I entered adulthood during the social media revolution. Facebook was just getting started when I started college and within a few years it seemed like everyone was on it. Fast-forward less than 10 years and networks like Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are popular among people of all ages.
The middle school students in my ministry do not use Facebook—Instagram is clearly their top social media choice. If you want to interact with middle schoolers in the digital world, Instagram is the place to do it right now. And while Instagram is a fun place to visually chronicle your life, a mom recently highlighted one of its significant drawbacks.
I entered middle school in the fall of 1999. During the first few days of school I could tell that a lot of the rules had changed—rules like how you should dress, how you should act, and how much gel you should put in your hair. I was caught off-guard by all the changes. I felt like everybody else had been clued into some insider information over the summer that, for whatever reason, had not made its way to me quite yet.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/Gelpi
The biggest change of all was the rules about what you could and couldn’t say. From the very first day of 6th grade I observed that kids swore a lot. It was shocked and so naïve. I was confounded by kids who never swore in 5th grade and then came into 6th grade using four-letter words like they were going out of style.
his is not officially a guest post because I (Joe) am the author. However, the initial idea and specific insights you are about to read come from an interview I did with Josh Denhart, who is a close ministry friend. As a former High School chemistry teacher, Josh melded his love for science and Christ, creating The Amazing Chemistry Show
, a traveling gospel-centered stage show with fire, explosions and foam. Carrying this ministry of chemistry even further, Josh created Science VBS
, an internationally celebrated Vacation Bible School curriculum. Josh’s passion for family ministry is expressed through Science Devotions @ Home
, a resource equipping moms and dads to be the primary spiritual leader in their homes.
My friend Josh told me a story about some of his friends who were married and had a middle school-aged son. Around 7th grade the boy decided to “express himself” by making some strange stylistic choices. He grew out his hair until it was a humongous Afro. He also wore pants with one of the legs cut off at the knee. He called them “ports,” which is what you get when you combine the words “pants” and “shorts.”
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/olly
If you can imagine, the boy looked ridiculous to anyone who had even an ounce of fashion sense and social grace. The boy’s parents were concerned. Why did he choose to have such wild hair and silly-looking pants? Was this a sign of worse things to come? Josh, who was not yet a parent himself, looked on with interest to see how his friends would handle the situation with their son.
I wrote this post a few years ago. The 8th grade students I reference are now high school upperclassmen, but the article’s main idea is timeless.
This past summer the 8th
grade girls in my ministry could not understand how I had not yet seen the movie Frozen. One girl decided it was time for me to see it so she got permission from her dad to host a Frozen viewing party at her house.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/Pavel Losevsky
It turned out to be a mini-youth group event. The girl invited a few 8th grade boys and girls, a female leader, and myself, in addition to her parents who were obligatory invites.
Teenagers by nature will push the envelope. In the process of defining their identity they may resist family rules, try a new hairdo, wear clothes they wouldn’t have dreamed about wearing a few years ago, and listen to music they know drives their parents crazy.
Photo courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com/Ilike
Parents valiantly endure this defiance and can usually find a happy middle ground between needing to control every aspect of their teenagers’ lives and providing their kids the freedom to make their own choices. But there is one type of rebellion that is particularly frightening and arresting for parents of teens.
This guest post is written by Jackie Tysdal
, who had a son in my ministry a few years ago. I asked Jackie to share about how her relationship with her teenage son. I respect and appreciate how she tries to connect with him in healthy, age-appropriate ways. I know you’ll benefit from her wisdom!
You know those opinions and advice you get from everyone once you have kids? When my son was 3 years old someone told me that as he gets older he is going to be more into his dad and forget about mom for a while. I thought “WHAT? Not MY son!”
The real Jackie with her real son!
That was not going to happen to us. I pray he is close to his dad but he is NOT going to drop mom! So, that was the starting point of my intentional relationship with my son. I do not want to be just a teacher and bystander in his life. I want to enjoy life with him and be an active participant on his journey. Here are 5 things I do stay connected with my teenage son:
Parents and youth workers should assume and hope for the best regarding the middle school boys they serve. However, I have seen enough young men stumble into a pornography addiction to know that even the best-behaved boys from the best homes can get caught up in it.
Photo Courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/BlueSkyImages
There is much to be said about teenage boys and pornography. However, in this post I would like to focus on the following 10 ways to help when you find out a middle school boy under your care is struggling with pornography:
Bert Fulks Blog
February 23, 2017
Confession: I live in a Christian bubble. I work at a church, I regularly interact with church families, and most of my close friends go to my church. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for connecting with people outside of the church. This imbalance bothers me because Jesus calls his followers to make disciples of all nations, which includes the people right in front of me. Something is out of whack if I’m not making disciples in my personal life.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/Syda Productions
Over the past year, God has begun to increase my desire to make connections with people who don’t know Jesus. I sense God calling me to increase my personal level of outreach in everyday life.
“They might as well have set a stack of porn magazines in my room.” That’s what my young adult friend said as he reflected on his parents allowing him to have a computer in his bedroom when he was a teenager. Looking back, he knows it was a bad idea.
Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/goldencow_images
During middle and high school he got mired in pornography for a few years because of that computer. His porn addiction made him feel gross and ashamed and he had little self-confidence. His parents’ greatest fault was providing little to no accountability with his computer use.
I know you believe and hope for the best in your middle school son, as you should. However on behalf of all teenage boys I would plead that you don’t give him total freedom with a computer, iPad, iPod, or cell phone. Don’t make an exception for your son and turn a blind eye just because “he’s a good kid” or “he’d never look at porn” or “he’s not like other boys.”