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Parenting is the best app

Posted: December 4, 2011 - 12:00am

A strange thing happened at Walmart the other day. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Black Friday and cyber Monday are in the rear view mirror. Have you purchased your technology gifts for your kids yet?

Today the world of technology can overtake us as parents.

Our children and teens do not know of a time in their lives without computers, free apps on their iPods and Wi-Fi. I can remember when all we had was a Hi-Fi, a record player in the living room and “Pong” was all the rage.

I thought that as an almost-50-year-old I was pretty tech savvy as a parent, but I found out that I am really not.

My wife and I have the blessing of raising two children here in the Augusta area. They both have a knack for technology and are advanced in their ability to know the ins and outs of smart phones, iPods, laptops and all the applications available to download.

Parents, that is the danger! Even though our families are so well-connected to so many devices, I find that connection through text, email and Skype leaves my family less-connected. There is also a real danger for parents when we are not familiar with all the apps that are available (for free) to our children when they turn on their iPods and other devices.

There are Apps out there made for every life situation and the person that developed that particular app is teaching our children. One crazy example I found was an app developed for married couples doing “natural family planning.” It tells them at what time of the month they should… well, you know. A teen girl from New Jersey and her boyfriend found this free app and followed its advice. When mom took her to the doctor and he said, “You’re pregnant” She said, “That’s impossible!” as she whipped out the app on her smartphone. “I did exactly what this app said!”

Our children and teens can spend hours “connected” and “building relationships” in a cyber world that evokes real feelings for them, but have no real substance. Recently, I tried to start a conversation with a young adult I had known since childhood. Her response to me was two shrugs and a quick glance back to her smartphone to check her incoming text messages. I thought to myself, “Is there any young person who can hold a conversation anymore?”

Parents, God has given us the privilege and responsibility to raise children in such a way that they become honorable adults. My hope is that we would raise them to have deeper connections to people than merely through a smartphone. I hope that they can be people who are connected to others by touch, conversations and face-to-face time.

My wife and I only have a few short years to mold responsible adults who can speak to and look someone in the eye and shake their hand with confidence. We have an app, as parents, that no app store can sell: A parent’s touch. The loving appropriate touch of a hug, a gentle push of the long hair out of your beautiful girl’s eyes or an encouraging pat on the back still mean something. God made us for real relationships, not cyber ones.

So what was the strange thing happened at Walmart the other day? I went there with my teen daughter to buy some hair-care stuff for her. As we walked out past the streams of people walking in, heads turned and the stares began. Why? My daughter was holding my hand! People were aghast at the sight. She’s a teen and she was holding her father’s hand!

Keep staring, people, because that is the best app I have. I am her father, and I am not ashamed to apply the app of a parent’s touch.

(Mike Klaus is the senior minister at Columbia County Christian Church in Martinez.)

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