Tech & Kids Podcast Series
Part 1: Sextortion
Parenting our children through the highs and lows of our technological world can be a challenge. In this episode of Breaking Bread, Craig Stickling provides us with four helps. He gives us one technology lesson to instruct our children in. He gives us one technology danger to protect our children from. He provides one issue that we should be able to engage our children about and he gives us one redeeming quality that technology offers our kids.
- Help your kids understand that if you do not pay for the product, then you are the product. Every free app we use is earning money off of the user somehow. Often it is by advertisements.
- Sextortion is a growing concern. Young people are often targeted. A predator engages with them in a seemingly innocent way at first. This could be through direct messaging or otherwise. They lure the victim into taking a picture or video of themselves that they would not want the public to see. The predator then uses the image or video to blackmail the victim; threatening to send the content to friends, for example. If young people are being exploited, they are the victim of a crime, and it should be reported. Contact your local FBI field office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at fbi.gov.
- Parents need to nurture the relationship they have with their children so that openness can be achieved. Open dialogue on technology issues should be the goal. Children and young people should feel free to openly discuss technological struggles, challenges and questions with trusted adults.
- Technology shows us how much we desire connection. Use this apparent fact to show your kids that connection with God is the connection our souls most crave.
Part 2– Coming Soon
Parenting our children through the highs and lows of our technological world can be a challenge. In this episode of Breaking Bread, Jon Moser provides us with four helps. He gives us one technology lesson to instruct our children in. He gives us one technology danger to protect our children from. He provides one issue that we should be able to engage our children about and he gives us one redeeming quality that technology offers our kids.
- Help your kids understand how social media algorithms work to populate their feeds. Help them understand the goals of the social media platform.
- Protect your family’s privacy. Encourage the use of privacy settings on social media platforms. Have a conversation about contact lists and who should be allowed into them. Consider using a VPN to protect against malware infection.
- Example: protonvpn.com
- Engage with your children about technology use. Have a discussion about using technology well. Learn to identify when technology is controlling us. Learn to detach from technology and connect with the real world.
- Technology can be used well. When we are better able to redeem our time because of the convenience of technology, we are using it well. Connecting loved ones across distances offers wonderful advantages.
Take It Down (ncmec.org)
This service provided by NCMEC is one step you can take to help remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos taken before you were 18.
This article from the National Center of Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) provides an overview of what sextortion is, statistics, what to do, red flags, and what NCMEC is doing about it.
Navigating Technology with Children Webinar
In this webinar, Craig Stickling encourages parents to walk into the opportunities of teaching, protecting, engaging, and redeeming technology in the lives of their children. Watch this webinar recording to learn questions and topics which can encourage your family to place of discussion, not division, around technology.
Technology– Explore the wealth of resources on stewarding technology usage. [ACCFS]
Plugged In by Focus on the Family is designed to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving families the essential tools they need to understand, navigate, and impact the culture in which they live.
Common Sense Media is a secular resource website to stay informed on new technology.
Sextortion: What Kids and Caregivers Need to Know — FBI
This website is a resource for additional information on sextortion.
The number of kids that I talk to at school, and I usually will do a survey and say, if something happens on your phone or you get sent something where you’re unsure, I said, how many of you will go let your mom and dad know out of an entire classroom? I’m lucky if I get one kid that raises their hand and then I’ll ask the rest. I said, why don’t you go? Why don’t you tell? And their answer is usually always the same, Matt. And that is why I don’t want to lose my phone.
Welcome everyone to Breaking Bread, the podcast brought to you by Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Services. Excellent to have you along. Craig Stickling’s with me here in the studio today.
Welcome, Craig. Hi, Matt. Today we’re gonna talk about tech and kids, Craig. The intersection of technology and kids and parents, which is a growing familiar space. Yes. For any parent out there. Yes. A beautiful spot, isn’t it? We love navigating technology with our kids, don’t we, Matt? Well, I won’t tell the audience that you were grinning through your teeth, this very mischievous grin when you said that, because it sure sounded nice and I’m glad that’s your experience. You know, there is, I think, a need here to really speak into the space of technology and parenting, not because here at ACCFS we have any sort of expertise on technology. In fact, we don’t. You’re going to find far more expertise in technology in the pews of our churches. So, that’s not the position that we’re coming at this from, but you’re in the classroom setting, working with kids as well as on the clinical side of ACCFS. And certainly, we have a lot of situations that pass through the doors here that we see the impact of technology.
And so really we’re kind of speaking out of that standpoint, from that position and bringing to bear some concepts here, Craig. And, really I want this conversation to be not, it’s not going to be nearly exhaustive. We don’t have time for that, but I do want to hit on a number of things and pull out some counsel from you and perhaps to even further set up the complexity that I think parents find themselves in when it comes to technology is this when it comes to parenting kids, and if we could reduce parenting down to this very simple axiom, and that is make adults out of children, you know, make adults out of children.
We’ve kind of led the way in a lot of areas, right? Leading them in finding careers, for example, something I’ve done. Or leading them in navigating relationships, something I’ve done. Or, leading them in spiritual matters, something I’ve done. Leading them in technology, something I not necessarily have done.
You see the difficulty here? Yeah, and many times our kids are generations ahead of us in terms of acquiescing technology space. We find ourselves as parents on our heels, and so we need extra encouragement and help in this area. The language they sometimes shared about, are we natives? Are we immigrants to this digital world? Right. And, the younger generation, our kids come in being raised with that, whereas we feel like we’re kind of immigrants to the scene. We’re still trying to figure this out, and we’re always on the backside, at least in some of this context where they already know, they’ve already been aware, they’ve already been trained or taught, and they have a lot more experience that they bring to this table, Matt.
Just listen to what you just said there, Craig. Our kids have more experience. Right? Yeah. I mean, and that’s what, they haven’t had more career experience. That’s why I have something to say. They haven’t had more relationship experience. That’s why I have something to say. They haven’t had more spiritual experience. That’s why I have something to say. But when it comes to technology, very quickly, they do in some settings have that more experience and they don’t hesitate where we might hesitate. Right? Yeah. And that’s a tough place to be, isn’t it? As parents. And it’s one of the few, or at least it’s a rare air for this generation or segment of generation.
The younger generation that’s been raised in it will have a lot more insight for their kids. But there’s a window of us that are just like, wow, I don’t know how all this always works and why they’re so interested. And I think part of the reason why is it? That they might have some more experience than us who clearly are in technology.
It’s not like we are living in the dark ages or anything like that or living in a hole, but technology changes so quick. Yeah. It changes so quick that it’s difficult to stay up on it. And I think we find our level set at what we’re comfortable with and things keep moving and that’s where they gain that experience where we don’t have, yeah. And just when it seems like we figured something out as a parent, right? Oh, this is what’s out there and I’m now ready. It’s already obsolete and they’ve already moved on to the next thing. We might be an expert at Facebook, but they’re not interested in Facebook, right? Not anymore.
So, Craig here, I want four things from you. Okay. Four things. I want something instructive. I want something protective. I want something engaging. And I want something redeeming. Okay. Let me explain each of those four things. First, instructive are those things that we should be instructing our children in this technology space. This would be one instructive point to say, hey, moms and dads, remember to teach your kids this. Protective. I want you to draw our attention to a matter that’s pertinent and that we need to be thinking about as parents, to be protective about engaging. I want you to help us. What is one thing we should be doing to engage our kids? Okay. Because both instructive is kind of one sided and protective is one sided. Engaging is a two-way street. What does that look like? And then finally, please tell me there’s something redemptive here. Yes. And we know there is. Sound like something you can take on here?
It’s a beautiful four steps to start with, Matt. All right, let’s start with instructive. What do you have? I heard someone speaking and I liked the perspective that she was taking in this topic of our kids and especially social media and how they interacted with social media. And, I really like the idea that she was trying to help her children have some discernment in social media and most of the stuff out there is really just trying to use you.
You are a user, you are a product and they are trying to just either get you to buy something, get you to like something, get you to populate a space in some way. And she was really trying to say, you know what? As kids, we don’t like being manipulated, but you know what, every time you link on, most of the time there’s already an entity out there that’s really trying to just use you in a sense, right?
Okay. So, Craig, I think that’s really important. And really what you’re speaking about is the under workings or the inner workings or the economics of, you mentioned social media, these free platforms that don’t cost anything, but provide a ton of power, Instagram, Tik Tok, right?
Snapchat, for example, hugely popular and Craig, they’re free. Yeah. Isn’t that incredible? Isn’t it though? For a reason. Yeah. So, because they’re free, that places them. Nothing is free, right? So, something is paying for it. So, yeah, fill out that space then. The materialistic side, right? Here’s ads.
We notice you like searching this. So, I’m going to start giving you things to buy. Or give you ideas of things that you might want because you just searched and looked at something on baseball stuff. So guess what? Now you’re going to start getting ads. So, there’s a straight just commercial materialistic side, here’s a thing to buy that piece woven into the social media platforms.
But then there’s also other interesting dialogues of that. This might be either friends that you might want, or you might consider, these might be speakers or influencers. These might be other things socially that can connect to what we’re seeing you share, what we’re seeing you talk about. I’m going to start now suggesting those things for you and bringing that to you because there’s an end goal in all of that.
I don’t know if they’re just, if the idea of the social media giants is to be like, we really want to enhance the user. Our user’s end goal here, because we care about them, there’s usually something more connected. But the end goal is attention, isn’t it? And I think that’s so powerful, Craig, and so important to remember that their end goal is attention.
It is time spent on the app. And that will award them advertisement space and thereby translates to money. Yeah. And to your point, the user’s wellbeing and flourishing might not be their highest aim, whatever their industry vision statement is. Why is this important for parents to communicate this to kids?
We want them always to be able to be seeing the bigger picture of things, right? We can sometimes get a narrow focus and we don’t. We’re looking at a tree and yet there’s really a forest and to be able to help our kids see a bigger picture, a bigger narrative of who they are, who they were created to be and what God has designed for them and how to be used, how to serve him, how to bring glory to him and to be able to step back and see a bigger picture of that.
I really like that. I really like the bigger picture. Because my experience on social media is sometimes rabbit holes. It’s actually a narrowing rather than this larger narrative. And we miss so much forest for the trees when we do that, don’t we? Yeah. Excellent instructive.
Let’s go to protective. Craig, there’s a thousand things to be protective about and we don’t have time for them all. Let’s just do one. Well, yeah, what is one thing on your heart right now to be protective about something that’s now become even a very large concern is sex torsion. And that’s kind of a combination of some words.
Yes. Unpack term. That’s probably new to some of our listeners. So, it’s moving this mindset, Matt, of still revolved around something sexual, visual, picture, video, some type of images that are related to sexual pieces. I’m using this now as a way to extort money from you, money from the person I tricked online into thinking I was somebody that I wasn’t.
So set this up a little bit. What does sextortion look like in the life of a young person who stumbles into this? We’re online, we’ve got our different apps that are up, we’re looking at different things, we have different people that we’re connecting with, and we get a like from this person and/or someone requesting to be a friend or to follow, and that person is a very attractive young person who says that they’re a high schooler or whatever and I’m like, oh, okay. And I will go and I will accept or I will engage back with that person and that person will say some things nice and act like they might even know me and know my area and ask me if I, oh, do you go to, you know, you’re in Peoria, Illinois.
Oh, do you go to one of the local high schools? And so acting like they know my area. But I detect that this is a predator. Predator. Yeah. With a capital P. So, what might this predator then do? They’re starting to dialogue now with us building a relationship, they’re connecting, they’re talking about, you know, oh, what’s your favorite class?
And oh, I really enjoy my school. And what do you want to do? And then all of a sudden it gets into, you know, hey, you’re kind of attractive. And are there any pictures of you? Would you share some pictures? And that leads into, I’ll share some pictures with you. And then the end goal is that they are then going to try to get it.
The person, you know, maybe one of our children that are in their room late at night to say, hey, take some pictures of yourself or take some video of you. And then they’ll ask him, really, can you do something in a sexual way? And they’ll take a video of that. And so, once that exchange has happened. And they will send pictures, so it seems like, hey, I’m interacting and they might even do a video chat of this young person that this is the person that was on the picture.
So, it all seems so innocent of, oh, there’s just this other high school girl from state X. And then all of a sudden it turns dark really, really quickly. The minute the video comes, then all of a sudden there’s a response that comes back and says. We have now captured you doing something that we are now going to send out to everyone on your friend list or your like list or your social media platforms.
We have the capacity to send out that video to everyone in your high school. And so now, the ante is raised. Yes. For some sort of payment. Yes. Some sort of, which puts this young person in a terrible bind. Terrible bind. And so now they’re trying to figure out how to get access or how to go maybe get a credit card or some kids have their own accounts and, you know, they’ll give some bank statements, or they’ll give some avenues to try to hush this person.
That only works because once they know that you pay then they’re going to ask you for more and so they’re got caught in that loop and they’re so sophisticated, Matt, that they’re actually able to replicate them sending out the video to people on your friend list or your contact list and they can actually show them a screen see now this video now is and it shows it popping up on their friends the sophistication of technology in that capacity to deceive and to create false pictures is just astounding.
And you think of a young person late at night and all of a sudden, they are completely caught and the panic that happens. There’s already been cases where young people have taken their lives over this because of the fear of that. I mean, you can imagine that just unravels a person’s life. And so, the distress that it puts a young person on is huge.
Now I will say, I have encountered individuals that this has happened to. Neither did it really play out as was purported, but the distress that they went through and the humiliation and bringing that forward, it was quite a bind. And it really, I think this is important for our listeners to understand.
This is one area where it’s important for parents to be protective, to be teaching in the right direction here, is we help our kids navigate this online world. I saw a plea go across one of my children’s Facebook, okay? It was a request for a direct message. And I was able to see that, and I talked that through with him.
Do you know who this person is? He said, no. I said, this person is a fraud. And I can just tell you right now, do not respond to this person. All that to say, not uncommon. It’s not impossible. Yeah. And you can imagine. In fact, I just read an article that young teenage boys tend to be preyed on more than their counterpart girls.
Yeah. And we can see where situations would present themselves that could be, that could be likely. Right. Yeah, absolutely. And that fear just grips them. And like you said, what a very terrible place to be. What else should be done now that it’s been revealed? Yeah. For most of us, at least for most parents, there’s going to be a natural tendency to want to just go online and just take on this person, engage in them and, and share with them or try to get them to stop or make them know what they’ve done. And that’s usually a first response and one that’s very emotional, but that’s not really going to be helpful or wise to engage in them. But to step back and remember that if our child is under 18 and pictures have been exchanged or videos have been exchanged, that is child pornography and child pornography is something that our laws of the land do
address very seriously. And so, first steps to take that is to take some of the screenshots if you can to get information that way and then connect with your local FBI or even our local police and authorities. I think we can be thankful that the laws of the land are very strong against this type of behavior.
And yes, that predator has acquired child yeah. If our children are under the age of 18 and that is a punishable offense and law enforcement is probably the way to go. I also will have a link in our show notes to an FBI hotline for that type of thing. This is really dark and really heavy stuff and it’s so, so sad to see young people preyed on like this.
So, let’s move now to the engagement piece. Speak to engaging, all right? Instructive is one way. We’ve instructed them. And protective, you’ve given us something to protect against. But now, what is this dialogue look like, how do we engage our kids and in a beautiful way as it concerns technology?
Yeah. We are building, we’re always building that relationship road with our kids and their hearts and their heads, and we’re helping them learn to think and how to feel and what to do with those. But we’re also learning that they can trust us and that we want to build that relationship with our kids, that it’s not about being perfect.
It’s about the relationship of where do I go when I’m hurting or I’m uncertain or I’m not sure of what to do. So, making that dialogue safe is good foundation, good groundwork to always be working on. What should I do tonight? What can I do right now to better steward or parent this technology space?
What I’m hearing you say is begin to provide a good environment, a protective, safe place to dialogue with your kids and allow them to come forward with certain things. And I think a great way to step into that, Matt, is sometimes I come with graciousness and say, I don’t want you to think that if you say something, that’s the wrong answer that what I’m looking for, boom, I’m going to take your phone and we’re going to lock up everything that you have technologies, but you really build in that sense of I want to know what you see I want to know where you’re at and why is as mom and dad do we want to know that? With our child and we get to build in that connection piece with them Okay, Craig, so roleplay this for me, okay?
Because I think all that makes sense in our head. But if our child came forward to us, Craig, came to you and said, Dad, this is what I did. This is who it was and they said to do this and I don’t know, I lost my head and I did this and we’re crying and we’re sobbing. What’s your first, how do you respond to that because a lot of emotion hits the ceiling in this one.
Yeah. Right? Yeah. And a lot of things can be said and should be said. What’s first? Yeah. Well, first we have to remember that unless we have done some prework, the likelihood of that happening is very, very unlikely. Unless we have built in this connection piece with them. But to answer your question, okay, my child comes, what do I do?
First of all, I think you just embrace them with gratefulness. I cannot imagine the courage or what you were feeling to be able to even come and share this with us. Thank you. Thank you for that. Did you know that we love you and we care about you and we care about every part of you, even the technology piece and what happens, but we care about you.
So I think the first thing we do is, Oh, we just embrace them with a gratefulness of their willingness to be open with us. So, there’s so much going through our heads and the what and the why and how. But before those questions, a reception is had. Yeah. Yeah. The dad that runs across the field, right to a son, ah, I’m just going to run and meet you there.
Right. Then we’ll sort out the other things. You know, I think the first thing that you do is that you engage them in gratefulness, right? And then you step back and then you affirm to them that they are going to be loved by you. No matter what, there’s nothing that they can do to make us love them more, and there will be nothing that they can do to make us love them less, right?
So, then you support in that unconditional connection with them about their at your affirmation for them as your son or as your daughter, right? So, you secure that position and then they, and we would like to think they know that, but at that moment they may be questioning that. And so, you affirm into them that element in that piece.
I like that. And so, I hear relationship, this engagement piece, your answer to my question of engagement was it really boils down to relationship. Yeah. Have a relationship with your kids. Let’s move on now to the redeeming part. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. What do you, can you offer in terms of redemption here in this?
This overlap of parenting and technology, the elements of social media the elements of kids having a cell phone, the element of those things really reflects our heart and how we were created to be connected, we were created for connection and you look at those elements that are out there. There’s a reason why kids gravitate toward those things because it connects them and it draws us into connection.
And so, there’s a beautiful principle there for us to be able to, to redeem out of this place in time that we’re at in life, but to redeem the piece that we’re created for connection. And it’s interesting how some of the elements of technology today really do enhance that connection piece. And that’s been a beautiful thing to speak into, isn’t it?
To point out and help our children see that they do have a compass in their heart that’s pointing towards connection, yearning for connection. And we live that connection pursuit out in many ways. And we see it very vividly with technology, don’t we? Yeah. But finds its ultimate end in Christ.
And to be reminded, right? It’s, you know, Jesus talked about seeking those things, right? Seek ye first the kingdom of God. He’s not saying those other things aren’t out there and they’re not necessarily going to be without, uh, without merit, but he’s like, oh, but keep the first thing first, right?Seek me first. That becomes that relation connection piece. Who am I seeking and who do I want to seek first in my life?
I really like that. Craig, this has been. Thank you. This has been very helpful. And, again, we didn’t intend to be exhaustive. We cannot be, but we hope, and I hope that this podcast, this conversation could be helpful to our listeners as we engage this very challenging sphere of parenting our kids with technology and through technology, and we’re presented with challenges that morph and change and what we’re talking about now is going to be different than what we talked about in just a few short years, right? Or months even. But to hear you speak that there is something instructive always, there is something protective and will be, there’s a way to engage and there’s redeeming elements, I think is a beautiful way to set up the space in our lives.
So, thank you for that. Yes. Thank you, Matt. And I trust that this has been a blessing to each of you who are listening. I did have a thought as we talked about relationships and how this deep need for protection really calls for a relationship, a deep relationship. And I wonder sometimes if that’s one of God’s redemptive narratives ever since the fall and the deeper the fall, the more the need for relationship with him. He really binds us up to him and with him with ever progressing darkness that comes and we have that to experience with our children. Yeah. And with each other. Within fellowship and with God ultimately. Right. Yeah. And the beauty of the depth of that relationship allows me to trust my Protector more. Doesn’t it? Yeah. And so those two pieces tie together so well. Yeah. I love it. All right. Hey, thanks. Appreciate it. Thanks each one for being with us.