Vol. 4 Issue 38, September 21, 2018

Three Things This Week

1. Monkey

What it is:A free app that randomly connects strangers in 15-second video chats, as well as allows them to text chat and “vibe” over similar interests.

Why it’s risky: Currently #19 in Social Networking in the App Store, Monkey was created by two teens who wanted “to fill the loneliness void in teenagers” by creating an app similar to Chatroulette but “without the pervs.” Obviously, it’s good that it’s encouraging users to branch out, meet new people, and make friends. But can an app really fill that void? Other concerns include that it requires you to share your location, it’s supposed to be for ages 17+ but many teens can and do get around the age verification, and it automatically shares some personal info. If your kids are interested in this app, it’s not necessarily a bad thing! But talk to them about why and offer to help them meet new people IRL.

2. Lebron Goes to Hollywood

What it is: As if starting for the Los Angeles Lakers wasn’t enough, Lebron James has taken his other talents to Hollywood in the creation of nearly a dozen film and TV projects.

Why it’s worth a look: Seeking to use his platform and wealth to energize social conversations, James’ soon-to-be-released Student Athlete (HBO Productions) will discuss the association between unpaid college athletes and the programs making millions from them. It’s unclear whether he’ll be as successful off the court as on, but we admire his desire to spark cultural conversations and not just “shut up and dribble.” For teens who are or hope to be “influencers,” his example is a hopeful contrast to the “gaining followers and getting sponsored!” mentality into which influencing has devolved.

3. World Gratitude Day

What it is: Today is #WorldGratitudeDay.

Why it’s needed: Christian author Diana Butler Bass writes, “Being thankful is the very essence of what it means to be alive.” Gratitude is the “explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love.” It’s easy to see the negative side of life, but what about “all the beauty that still remains”? Ask your children what they’re thankful for and why. How would their daily life, both on and offline, change if they saw all of life through the lens of gratefulness? Gratitude “turns what we have into enough, it turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.” Help your teens choose a life of gratitude—it just might counter the anxiety, depression, and hopelessness experienced by so many teens in today’s world.

Smartphones for Smart Families, Part 1 of 2

Note: The following is excerpted with permission from a chapter we wrote for the brand new book The Art of Parenting: Aiming Your Child’s Heart toward God by Dennis and Barbara Rainey of Family Life. We highly recommend the whole book!

Smartphone Conversation One: Very Good, Cursed, and Redeemed
Dr. Sherry Turkle, author and founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, once said, “Computers are not good or bad; they are powerful.” Turkle’s statement is just as provocative in a day when most teenagers use their smartphones as their primary computers. We agreed with this statement for over a year (whoops!), but then one day we stopped and started to rethink it. Does the Bible actually say that the world God made, including the technology created from it, is not “good or bad” and that it is neutral?

Actually, in Genesis it says the exact opposite.

God weaves the world together and then declares that it is “very good.” Part of that goodness includes the command God gave man and woman to cultivate the earth. In essence, we are living out the image of God imprinted on us when we create. In our view, technology—like any tool we’ve created—is simply one way humans have cultivated the “very good” cosmos. But the story doesn’t end there.

As we all know, this very good world has been subjected to the curse since Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God. Thus, cultivation—and therefore all technology—is affected by the curse. So rather than being neutral, technology is both very good and cursed. And of course, the story doesn’t end there, either. God is committed to His creation, and through the death, burial, and resurrection (and way, truth, and life) of Jesus, God is redeeming that creation. The best part is that we are invited into that mission with Him.

Think about that for a second.

We are joining God again, this time in redeeming what has been lost. So here’s the first important conversation to have with your student: How is a smartphone (or anything!) very good, how is it cursed, and how can we as a family redeem it?

This positioning is huge. You are no longer the bad guy, and you are no longer making the cool new piece of technology evil. Instead, you are inviting that technology into a bigger story, into the story of God. And while doing that, you are humbly submitting that form of technology under the rule of God.

Remember to have this conversation: How is a smartphone very good, how is it cursed, and how can we as a family redeem it?

Stay tuned next week for the second important conversation about smartphones to have with your kids.

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