The LightBrarian Tricia Mueller

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Learning to Fly Right Side Up: A Guide for Parents in a Digital World 

How Do Parents Keep Their Heads on Straight When the World Has Flipped Its Lid

I am a Jesus follower, a parent, and a school librarian (and a few other things, too). What those three roles boil down to is that I spend time with Jesus, hang out with my family, get to hang out with other people’s amazing kids, and read a lot of books.  In addition, my role as a modern day high school librarian has had me knee deep in new technology, especially when it comes to teens.  My interests – Christianity, children’s and young adult literature, and what my kid and other kids are doing with digital media.

I love watching kids engage and get excited about a good book, just like I love watching them manipulate and create stories and projects using the latest app they’ve downloaded to their laptop or phone.  On the other hand, as a teacher and parent, I see a side of digital and social media that sometimes scares me – I mean really scares me.

I’m constantly asking myself, how do we as parents and teachers create boundaries around a communication platform that seems limitless?  In addition, we’re learning how and when to use ever-changing technologies right along with our kids.  You get it.  You’re in the midst of this messy parenting thing, too.  I don’t need to go on…

 But Some Things Stay the Same

As I’ve talked to my daughter (age 11) about some of her experiences online and had conversations with friends concerning their families’ technology use, one fact rose to the surface.  While technology is changing at lightning speed, people and the actual problems they face have pretty much so stayed the same.  

As a Christian, the Bible, prayer, and community are all important components in how I handle life choices.  So the question is, how can we apply those three components to the ever-changing, always challenging digital media dilemmas we face today?

 Flying Right Side Up in an Upside Down World

Right side up parents in digital world

In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard describes a fighter pilot who, after turning for a vertical ascent, crashed straight into the ground because she believed she was flying right side up when she was actually flying upside down.   Willard compares our world today to the fighter pilot. Many of us are moving at top speed with no idea which way is up and which way is down.  The world’s moral compass points in all different directions and our media platforms are a showcase for all manner of thoughts and behaviors.  None of these human behaviors are new – just more accessible to our kids and to us.

Two thousand years ago, the world moved at a much slower pace, but society’s problems and those of the human heart were the same as they are today.  The ancient world was also upside down in every way.

Enter Jesus, who began teaching people to walk right side up from the very beginning of his ministry.  His story, told throughout the New Testament of the Bible, recounts how he built relationships with broken people of all races, religions, and social classes.  He ate meals with them, prayed with them, cried with them, had awkward conversations with them, and even called out the fakes and liars among them.

Jesus taught his followers that it was more important for them to change the character of their hearts than to put on a good show for others.  His two great commandments were: love God with all you’ve got and love your neighbor as yourself.

As far as I’m concerned, that sounds like the right way to live.  I want to be the kind of parent who models that kind of living.  I also want to point my kids to Jesus, the only one who lived that life perfectly.

Package Deal

In the end, Jesus became the ultimate example of love and sacrifice by dying for us on a cross and conquering sin and death three days later through his resurrection.  This goes beyond great teacher status.  Sometimes people only focus on the death and resurrection part of Jesus’ life, because for believers it means they will make it to Heaven.  But really, both Jesus’ life and death ushered in a new Kingdom on earth.

During his life, Jesus walked in this new Kingdom and taught his followers how to do the same.  Through his crucifixion and resurrection, he defeated sin and death.  For those who believe in him, he offers the opportunity to live in this new Kingdom.  In addition, he offers his grace and forgiveness for the times we crash and burn. Because unfortunately, we do still live in a world that flies upside down, and Christians aren’t immune to crashing.  In fact, Christians should admit they’re horrible pilots and need Jesus’ navigational system on board at all times.  Jesus’ love and grace propels them forward, in a world that is pulling them in all different directions.

As we learn how to navigate this new digital frontier, parents have to remember we have access to this same forgiveness and grace for ourselves and for our kids.  Digital and social media is literally a whole new world for all of us – sometimes exhilarating and sometimes scary – definitely full of wrong turns and pitfalls.

What Does That All Mean for This Website?

right side up parents digital

Whether I’m looking at life as a parent, wife, librarian, friend, co-worker, family member, etc.  I have increasingly turned to scripture, prayer, and worship to inform my decisions.  I take the whole flying right side up thing very seriously.  As a result, the framework we will be exploring to help parents and kids build strong relationships and deal with challenges related to digital media will center on Christ and his teachings.

That doesn’t mean that you have to be a Christian to glean great information from this site.  In fact, when you look at the basic ideas we will be talking about, they are really common sense.

Know now that I will definitely crash and burn at some point, and as we get to know each other better, I’ll share some of my parenting crash and burn stories – Maybe you will feel comfortable sharing, too.  After all, we are all muddling our way through this together.  This new frontier is always changing, and it is different than anything any parent or any human being has ever seen before.

Some Resources

If you’re interested in reading more about faith, kids, and parenting, here are two great resources.  Look for a more detailed list in a future post…

Sticky Faith: Fuller Youth InstituteThe Fuller Youth Institute has done a great deal of research concerning young adults and their faith patterns after leaving high school.  Sticky Faith and their new book Right Click (dealing specifically with digital media) address the factors that are most likely to help teens build a personal relationship with Christ and a faith that sticks beyond high school.

Jesus-Centered Parenting in a Child-Centered World:  The Gospel Coalition – Trevin Wax interviews J.D. and Veronica Greear, the authors of a Bible Study called Ready to Launch.  The study focuses on raising your children for God’s purposes in this world.

Some Broad Topics We Will Cover

This is not an exhaustive list and is definitely a work in progress, but it is a broad overview of some of the topics I hope to address.

  •  Communication Between Parents about Digital Media
  • Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives – Miscommunications Between Generations
  • Communicating and Engaging with Your Kids
  • Media Uses
  • Setting Boundaries
  • Discernment in a Digital World
  • Handling the Crash and Burn

I would love to know what you think.  Do you have other issues or frustrations you would like to talk about?

What is your biggest frustration when it comes to handling digital and social media in your household?

Please leave your comments below.

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