Should kids have their own cell phones?


A couple years ago, when our four kids ranged in age from nine to 17, nine-year-old Jamie made a comment that a child in her class had an iPhone. “Jamie, you need to start planning now that you’ll be the last kid in your class to get a phone,” Liam, then 14, said. “Not only will you be the last kid in your class, but most of the kids a few grades younger than you will get phones before you do,” added Jacob, 17. Eleven-year-old Teenasia chimed in, “Yep, only one other girl besides me in the fifth grade doesn’t have her own phone or iPod.” Continue reading

Kids online: It’s a jungle out there

Teenage Girl Victim Of Bullying By Text MessagingWhen Amy, mother of two teen boys and an 11-year-old girl, discovered that children in her daughter’s class were using the social photo-sharing app Instagram inappropriately, she responded by not just taking action for her own daughter, she got all the parents on board.

“The girls were using Instagram as bullying—taking pictures of gatherings that some girls weren’t invited to, and then sending or posting the pictures,” she says. “And the boys were using it to send and post inappropriate pictures.” Continue reading

What’s the right age for cell phones, social media, discussions of the facts of life? Send us your stories!

Girl on long road; RGB mjQpqcSThe March issue of At Home with Our Faith (being put together before Christmas, believe it or not!) will explore “The Right Age For….” by treating a variety of topics.

We’d love to hear your experience as parents in navigating these questions with your kids. Please comment below, and please identify yourself by first name and tell us how many children you have.

If your answer is used in At Home with Our Faith, you’ll be identified only by first name and number of children. Thanks for sharing what has worked for you in passing on the faith!

1. Do you have a situation to share about a child who made either a very good or very poor choice with social media or a cell phone? Please note the child’s age.

 2. Share a story about your child’s age(s) when you have talked about sexuality with him or her. What did you discuss?

 3. At what age should children/teens start volunteering in the community? Share your experience.

Many thanks! We look forward to hearing from you! –the editors of At Home with Our Faith



Go ahead, make my Lent

popecorn morguefile0001496984376 (1)While driving last week I flipped on the radio to hear two film reviewers debating whether It’s a Wonderful Life qualified as a redemption movie—did George Bailey really change enough? The duo on our local public radio station’s Filmspotting program were pronouncing their top five movies about redemption. These included some creative choices, including the 1938 Angels with Dirty Faces (starring James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, as a gangster and a priest) and On the Waterfront (1954, Marlon Brando at his best).

Also on the list—surprise—was the animated Beauty and the Beast, which caused me to smile goofily all by myself in the car, time-machining me back to a period when our 3-year-old son would listen to that soundtrack two and often three times daily. (You know it’s good music when you don’t secretly throw the CD out of the window and tell the kid it’s “lost.”) Continue reading

How to solve the bully problem

Welcome to guest poster Father Robert Barron of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and creator of the Christopher-award-winning documentary series Catholicism, airing on PBS stations. Barron is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein.

It is very difficult indeed to watch the new documentary “Bully” without experiencing both an intense sadness and a feeling of helplessness. The film opens with the heartbreaking ruminations of a father whose son committed suicide after being brutally bullied by his classmates. We hear a number of similar stories throughout the film, and we also are allowed to watch and listen as very real kids are pestered, belittled, mocked, and in some cases, physically assaulted; just because they are; in some sense; different. The most memorable figure in the movie is a young man, around 12, named Alex. He seems to be a good-natured kid, happy in the embrace of his family, but because he’s a bit uncoordinated, geeky, and odd-looking (his brutal nickname is “fishface”), his fellow students mercilessly pick on him. Alex’s daily ride on the school bus is like something out of Dante’s Inferno. Continue reading

Got givers’ remorse about kids’ tech gifts?

If you’re experiencing post-purchase anxiety because the Christmas gift you bought for your child has taken over his or her life, you are not alone. Help your child use your electronic gift as you intended—in moderation.

Keep the handheld in your hands. Decide what level of use seems reasonable—perhaps three times a week for a half hour at a time—and have your child ask to use the device. Keep a record on the fridge of when he plays; when he uses up his time, he has to wait until the next week.

Tame the texting. Perhaps your cell phone gift has confirmed why you were reluctant to buy one for your daughter. The average teen sends more than 3,000 texts per month—about six per hour. While a good communication tool, texting can also interfere with your teen having time alone, concentrating on homework, or being present to the people she is with at the time. Discuss with your teen what place she wants texting to play in her life and what your concerns are, and then develop a plan to have phone-free times of the day.

Get filters and check the history. While you may believe you can trust your son not to go to inappropriate sites on his iPhone or laptop, installing strong filters will protect him in a moment of weakness or from a buddy who wants to show him a porn site when they’re in a hotspot after school.

—by Annemarie Scobey  from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the 2010 and 2011 General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association. Here’s a sample issue.

We offer very low rates for parish use, as well as our free Moms’ Night Out monthly discussion guides.

And don’t miss our popular single-page parish handouts on handing on the faith, helping kids understand the Mass, Lent, and Advent.

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Your Christmas presence

Presents are a dime a dozen this time of year. But presence—that’s another matter entirely. The ability of family members to be truly present to one another is under siege—from kids’ over-the-top sports schedules, extracurriculars, sometimes even too-abundant homework. The other culprits sucking up family time, however, are devices we’ve bought and introduced into our children’s lives, often heedless of what we are unleashing. Some true stories:

My friend takes her adolescent daughter and her classmate, Susie, out to breakfast after they served at early Mass one Sunday. Susie slumps throughout the meal, head down, hair drooping over her face. “Wow, she’s so shy,” thinks my friend. Finally she realizes the girl has been texting all during breakfast. Continue reading

The parent trap, part two

The second installment of an interview with Dr. William Doherty, from the editors of U.S. Catholic magazine. Doherty, a family therapist and professor in the department of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota, is the author of Take Back Your Kids (Sorin Books) and Take Back Your Marriage (Guilford Press), among many others.

Can you name the consumer values that are creeping into family life?

You can start with social comparison. I may not want to be better than you, or have more, but I sure don’t want to have less. A lot of parents say this to me, “I don’t want my kids to have less than the other kids.”

Media has a lot to do with this, too. Prior to the television generation, most of us grew up in little social enclaves. My parents, who were working-class Philadelphia Irish Catholics, didn’t know what the suburban kids were wearing or doing. It’s been demonstrated around the world that as TV comes in, aspirations go way up, along with things like eating disorders.

Second, the consumer culture takes a wish or a want and turns it into a need. Continue reading

Be here now

My friend Tom at work lent me his copy of a book called Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why (W. W. Norton & Company) which analyzes the experiences of people who survived despite incredible odds. Tom himself is an outdoor adventure kind of guy, someone who rides motorcycles on treacherous dirt roads down in Baja and who once went sea-kayaking without benefit of instruction. You get the idea. I supect Tom wanted to read this book to determine why he had escaped doom thus far and how he might jack up the odds for future exploits.

The author of the book came up with some rules that might save someone in a hairy situation. One sounds simple: “Be here now.” The book describes how climbing accidents, for instance, often happen on the way down, when climbers’ thoughts stray to the hot shower and warm meal they will soon be enjoying, instead of the slope ahead of them.

I hereby propose that we parents adopt “Be here now” as a guideline for our parental moments henceforth. Continue reading

Don’t wait for “the talk”

The only test I ever flunked: It is freshman year of Catholic high school, and after being out sick a few days, I returned to biology to be handed, to my horror, a test asking us to label the parts of the male reproductive system.

Years would pass before such body parts were mentioned openly on TV. Some classmates in my all-girls school had enough firsthand experience, from diapering baby brothers or other extracurricular activities, to know the terms without a textbook. Not 13-year-old me. At home a force field of silence surrounded anything having to do with s-e-x. So along with the dreaded “F” churned the suspicion that I knew less about this subject than anyone in my class. Continue reading