in Jesus, diverse interests, healthy practices, optimism, hard work, resilience, and a sense of love and security from their home base.
I want them to embrace their uniqueness and not feel compelled to conform. That likely stands in direct opposition to popularity which feels a lot like an exercise in conformity.
Further, in a world gone mad, whose priorities are utterly askew, I believe it could be incredibly challenging to “hang with the in crowd” and prioritize the actions Jesus compels us to take.
So, if we set the popularity piece aside, we are left with ready access to porn.
And if not porn on their device, then porn shown from someone else’s device.
So now what?
I do not know.
I can tell you this – I do not want to have conversations about porn with my 10 year olds.
I realize the ages of all these hard conversations are advancing, and we’ve had talks about boys and girls and babies and bodies and what God tells us and what science tells us every summer for three years. Each summer, becoming progressively more informative as their maturing brains can process.
However, I’m in my 40s and cannot process porn, so I’m not sure how to tackle with children what’s out there electronically.
Of course we have had safety conversations. They are familiar with the concept of online predators. But what about what just pops up? On the internet. In movies. In their ethos.
And even if they don’t have data on their phones, we all know that they can get online with internet access most places now.
So Bray and I have started this hard conversation with each other. And then we’ll have it with the kids before they ever receive a phone.
We are reading resources like Screenager about conversation starters and guardrails. But I would welcome your insight. You parents of teens who are a few years ahead of us on the road. Within those conversation starters, whether on social media or here, I would ask for no judgment of other parents. We’re all doing the best we can.
On the spectrum, we are going to be at the stricter end. If you’ve walked that path, and fought those fights, and had those hard conversations, I would love to learn.
This is uncharted territory. And it makes me sad. Sad for innocence lost. Sad to live in an age when there is so much BLECK thrust in our faces. But we will chart this course and pray for wisdom.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9