Books I’ve Read Recently

31804439._UY400_SS400_12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Smartphones have changed the landscape of our culture. Phones have impacted the way we communicate, view ourselves, work, and even interact with the Bible. All these things and more are discussed in this helpful book. In this book, Reinke walks through twelve ways the smartphone is changing us. Before getting into the twelve reasons he offers a very insightful and helpful theology of technology. As far as I’m aware that isn’t something that has been written about that much in other places. He does an excellent job of laying the foundation and then diving into the twelve reasons. I’m not going to list all twelve reasons here but there were a few that stood out to me as they where the most convicting in my own life – ignore people around us, loss of literacy, and are comfortable withs secret vices. My favorite thing about this book is how Reinke never encourages the read to just get rid of their smartphone as a way to fix the problems and issues it had created. In some cases that might be a good option for people (Reinke helps the reader walk through a few questions to consider if that should be their next step or not) but it may be that many people just need to make changes and adjustments to use their smartphones more wisely. Overall this was an excellent book I would recommend to anyone who uses a smartphone (which is almost everyone).

51EC4hmHOhL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgConscience by Andrew Naseli & J.D. Crowley. I’ve never seen or read a book on the topic of conscience before so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. As someone who grew up in a culture that I was very legalistic I have always struggled with matters of the conscience and the Christian life. This book was extremely helpful in my journey out of that culture and into a better understanding of the freedom we have in Christ. The first few chapters of this book deal with defining conscience and tracing it’s appearance throughout the Bible. Once the foundation is laid the obvious questions about living as a Christian with a conscience as well as how to relate to other Christians when our consciences don’t agree. In this book the Christian is encouraged to not ignore their conscience but to calibrate it so it’s in line with God and His Word. The authors rightly point out that people tend to have one of two extremes when it comes to their conscience – insensitive (they ignore its warnings and end up with what Paul calls a “seared” conscience) or oversensitive (they pack it with more rules than God intends and make it more about matters of opinions rather than truth). Neither of those are good. God has given us a conscience and we should use it rightly, which requires us to calibrate it with God’s Word. I’d encourage every Christian to take the time to read this important book.

6989A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. I’ve aways been a fan of Peterson. His consistency and commitment over the years have been something of a model of what a pastor should be about. He is a man who loves God and His Word. These things are evident in this classic book. The book serves as almost a practical commentary on Psalms 120-134 (Songs of Ascents). Peterson points out that “these fifteen Psalms were likely sung, possibly in sequence, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for the great worship festivals” (page 18). Peterson walks through these fifteen chapters and explains what each ones teaches us about an area of following Jesus. As with all his writings, these pages contain a pastoral tone from Peterson and the reader will finish this book convicted for sure but encouraged to continue walking with Jesus.

Two other books I recently finished but chose to not review here are Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Both were great read I’d highly recommend.

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Ask.fm – What Parents Need to Know

Ask.fm, a social networking platform where anonymous users can ask other users questions, was released a few years ago, but is now gaining a lot of popularity among teenagers. Ask.fm integrates with Twitter and Facebook which makes it easy to use and share with others. Also, they have an app so you can use Ask.fm on your smartphone. Everyday I see multiple teens pop up on my Twitter feed using Ask.fm.

With Ask.fm becoming so popular, what do parents needs to know about this social network? Really there isn’t much to know about it. It’s simple, easy to use, and makes for fun interaction among anonymous users. However, there are three issues that parents need to be aware of when it comes to Ask.fm.

Safety. The big issue here is safety. The unsafe part comes in when you have no clue who is asking you questions because they are anonymous. Ask.fm does have a safety page on their website that offers practical guidelines on how to be safe while using their service (click here to view that page). They also offer the option of turning off anonymous questions. In their words, “this way nobody will be able to ask you anonymously and you’ll have a better control over content you receive in your Inbox.” However, with all of this said, your profile and content stays public.

Cyberbullying. The biggest issue when it comes to Ask.fm is cyberbullying. Because you can ask questions (or make statements) and stay anonymous, cyberbullying is becoming very popular on Ask.fm. So much so that there have been teenagers who have committed suicide due to bullying that was linked to Ask.fm (click here to read more about that). Cyberbullying is becoming a huge issue with among teens and social networks sites are making bullying that much easier. In my opinion, the biggest issue with Ask.fm is the bullying aspect.

Inappropriate Conversation. Another issue is the inappropriate, most of the time sexual, conversation that often takes place on Ask.fm through questions and answers. Through this network, teens can ask anything they want without having to tell who they are. What more could they ask for if they want to make sexual comments. I have seen this trend on most teens Ask.fm accounts that I have looked at.

These are just a few things parents need to know about Ask.fm. Please remember social media is an amoral thing (it’s neither bad or good). Don’t throw out all social media just because some people use it in a bad way. Teach your teenagers to use Ask.fm in a way that honors and glorifies God.

Social Media Parent Resources

LogosSocial media is huge! Teens eat, breathe, and sleep social media. Someone has said that this generation is the “technology everywhere generation.” No matter where or what they are teens are doing, they are usually connected to some social media network. Whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they are hyper-connected and social media has become how they do life. This creates a huge task for parents. The goal of parenting is not just protecting, it’s preparing teens to become Godly adults who make wise choices. So parents must learn how to parent their teens in regards to social media. To do that parents must not watch from the side lines or just protect their teens from having a Facebook or Twitter. They must become missionaries into the teen social media culture. They must know it, navigate it, and be in it.

I did a seminar last night for our CCC parents called “Social Media 101.” In that seminar I shared some resources with the parents and I want to share those here so those parents have a place to get the resources electronically as well as for parents who may have not been at the seminar. We did film the seminar and I should have the video of it posted here on my site next week. Below are resources for parents that will help them understand social media and give them some guidance in how to parent their teens in regard to social media.

Parent Tip Sheet: Common Sense on Social Networking. This is  great handout that explains what social media is, why it matters to teens, and advice for parents regarding social media.

Parent Tip Sheet: Common Sense on Facebook. This is much like the handout above, but focused only on Facebook. It explains how Facebook works, how teens use it, and advice for parents regarding Facebook.

Recommended Facebook Privacy Setting for Teens. This is a great resource that gives the recommended privacy settings for a teens Facebook account. Many teens don’t realize how much personal info they are sharing with complete strangers. This will help parents set up the right privacy controls for their teens Facebook.

Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. Unlike the resources above, this one is not free, but it’s worth paying for. It’s a helpful little book that explains what social media is, how it works, how teens are using it, what teens should know about it, and advice for parents on how to teach their teens to use it wisely. This is the best book out there for parents regarding social media. Click here to read my short review of it.

Community Discussion Guide: Social Networks. This is a creative resource that is designed to help you have a discussion about social media with other parents and even your teen. Includes various case studies and questions that foster good discussion about social media.

If you have any resources that I did not mention above that you have found helpful feel free to share them in the comment section below. Also, feel free to pass these resources along to other parents so they can use them in parenting their teens as well.

Book Review: Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media

A-Parent-s-Guide-to-Understanding-Social-Media-Oestreicher-Mark-9780764484636In preparation for a parent seminar on social media I am doing this week, I picked up a copy of Mark Oestreicher and Adam Mclane’s  little book Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. I was blown away by this book! It’s a short book (I read it in about 45 min.), but it’s loaded with facts about social media sites, what teens are doing on those sites, and practical advice for how parents can handle social media when it comes to their teens.

This helpful book informs parents about everything they need to know about social media and their teens. It tells them what social media is all about, what teens are actually doing with social media, the psychological impact of social media on teens, what parents need to remind their teens about social media, and of course practical advice on how to deal with social media and their teenager in regards to their parenting.

The main thing I enjoyed about this book and why I would highly recommend it to parents is how Mark and Adam wrote it with preparation in mind rather than protection. “The focus of this book, then, isn’t ‘circle the wagons’ mentality. If you want a book to tell you the internet is evil, you can find that elsewhere. Our goal, instead, is to move from building walls of protection to shaping a focus on understanding social media and earning trust that moves your teenager towards adulthood” (page 8-9). Did you catch that? Mark and Adam says the main goal of parenting is not just protecting your kids, but preparing them to move towards adulthood. I couldn’t agree more. I too believe that parents must move from a mindset of protecting their teens to a mindset of preparing their teens. Click here to read a post I wrote on this topic a few months ago.

Another thing I liked about this book was the amount of practical advice Mark and Adam shared. They wrote a whole chapter on practical ways you can parent your teen when it comes to social media. Some of the advice they give is things they did or do with their teens or something they have heard of other parents doing. Either way, they share easy ways to help understand and communicate with your teen about social media.

In my opinion, this is a must have book for parents of teens. Teens are on social media networks and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Parents cannot just hope it will go away and pray their teens use it wisely. Parents need to understand and engage social media in a way that they know what their teens are doing as well as to know how to prepare them for adulthood. Now go grab a copy of this book for yourself! Click here to purchase it for only a few bucks on Amazon.

Teen Sexting Infograph

Last week I ran across a very eye opening infograph about sexting on Youth Ministry Media’s blog. I want to share that infograph here on my blog to help inform parents and other youth workers about the popularity of sexting among our teenagers. Sexting is basically using standard text messaging to have sexual conversations as well as sending semi-nude or nude pictures to someone. With popular apps like Snapchat sexting is becoming more popular and easy for our teenagers to engage in. Here are some major things that stand out to me about the infograph on sexting below:

86% of sexters never get caught. Many parents and youth workers may say sexting isn’t a problem with their teens, but if this stat is true than they probably do and you just don’t know about it! Teens that sext usually don’t get caught.

53% of teens that sext are girls. This one blew my mind. Everyone thinks it’s the teen guys who struggle with lust and porn so it would only make sense they are the ones enaging in sexting the most. But it’s the girls who are leading the way in sexting! We must not target only the guys when it comes to this issue. Teen girls are just as, or even more, engaged in it than teen guys.

Teen Sexting Infograph

So what should parents and youth workers do with this information? First, don’t assume your teens are not sexting. Don’t wait until they get caught to have the tough conversations with them. Talk to them about why sexting is wrong and the devastating consequences that can come from engaging in it. Second, protect your teens. Don’t give them a smart phone (or regular phone for that matter) and let them have free reign. Set up boundaries and rules to help protect them from things like sexting. They may not like it at the moment, but as they grow up and walk with Jesus they will be grateful.