Why can’t they just be kids?

I’m used to my 13-year-old son jumping in the car after school asking me questions about porn, sex, cuss words, etc. You name it. I always pray when I’m in the pick-up line for God to equip me with the right words to his important questions.

The past several weeks, I’ve been helping a lot of families behind-the-scenes. I don’t know any parent living their best life right now. We are struggling. There is a heaviness in our hearts, as parents. The digital world’s effects on our kids are becoming apparently and painfully clear.

Recently, I sat in the car pick-up line and I was done. Empty. As I cried in my car that day, I kept thinking, “Why? Why can’t they just be kids?”

As the cars in front of me started to move, I wiped my eyes and put on my brave face. It was go-time. I braced myself for my son’s heartbreaking questions, once again.

He jumps in the car and excitedly says, “I’m building a birdhouse in woodshop. I’m so glad I was able to go back to school. I really like learning how to build things.”

It took my breath away.

I felt like God reached down from heaven, wrapped His arms around me and said, “Don’t believe the lies. There are parts of his childhood that are normal.”

He recently brought home his final project. Every time I look at that birdhouse, I think, “It’s going to be okay.”

-His world is NOT dictated by porn and highly sexualized content. It’s there, yes, but I’ve taught him how to protect his heart and mind.

-He has real adults and teachers pouring into him. Those stranger social media influencers don’t hold a candle — they don’t get a bigger voice in his life than the real people molding and shaping him. Nope!

-I’m not alone in this. It seriously does take a village.

Yes, our kids are over-exposed. They are growing up too fast. I know it seems overwhelming at times to handle all that’s coming at us. And, it’s okay to grieve that, to cry about it and to even get bitter. Those are real feelings to work through. But, we can’t get stuck there.

I pray God will give you a little sign, like this birdhouse, that it’s all going to be okay.

We know the solution: pour into our kids, build a loving relationship, point them to Jesus and create a healthy dialogue about all of it.

Don’t see the negative. Look for the positive.

Talking to Kids about Suicide

Can we talk for a moment about teen suicide? It’s the 2nd leading cause of death in kids ages 10-24 (Source: National Vital Statistics Report, 2014).

Disclaimer: If your child is suicidal, seek medical attention. Call your family doctor. Find a counselor. The below discussion is about seeds to plant when they are young.

You can have PREVENTIVE conversations with your kids about suicide without describing suicide in detail. Even in elementary school. The goal is to prevent the thought of suicide from ever becoming an option your child considers.

When my child came home at eleven years old and asked me what suicide was, I realized it was important to start planting seeds. Here are a few things we discussed:

1. You’re not trapped at your school. If you’re being made fun of, bullied, etc., it’s important for you to tell me. We can try to resolve the issue together. If we can’t get it resolved, we can look at other school options — private, public, homeschool, magnet, charter school, etc. You’re not stuck there.

2. God has a specific plan for YOUR life. If you are breathing, God has a plan. See Jeremiah 29:11-13.

3. I love you, no matter what. Even if you make a bad choice or choose something I totally disagree with. In fact, you will make mistakes. Life is about learning and growing from those bad choices. I love you regardless. Talk to me when you make mistakes, and we’ll work through it together.

4. The things you struggle with — Satan wants you to keep those hidden. That’s where he can manipulate you. Do not ever suffer in silence. When you are struggling, hurting, doubting, questioning, that is the time to talk with me. Then we can go to the Bible together and find answers, hope and peace. God can change any situation. He can heal, forgive, make new, change hearts — there is always hope. God is so powerful, He can actually even take your mistakes and use them for good!! To help others who are making those same bad choices. See Deuteronomy 23:5 (Curse into Blessing).

5. God created you. You are a masterpiece. He knit you together in the womb. Do not ever let anyone tell you that you don’t have value. God gives you value, not people. You do not find your worth in likes, followers or anything else. See Psalm 139:13.

What would you add to this list?

Additional resources:

At nextTalk, we have an Advisory Council composed of medical professionals that we collaborate with on a regular basis as we cover difficult topics.

If you need help talking to your kids about suicide, below are two different podcasts for your reference:

Child asks, “What is suicide?”

Suicidal Child with Licensed Professional Counselor

Always seek medical attention immediately if your child is struggling.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

A Threesome in an App Rated 9+. What?

Last month, my then 9yo son was playing a 9+ app — a cool little bunny app called “Bunny Evolution.” I can find nothing inappropriate with the game, and there is no connectivity to other players which makes it an ideal app for younger kids.

However, as my little boy was playing the harmless bunny app, these ads popped up for another app called, “Choices.”

As you can see from the top picture, a girl’s boyfriend is cheating on her with another man. One of the options is to join them for a threesome. Join them?!?!

Parent alert: Ads can pop-up in games and are not restricted to the same age category as the app your child is playing.

Here is a description of the “Choices” app:

Parent alert: Age ratings are sometimes incorrect. The Choices app (which have these scenarios) are rated 12+. I’m sorry, no. In my opinion, that’s not appropriate for a 6th or 7th grader. Not even close

I know a post like this can raise a lot of fear in parents. Trust me, I’ve tried to bubble-wrap my kids. I’ve tried to say “no” to all technology. It didn’t work. My kids were still exposed to things from other kids. But, please don’t panic. I’ve found the solution is to create a culture of open communication in our homes. It sounds so simple, but the process of getting our kids to tell us what they’re really seeing and hearing online is a complicated process. I wrote a whole book about it. You can read the intro for free by clicking here.

By the way, my son reported all of this to me immediately. I told him, “I’m so proud of you for telling me and protecting your own heart and mind.” I’m not going to punish him and take away technology when he did everything right.

Do you have a similar story about ads in apps? If you do, please leave a comment and screenshots, if you have them.

Cyberparenting has blindsided all of us. We need to work together. Connect with us at nextTalk, a nonprofit organization providing practical solutions on how to keep our kids safe online.