For Adults

My Kid Can Do What On Her Phone??

by Sarah Sargent

Would you ever drop your teenage daughter off in a foreign city you know nothing about, and expect her to navigate her way home—safely—alone?

Of course not!

However, we often do that every day. Even if you’re not familiar with much more on the Internet beyond Facebook and Yahoo, your kids are familiar with a lot more. You may know little to nothing about what your daughter browses on the Internet or what she does on the apps she downloads on her smartphone. Yet you expect she will make all the right choices, possibly without any guidance. You know how corrupt our world can be, and the online world is no different. Don’t leave your daughter unexposed. Take a look at these parental control software and apps to protect your children while they are online.

uKnowKids

uKnowKids is a service that helps parents monitor their kids’ digital activities, including social media, texting, call & FaceTime monitoring, photos, and app usage.

Comparitech, a site that researches and compares tech products, recommended uKnowKids, saying its “ability to reach into every single aspect of a social media account is unheard of among any of its competitors, and so from that standpoint we’d have to give it a 10/10 with extra flourish on top.”

Pros

  • Exceptionally designed web dashboard
  • Simple setup procedure
  • Extensive social network monitoring features
  • The only iOS app with complete monitoring
  • 7-day free trial

Cons

  • No web filtering options
  • No internet blocking
  • Support options are limited

Qustodio

Qustodio is a parental control app that allows you to set limits, block certain sites, and monitor activity on your child’s phone. PCMag notes that parental control tools need to be able to work on mobile devices, which Qustodio does.

Pros

  • Location tracking
  • Schedule internet, device, and app usage
    Supports secure browsing

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Social monitoring only tracks Facebook
  • Some iOS limitations

My personal recommendation is to use these two software options simultaneously. uKnowKids is better for monitoring social media, but that’s not the only danger available to your children, and Qustodio is a great option for filtering websites. Neither of these options are cheap–but if you are financially able to utilize these resources, they will be well worth it.

Internet and technology are part of our everyday lives. But please understand that as useful as technology is, it can still be dangerous. If you have decided to allow your child access to the Internet or to have a smartphone, please know that this decision can have both lifelong and eternal repercussions.

Talk frequently with your kids about how they are using technology and their phones. What apps are their favorite? What sites are their friends on? What’s the newest game kids are playing on their phones? Actually listen to what they say during these discussions.

Then, do your research. If you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask Google it! Like “the sex talk,” this shouldn’t be a one time conversation. Make tech talks with your kids a regular topics of your conversations at home.

Our companion blog post, written specifically for your daughter, contains information about the ways your smartphone can track and store data about her photos, browsing habits, and more. Read and share the blog post here.

My last tip for you is to seek a Christian perspective on all things related to your tween or teen child’s culture. Stay in the loop on trends, apps, and the latest topics your teen might come home with. I highly recommend the Axis weekly e-newsletter, which offers a current list of trends and changes in teen culture each week. From the music video your daughter’s friend just showed her last night, to the app all the kids at school are downloading, stay on top of trends so you can be prepared to deal with potential issues.

Conversation Starters

With all of these apps and software options, don’t forget that it’s also incredibly important to talk to your daughter. Don’t hide her away in her room under lock and key just because the world is a dangerous place. Start conversations with your kids to help them learn how to navigate the digital world they live in.

  • Would Jesus follow you on Instagram?
  • Have you ever experienced Cyberbullying? (And if you haven’t, has any of your friends?)
  • Have you read the Shine! girl’s tech blog? Have you made sure to off those settings on your devices?

For additional software options to monitor screens and block and filter websites, check out this list of PC Magazine’s Best Parental Control Software of 2018.

For Girls

My Phone Is Doing What??

by Sarah Sargent

Girls, I admit it. I might be 15+ years older than most of you reading this, but I know we have at least one thing in common. We both LOVE our smartphones. Just a couple of years ago, I tried to convince my dad, who is also my pastor, to let me drive my whole Sunday School class in the church van back to my house because I forgot my phone. Did I mention I was the Sunday School teacher?? (I still can’t believe he said no.)

Our phones are great, but they can also be very dangerous. They can be dangerous to you because of what you are able to access, but they are also dangerous because of what you can share. The biggest dangers with smartphones lie in the information you are inadvertently sharing. In an ideal world, each of you reading this blog wouldn’t need any of the tips I’m about to share, because that means you are already safe. Unfortunately, many of the settings on smartphones are already set before you even turn on your screen, so you might not even be aware of all the different types of information you are sharing! Let’s explore some changes you can make to ensure your safety in the smartphone world.

The two worst privacy offenders on your phone are geotagging and analytics. What?? If you’ve never even heard of those two things, you’re not the only one. These two options, both in the settings on your phone, enable others to gain information about you, including where you live, go to school, and your habits.

Luckily, there are some simple changes you can make to keep you safe from sexual predators, stalkers, and anyone seeking to gain private information about you.

Geotagging

Geotagging is a typically automatic setting that tracks the location and time of every photo you take on your phone. When enabled, your phone will attach this information, and more, to every picture you take.

Before we get too far, let me say that disabling this feature does not prevent you from tagging your location on social media. You can still tag locations on Instagram and Facebook! Disabling geotagging will just stop your phone or tablet camera from tracking location information automatically. You might be thinking, why is this relevant and why should I disable this feature on my phone?

Information saved with geotagging will be accessible to anyone you send the photo to, or anyone who views it on social media. Here’s the brutal reality: without geotagging disabled, that cute selfie you took of you and your bestie on your bed? The one gaining likes by the hundreds from your Instagram followers? That same image has allowed the sexual predator who lives in your neighborhood to not only see the address where the photo was taken, but they can use the EXIF data from the geotag to find the exact location in the house where your bedroom is located. A stalker could spend time watching your daily patterns through your photos and learn your patterns, and use those habits to figure out the best time to approach you alone. I know I have painted a worst-case scenario for you, but this could easily become reality when you allow your phone to track your photos through geotagging.

To disable geotagging:

iPhones/iPads:

  • Go into the settings section
  • Choose Privacy, then choose Location Services.
  • Scroll down and select the camera app. You will then have two options, never and while using the app. Choose the option marked never.

Androids:

  • Open the Camera app on your phone.
  • Tap on Settings.
  • Scroll down to the “Geo tags or Location tag” option and disable it.

If neither of these options work for your phone: Google “how do I turn geotagging off on a [insert phone model]” and you should be able to find instructions for your specific phone.

Advertising Trackers and Analytics

In addition to geotagging, your phone also automatically tracks other personal information, which can even be sold to developers and technology companies. Although Apple has recently cracked down on privacy rules for ads and advertisers, you need to do your part to protect your information.

A celebrity I follow on Instagram recently shared her own story of her personal cell phone number being leaked online after an app developer/advertiser bought a list of cell phone users. Unfortunately, many seemingly harmless apps on your phone can gather data from your phone, like your photos and contacts, and then sell it to advertisers or other companies. We live in a digital world, and we need to be just as cautious online as we are in “real” life. You don’t want your images and information to fall into the wrong hands simply because you didn’t do your part to prevent it. Like geotagging, you can also turn off your phone’s ability to track and share information you don’t give it permission to. Turning off these settings will also stop your phone from selling your information to businesses.

To disable ad tracking and information sharing:

iPhones/iPads:

  • Go into the settings section
  • Choose Privacy, then scroll down and choose Analytics.
  • Turn off the option that says Share iPhone Analytics. (Green is on, off is not green.)
  • Go back to Privacy and choose the next option: Advertising
  • Turn off (not green) the option that says Limit Ad Tracking.

Androids:

  • Go to the settings section of your phone.
  • Choose the option that says “Google Settings.”
  • Every Android has it, but it is often labeled differently for different models. It could be called “Google,” “Google Settings,” or “Google Services.”
  • Once you’ve found the right one, choose the “Ads” menu.
  • Choose the option that says “Opt out of Ads personalization.”
  • Choose OK when the confirmation box appears.

If neither of these options work for your phone: Google “how do I turn off data sharing through apps and ads on a [insert phone model]” and you should be able to find instructions for your specific phone.

The Internet, smartphones, and technology can be incredible blessings. They can also be the starting point for nightmare scenarios. Your family is working hard to keep you safe. Do your part and disable these features in your devices.

Share this blog post with your friends to help them disable these features on their phones, too!

For Adults

Heart vs. Mirror

By Diana Bryant

One of the first things we realize as parents is that our children watch every move we make. They learn by imitating us. It’s how they learn to talk and walk. Eventually, they even pick up our attitudes and habits, both good and not-so-good.

What we actually do speaks much louder to our daughters than anything we say.

Many of us have a love-hate relationship with the mirror or the scale. If you’re a mom, your daughter is watching you very closely, even when you think she can’t see. Our culture tells your daughter that her body was made to be admired and pampered and that beauty is the guarantee to popularity and success.

We may quote verses about “being fearfully and wonderfully made” from Psalm 139:14 and remind her that “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart” from I Samuel 16:7 … but what she will memorize is how we approach our own relationship with our bodies.

Here are a few things to think about:

1. We must decide whether we really believe that physical beauty will never really fulfill us.
We tell ourselves this, but do we believe it deep down? We have to be convinced that “feeling pretty” is really just that – a feeling. Both our feelings and our physical appearance will change, and neither are as steadfast as God’s unwavering regard. KNOWING that we are valuable to God is a fact. Facts are dependable, feelings are not.

2. Be careful of the things you say about yourself.
How you judge yourself – your criticisms of your size, your features, your complexion – is how your daughter will think you judge her looks. Your expectations of yourself will become her measuring stick, only probably more exaggerated.
We are created in God’s image and He called His creation “good.” To be overly critical of our appearance to is to be critical of how God knit us together in our mother’s womb.

3. Time and money is an indicator of the importance we place on our looks.
We tell our daughters that they are valuable because they belong to God, but then we can spend an awful lot of money enhancing those looks, often based on the culture around us! To put so much emphasis on appearance and to be overly proud of our appearance is not “walking humbly with God” or giving Him the glory for His creation. It’s good to look our best, but there must be a balance.
We do need to take care of ourselves for our health, to put our best foot forward, and ultimately, to honor God’s creation. Sometimes it does cost money to stay well groomed, but it can get out of hand pretty quickly. Stewardship comes in to play in every area of our lives and our children see it all.

4. Avoid reality TV—in all forms.
Celebrities get attention from their looks, which our daughters do not realize is greatly enhanced by lighting, camera angles, and the biggie: hours of work by professional makeup artists. We understand that “reality TV” is anything but reality, but nowadays, reality TV spills beyond the television and into Instagram stories, Snapchat videos, YouTube, and more. Girls may not realize just how much time and money these stars spend to build carefully manicured public appearances–even in so-called “behind the scenes” Instagram videos.

5. Encourage attributes beyond looks — focus on doing rather than appearing.
Admire strength, manners, kindness, determination, or creativity. “I love it when you help your sister!” is still encouraging, but also emphasizes valuable traits like cooperation. “Tell me about your day” invites sharing information and feelings. Look for ways to take the focus off of self.

Give your girls opportunities to serve. Does your church or youth group have activities that focus on community service? Maybe a food pantry ministry or elderly who could use help or even a friendly visit? Fill their hearts with good and positive things. Teach your girls we were made for God’s glory, not our own.

Helpful Resources:

Sign up to get the latest from the Shine! team here.

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

For Adults

Tips for Making the Most of Your Family’s Summer

Summer! Ice cream and cook outs. Staying up late and sleeping in. No homework and no alarm clocks. With all of the fun and freedom of the summer season, it will pass in the blink of an eye. How can we make this summer count in the lives of our teens and the story of our family?

1. Talk about it.

Set a goal for something you want to achieve this summer. Would you like to learn a skill? Explore a strength your teen has? Find a new way to serve as a family? Build on a relationship? Go on an adventure? Try something new? Take time to talk about it as a family and brainstorm your ideas for goals you can set as a family. (Bonus Handout: Check out our list of summer activities for inspiration.)

2. Schedule it.

Set realistic goals and mark it on the calendar. For most teens, summer is only 11 or 12 weeks long. That means there are only 12 Saturdays to make the most of! When you add in summer camps, family vacations, and church events, much of the summer is already planned out.
Choose one thing to focus on this summer with your teen or family, then put it on the calendar. Scheduling it gives you the best chance that it will actually happen. If your schedule is tight, you may only have one or two Saturdays this summer to set aside for your goal. If you have more open time, you might be able to spend one day each week or month focused on your goal. If you are a parent, you may still work full time, or if you are a youth leader, you may be seeing your students even less frequently in the summer. Don’t be discouraged if you only have a small amount of time with your teen! Even a small amount of time is powerful if we invest it wisely.

3. Look to the future.

Go ahead and start planning a fall schedule for your family. Make sure your your calendar reflects your priorities. Whether is it serving together, learning together, or spending time together, block out a time every month to continue to grow with your teen.

We only get 5 summers with our teenagers. Let’s invest these days, not just spend them.

Start a Conversation with Your Teen

  • What do you think is the most important thing on our schedule this summer?
  • Is there something you have always wanted to try, but never gotten the chance?
  • If you had $100 to do something new, what would you spend it on?
  • What is something that you could spend time doing this summer that you would be proud of?

Need help with coming up with a goal for your family? Check out our list for inspiration!

We also have a blog post on making the most of the summer geared for teens! Share this post with your teen daughter or a teen girl in your life.

Sign up to get the latest from the Shine! team here.

For Adults, For Girls

The eXit Strategy

By Rachel Bryant

The eXit strategy is a pre-planned strategy that gives teens a way out of uncomfortable or unsafe situations without the fear of being made fun of for wanting to leave.

So what’s the plan?

If a teen is at a friend’s house, a party, or anywhere else, and wisely decides, for whatever reason, that she needs to not be there anymore, this prearranged agreement can help her exit the uncomfortable situation. When the teen realizes she needs to leave, she sends a text with a pre-planned code to a parent or trusted adult. This can be one word, number, or even just one letter (example: X).

When the parent or adult receives the “code word” text, they immediately call the teen and tell them there is an emergency at home and that the teen either needs to come home now or the adult will come get her right now.

Once the teen is safe at home, the parent or adult allows the teen some time to think over the situation. After a period of time, such as the next morning, the adult and teen sit down together to discuss the situation calmly. They discuss what happened, the teen’s good decision to leave the uncomfortable situation, and how to make good choices in the future.

And how does the plan work?

In order for this strategy to be effective, both you and the teen must commit to stick to the plan. When you and the teen discuss this strategy beforehand, you both must make agreements:

Parent/Adult Agrees To:

  • Quickly call teen back with “emergency”
  • Don’t ask questions on the phone
  • Be calm when you pick them up or when they arrive home
  • Validate the teen’s decision to use the exit strategy and text an adult
  • Give teen time to think about situation and be ready to listen calmly during discussion

Teen Agrees To:

  • Text adult as soon as you feel uncomfortable
  • Answer your phone when they call back
  • Listen and be honest during discussion
  • Think about ways to better handle or avoid similar situations in the future

For a printable version of this, check out the Resources page.