You can't afford "private" anymore

One of the joys of being involved in student ministry has been the opportunity to engage the parents of my students in regular conversations. Once a month as the students meet in their small groups I gather the parents together for our own small group of sorts. We have spent portions of that time covering the same discipleship material that their students are discussing, but my primary goal is to use this as an opportunity to minister to these parents so that they in turn can minister more effectively to their own children.

The other night the topic for our student discussion was "Identity" and how our identities are established by God (Psalm 139) and rooted in Christ. We too often try to mask our identities with other things - relationships, popularity, athletic or academic achievements, humor, etc. - which in turn communicates to God that we are not satisfied with who He has created us to be.

As the students broke up into their small groups to discuss the masks that they normally hide behind and how they can be rid of them, I broke the adults up into their own small groups. They discussed amongst themselves not only the masks that they hid behind when they were younger but also the masks that they see as prevalent in the lives of their own children today. It was amazing to see and hear the transparency displayed by this group of parents!

I brought the parents back together as a large group for the remaining time because I wanted to share with them one of the most harmful masks that students are prone to hide behind: A distorted view of sexuality. Consider these statistics that I shared with them:
  • By age 18, 93% of all boys and 62% of all girls have been exposed to internet pornography
  • 31% of all teenagers admit to having "sexted" (sending sexual images of themselves via text or Snap Chat), and of that number 56% are girls
  • 1 of every 5 mobile search made is for pornography
When asked for a show of hands, almost all of the parents in the room admitted that their child had either a smart phone or an iPod type device and none of their children paid the full bill either for the device, the service, or the WiFi connection. With those facts in mind, I was able to help lay the groundwork for these parents that I now wish to share with you regarding what our role should be concerning "privacy" issues and our children.

It's perfectly okay to creep - to stalk - your kids
Until your children are out of the house, then what happens under your roof is your business. Since neither my kids nor your kids would own an electronic device unless we provided them with the device itself or the service, make it a priority to regularly check their phones, iPods, tablets, computers, etc. I don't know about you, but I want to know who my son or daughter is sending and receiving texts from. What websites are they frequenting and who are their "friends" on social media sites. I reserve the right to "unfriend" or "unfollow" anyone who posts unwholesome words or pictures that can influence my child. If my child is involved in teenage drama via text messages, then I need to know that too. In short, there is nothing that we can leave to chance.

Don't expect from your kids what you don't demand from yourself
We all shake our heads at some of the trashy shows and commercials that blaze across our TV and computer screens and there is enough nasty music out there to make even a demon blush with shame. So why should we expect our children to avoid those same harmful influences if we won't agree to the same standard that we are demanding of them? It's a bit ridiculous if one insists that his child not smoke as he flips the ash off of his cigarette, or if one demands that her child not use profanity as she drops F-bombs all over the place. That makes no sense, right? Well, neither does it make sense for parents to set standards for their children that they have no intention of meeting for themselves. If you don't want your children to do it, then you best be avoiding it too!

If you don't lead your kids, then someone else will
Some of you may think that your kids will figure all of this out if we just leave them alone, and you are right - someone else who does not love or care for them as you do will lead them in a different direction! No matter how mature or equipped for life that you believe your child to be, they all still follow the lead of others. This is how we all learn and grow. As a student pastor, I relish the chance to speak truth into the lives of my students and to guide them to make healthy Christ-honoring decisions, but I have no desire to play the roll of parent in their lives. If you are a parent, that is your job. True, there may be times when a parent is not around or invested in their child's life, but if you are reading this and you have a child, chances are you are more than capable of investing in them. So invest! You may think that your child does not want your guidance or leadership but nothing could be farther from the truth. Studies show that teenagers look up to their parents more than anyone else and primarily rely on them for guidance and direction. Remember, if you don't lead them, someone else will!

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