Digital literacy educator and parent coach Carol Loi recently conducted two workshops for CityFamilies, together with her daughter Nicole Soh, addressing an online audience of nearly 200 parents from City Harvest Church.
The use of technology by children and youth is one of the thorniest issues in modern-day parenting. Christian parents face the even greater pressure of raising their children to be righteous in an increasingly confusing digital landscape, populated by YouTube, social media and online gaming.
When CityFamilies held an online parenting workshop titled “A (Super) Crash Course In Worldview and Culture” on September 18 and 25, the turnout of close to 200 parents was one of the largest the church had seen. Most of the participants were parents of primary school and preschool children, with parents of teenagers making up 30 percent of the audience.
The speakers were mother and daughter duo, Carol Loi and Nicole Soh, both members of CHC. Carol candidly shared her personal experience with teenage angst and rebellion: growing up in a Christian family that faithfully attended church on weekends, she had one day, as a teen, refused to get out of the car at the church parking lot. She had many questions about the faith that had gone unanswered, leading her to conclude that she did not need religion. She would live a moral life without God. It was some 20 years later that Carol yearned to have Jesus back in her life.
Carol explained that the workshop was to help parents understand why God has placed them in this cultural moment, and to teach them how to deal with issues of technology and sexuality.
CAPTURING THIS CULTURAL MOMENT
Through a poll, the participants identified three key issues of concern they had with today’s culture to be relationship with God, screen time management and sexuality.
Carol established that culture is what people decide is said and not said; done or not done. People contribute to culture and culture shapes people. She told her audience encouragingly that God has provided the roadmap for believers to navigate this cultural moment.
Nicole joined the conversation with a suggestion that, instead of asking where to draw the line when it comes to culture, the question that should be asked is: “What is our salvation for?”
That believers are alive during cultural moment is not a matter of chance, said Carol. They need to identify what have they been uniquely gifted with that can shape culture.
“We must remind ourselves of God’s grand story of the creation, fall, redemption and restoration of mankind,” said Carol. “We are saved in this cultural moment for hopeful engagement.”
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD
Parents have the role and power to shape culture through building the culture in their own homes, said Carol, adding that they can do this by reconciling their children back to God, building faith at home, and equipping their children with resilience in their spiritual walk as they face challenges to their faith in God.
“Teach them to choose conviction, not compromise,” said Carol.
Everyone, including young children, has a worldview—a picture of one’s reality. It is imperative that parents have conversations with children about different worldviews so that they can appreciate and understand differences within the community.
Through dialogue, parents empower and equip children with knowledge and understanding.
“Kids get pulled in every direction by voices they hear from social media, friends, family and church,” Carol pointed out. “They need to know that they are not alone in this journey of complexities.”
When piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, one usually starts with the corners followed by the edges, and then one works out where the rest of it fits. Carol likened the corners and edges to worldview questions such as: “Where did everything come from?”, “Who am I and why am I here?”, “How should I live my life?”, “What happens when I die?”
Carol urged parents to allow “conversations in a safe space” with their children, and to journey and find answers together.
She asserted: “God has called parents to be the disciplers of our children—not Harvest Kidz or their youth cell groups. Our children are the first ones we reconcile back to God. We often think we need to train our children, but the truth is, in staying one step ahead of our children, God is really using our children to train us.”
One parent asked, “What happens when a child’s worldview differs from his or her parents’?”
“As parents, we have to be the ambassadors of Christ to our children,” Carol encouraged. “Keep building your relationship and keep having conversations. Trust God and give your children space to figure out their path. Keep praying for them and be that living example for them. They may not read the Bible or go to church, but they can see God’s love in us.”
She urged parents to protect the relationship, rather than win the argument.
ESTABLISHING ONE’S WORLDVIEW
Every form of media—whether it’s a movie, a YouTube video, children’s books, or a social media post—carries a worldview. The key worldview that everyone needs to establish is the question of where we come from.
“Where you come from tells you so much about who you are, what you are and Whose you are,” said Carol, quoting Brett Kunkle, founder of Maven Truth, a movement to equip the next generation in truth, goodness and beauty.
When youth believe there is a Creator, then there exists a purpose for their existence.
When they find meaning and purpose in their lives, they will not be easily swayed by culture.
“We are now in this cultural moment where there is a battle for our identity—a battle for our children’s identity,” Carol pointed out.
Parents can gain a better grasp of the issues Christian youth deal with through two Instagram accounts that Nicole points to—@philotimo.official and @kallosmag. Both are channels for youth to explore issues youth care about from a biblical perspective.
Together with their children, parents must explore with their children the areas they are gifted in, and to challenge their children to use these gifts as a platform to be a voice in culture.
“Call out the strengths in our children, anchor them in faith with a Christian worldview, send them out to go and redeem and reconcile culture back to God—post by post, conversation by conversation,” Carol exhorted.
Another question posted on the live chat was: “What kind of conversations do you have as a family?”
Carol and Nicole revealed: “Abortion, LGBTQ+, and more. We go through the questions and learn from one another. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all the answers,” they say.
Carol was forthright that this is a development journey that may meet with resistance and frustrations along the way. But parents must keep sowing into their children’s lives and praying for them to figure out for themselves where God fits in all of this. It is also important that parents try to go deeper and understand their children’s values and beliefs, and how they see God and their world
“When we help them figure out their origin, identity and purpose, we can help our children make sense of what they are going through,” said Carol.
LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX
In the absence of a voice on the topic of sex, children will get their attitudes, values and information from social media. Carol showed examples of songs and videos with sexually explicit content and told the parents in the workshop that such material is easily available on social media.
Parents must take authority in this area. Topics on sex and sexual orientation are conversations that need to be conducted at home. In their own household, Carol and her husband explain to their daughters that sex is meant to be bewteen two people in the context of a marriage and family. Father and mother are meant to reflect God’s goodness.
Carol has also explained to her daughters that God doesn’t classify people according to sexuality; instead, God wants us to have holy sexuality.
She stressed that parents can no longer be silent about sexuality or leave it to the school’s sexual education program to explain it to their children. This is because of the complexities of the subject coupled with many conflicting voices in the world. Carol likened this conversation to eating fish. As parents, we teach our children to extract the meat and leave out the bones. Teaching children about culture is teaching them to accept the good and leave behind the bad. Ultimately, we want our children to learn how to build their own filters in life, constantly aware and upholding God’s design and purpose for their lives.
5 TRADE-OFFS OF MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY
Media and technology normalize certain values and attitudes—not necessarily those that Christians uphold. This doesn’t mean that Christians should avoid media and technology altogether. Instead, approaching it with wisdom and awareness that it is not neutral, but has the power to intentionally guide our children towards certain values or form certain habits.
Carol explained five “trade-offs” that media and technology will demand:
1. Media and technology offer information instead of knowledge and wisdom. Information doesn’t translate to knowing what to do in a given situation, so there is a need to move the knowledge from head to heart.
What to do: Move knowledge from the head to the heart through open inter-generational conversations.
2. Social media creates an image of the ideal person to be or the ideal situation to have. But often these are not the image and representation of Christ. As believers, we are made in the image of God and we believe what the Bible says about how God sees us.
What to do: Have honest conversations and set rules for your children. But Carol cautioned against plying a litany of rules upon children without explaining why limits need to be set. When your children can understand the “why”, they are more likely to listen to what you are saying.
3. Technology sells choices, and not contentment. Contentment is a discipline that is opposed to the habit of continually wanting more. Believers must cultivate and attitude of gratitude, and this is best imparted to children at a young age, said Carol.
What to do: Parents can form a habit of giving thanks by making it a daily conversation at mealtimes, or writing notes of gratitude to one other in the family.
4. Technology offers distraction verses contemplation. This is probably one of the largest trade-offs of technology—and parents need to check themselves. Carol cautioned against the use of devices at mealtimes and during moments when there is a window to engage the children.
What to do: Make contemplation intentional, and this may mean setting aside all devices for that period of time.
5. Technology eschews Isolation for community. But there is great value in being alone with God and not always needing the company of others. Nicole showed some of her drawings and Instagram posts that came out of solitude with God.
What to do: Take time to reflect on God and have mindfulness towards God.