What I Wanna Be When I Grow Up

I’m living out what I always wanted to be when I grew up.

I wanted to be a person who worked to empower students and liberate adults to be able to empower even more students.

Even though I haven’t grown up yet – sorry mom – I’m thankful every day that I have the opportunity to do the only thing my dad ever asked me to do: get paid to do what I would love to do for free.

Yesterday, at the United Church of Christ’s National Youth Event, I had the opportunity to lead a workshop based on a book proposal I am writing: “Becoming a 21st Century Youth Whisperer – Everything I needed to know about youth ministry, I learned from the Dog Whisperer”.

I learned more about youth ministry while researching how to “fix” my Roxy, then I did in years of seminars, retreats and workshops.

Roxy has been rehabilitated, and I have been “Saved”

It was rejuvenating to be amongst over 100 youth ministers, volunteers, and parents who are eager to reach and serve the next generation.

However,

Late last night, I found out that I’ve got the SECOND best job on the planet.

Check this guy out – DISCLAIMER – you will not be able to see his feet move like Gregory Hines, his face sweat like Michael Jordan, and you probably will not be able to distinguish his black velvet shirt (although if you stop watching the video before he takes off his jacket, you’ve missed the point) and you probably won’t see him jump/dance/cue the band like a magician, but, still, you oughtta be able to see why this is my new hero.

I will put his picture on my mirror so that everyday I look for me, I will see him. And on the day I look at him, and see me,… LOOKOUTNA!

Das wassup.

Amen.

PS You can read more about this amazing man, and the program that Vi Higgensen runs that pulls kids off the streets of Harlem and gives them top-notch musical training by going to Gospel for Teens Website or checking out the CBS “60 Minutes” feature on this program.

A Letter to My 2 Month-Old Daughter

Dear Burger,

Happy two-month birthday!

I’ve been gone (not home, that is) a considerable amount during your second month. It’s been hard on some days for us to remember that the calling that pulls/leads me away from you for days at a time is the same calling that provides for you and I to be together a lot more than many daughters and daddies I know.

I’m writing this at the shores of the Pacific Ocean. The water is much colder but the sand is exactly the same as back home. It always amazes me how something so far away can be so different and so the same – but I find it happens a lot.
You won’t remember this, but between our mission trip and this conference, I was home to hold your and your mommy for a few hours. It’s incredible how much you changed in just that short time; I wish you wouldn’t do that, but I understand.

Your face seems to have doubled in size, it takes a few more seconds to smother it with kisses. Make no mistake about it, you’re gonna have to let me know three years before you’re ready to stop doing that, it’s gonna take me a while to adjust.

Your cry sounds much different. In a way, it seems much more… Rational(?). Good for you, kiddo! You’re mommy and I are anxious to communicate with you. This guessing what you’re feeling thing is beginning to drive us crazy, even of there indeed are only a few different options.

I want you to know how much I miss being around you, but I also feel responsible for helping you understand how important it is that I not always be with you.

You see, there might be times where you might want or need us, but your mommy and daddy will be working with other kids. This will never be related to how much we love you. It is much more because:

- the time we invest with other students allows us the opportunity to invest more time into our relationship with you. But more importantly,

- we believe God has called us to live a life that is not just about ourselves. Your mommy and I want nothing more than to spend every second of our lives with you. But that wouldn’t behold for you, it wouldn’t be good for us, and it wouldn’t be fulfilling our responsibility. And, if we’re gonna spend our extra non-family time with others, students are a great people to be around. We expect that many of these students will help us love you and grow you in ways that will enhance your life. And perhaps most of all,

- your mommy and I are blessed to be working in the realms we feel called to be in. We could only hope the same for you. We have found our lives to be transformed through the lives of the loving, challenging people that we have known. It is fair, just, and right to attempt to pay that back into the community that will continue to change our lives. We invest what we do away from you on behalf of what we hope for your world to be.

But we’ll work on all that, okay? We’ve got some time.

In the meantime, I’ll see you late tomorrow night. Save daddy a bottle, okay?

Love you always,

Daddy

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Why Are Christians So…?!

You know, it’s never a good thing when a Youth Minister is sleep-deprived and homesick, AND still coming down from his MissionTrip mountaintop when starting to blog. As if I didn’t have enough trouble making a point…

This past week, while at Franklinton Center at Bricks, we had the opportunity not only to do missions (in its most traditional sense) – painting, restoring wheelchair ramps, resealing windows, etc. – but we were also able to design our own small group and large group programming and daily themes. Our theme for the week was “Raising the Bar.”
And our students most definitely raised the bar.

See, prior to this trip, reflection was something that our students would do while I talked or showed the next video clip. Prayer was a time when we would mention those in our life we were thankful for and then awkwardly wait while nobody volunteered to do the actual praying on behalf of the group.

So you could imagine my surprise when on Night #5, our students not only went through the meditation walk that lasted for an hour and a half and pushed them to dig deep to acknowledge guilt, accept/offer forgiveness and identify their core feelings but also went out of their way to thank their leaders for the experience.

And you can imagine the humbling joy we felt on Night #6, as we watched our students on the following night walk up to the communion table serve one another the elements, hold hands and pray for one another only to go back to the group, select another friend, and do the same with them.

I must admit, however, even from cloud nine, I began to feel guilty that this spiritual push and this community focus had become such a focus while on a “mission trip” which had always been used to help understand the needs of others outside our group.

And then I met Rich McCullen.

What is Our Mission?

This week I am in Orange County, California as a resource person for the SHARE 2012 conference put on for UCC/DOC college students. At tonight’s worship, Rich McCullen shared his thoughts about the future of the church. And somewhere between there and his thoughts on the current state of the church, it all became crystal clear.

Rich began with this video:

In an hour that felt like five minutes, Rich shared personally and passionately while urging the new leaders of the Church to make sure the good news is heard by all so that the message is clear: nobody is lost. He challenged the students to reclaim their Christianity to be true followers of Christ.

Though I had already understood the need to evolve church from being as Rich called it, a “behavior modification system”, I had in many ways overcorrected to guard against the emotion of the evangelicals that I have grown weary of, such to the point that our ministry ran the risk of becoming stale, intellectual, boring, and skin deep.

After seeing this video and listening to Rich two things have become clear.

First, the Church (Capital “C”) is doing a piss-poor job of being agents of hope, joy, peace, and love.

Secondly, it is as necessary as it has ever been that, whenever we act in the name of Christ, we embody the greatest commandment to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves.

It is indeed our mission to do justice, love one another, and walk humbly with our God. So even (or especially) as our teenagers learn to serve and work alongside others – like most good church kids do for one week every summer – we have to also challenge and guide our youth to love more sincerely and deeply and to seek God with confidence and vulnerability.

I am thankful for being able to work alongside those who understand and support that community and spiritual growth are as vital to the workmanship when it comes to what the “mission” of our church is going to be.

Based on the video shown tonight, we who identify as Christians face an uphill battle in the attempt to demonstrate the true nature of the living Christ. These teenagers this past week made great strides to not only be able to work with humility and appreciation for those around them, but also love and seek God within and around them too.

For when they are able to experience the joy and spirit when loving fully and seeking earnestly, that spirit then goes with them whoever they go. So as they hammer a nail, make a new friend, start a new job, move to a new city, and continue their journey, the mission of Christ continues.

I am thankful for Rich’s commitment to be a progressive who reaches out into the depths of the margins to spread the good news who need it most while also claiming the emotion and sincerity that are evangelical brothers and sisters seem to do so much more willingly.

I am thankful for the way our students raised the bar. Therefore, our mission in the name of Christ continues.

May it be so, Amen.

My Daughter Spoke Her First Words!

Okay… So, not really. But it sure got your attention, right?

I needed to get your attention to make an important announcement about the guest-bloggers for the upcoming week.

Tomorrow, 73 of us get on a bus for the Franklinton Center at Bricks tomorrow to begin a Mission Trip that has been in the making for some time.

Beginning tomorrow (Monday) night, a new high school student will be blogging and sharing their reflections from the day, it will be WELL worth your reading time.

As I was reminded today (Graduation Sunday), there is nothing more beautiful than when a young person is willing to share their honest thoughts and sincere feelings.

As for me, well, all the preparation has been done, which is a good thing because there is no more time to prepare. There comes a point where you work hard to prepare so that there is nothing left to do but pray.

I am praying fervently that my hopes and visions for this time together will not overpower or mislead me from the miracles that lie in store for us that are not of my (or human) doing. (see Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian McLaren)

I am praying for those students who are excited, that they might find purpose and fulfillment.

And I am praying for those who are anxious and afraid tonight, that they may find community and friendship, assurance and belonging.

And of course I am praying for safety… I always forget that.

By the way…

for what it’s worth, when I went to kiss my baby girl goodnight/goodbye for the week, she erupted in tears…

… but after a diaper change, she was just fine.

Stay tuned, friends. Wheels up at 5:15.

#FirstWorldProblems

7 Days from now our group from Community Church will head on our mission trip, and the pre-trip adrenaline is pumping. (Cue last-minute plan changes)

It’s May – graduations, confirmations, season-ending parties, annual meetings, retreats, planning meetings, non-planning meetings, not-sure-why-we’re-here meetings.

I’ve had a great chance to quote scripture quite often to my daughter lately – John 20:13: “Woman, why are you crying”?!?!?!?!

I decided to spend the day throwing myself a pity-party and it turned out to be quite the gathering.

I was comforted by all those that feel my pain.

And I was encouraged to be able to rant and fuss in the spirit that I deserved:

As I type this, my green beans are cold. And we had to use provolone cheese instead of shredded cheese on my meatloaf!

#firstworldproblems

#GodSaveMeFromMyLackofPerspective

#OkayIGetIt

#I’llDoBetterTommorow

This is For All the Lonely People… (Generation M, Part II)

Aside

I wish every blog could be written as a letter to my daughter, however… back to the task at hand, right?

’Twas the best of times, ’Twas the worst of times

The other day, a mentor of mine challenged me about the lecture/seminar “circuit” I have begun. Speaking simply, it seemed to him that I could not decide whether I was “for or against” these new Social Media tools.

First of all, it’s a moot point. As we discussed in the first part of this series, it is here – ready or not.

For the record though, I am excited about this technology and the opportunities it presents for our world, and I am eager to identify the ways in which it is changing today’s teenagers (meeting some needs not met before, leaving voids where needs were once met) and thus changing the way we will interact with one another as parents, ministers, educators, and professionals, over the course of the next generation or two.

One example of the reward/risk that is attached with Social Media is the dichotomy of connectivity and loneliness that it creates.

On one hand, with Facebook and Instagram, cell phones and iPads, we now feel more connected to one another than ever before.

However, as Sherry Turkle points out, these tools and tricks actually enable an illusion of connectivity that lends itself to an increased level of loneliness that is powerful, yet harder to identity. Turkle writes:

WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.

When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.

Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”

So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.

We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.

 

This technology is making us (as individuals and groups) more power and capable now than every before. As we learn how to maximize our potential with this technology it is equally important that we understand the new needs and risks it creates.

As we capitalize on our electronic relationships with one another and Generation M, let us remember that we are making a connection and not an impact.

We as a “Church” have are positioned beautifully to make that impact in the days to come.

Social Media must always be used as a TOOL for a ministry and not a ministry unto itself. It is the difference between preaching to someone ministering to someone

Relationships are not “in jeopardy” because of this technology, they are in fact, all the more necessary.

For never before has the world been more connected,

AND never before has our world been more lonely.

Stay tuned…

Generation M – It Is What It Is

I’ve had the opportunity to start doing some presentations centered around the Social Media Revolution, how it is changing our world, and what we as educators, ministers, or youth workers need to do to capitalize on it (if not, manage it).

However, one thing we as adults need to understand and recognize is that our teens (and adolescents) are more entrenched in this revolution than we are.

Sure, the fastest growing population of Facebook users are “Female Speeders” (Women, 55+) – that gap is narrowing, but we as a generation of adults are still behind where are teenagers are in terms of embedding this technology into their everyday lives.

What this means is that we have yet to identify how this technology has affected today’s student. Yes, we know (to some degree) how it is changing our world, but we continue to teach and work with today’s teen as if they are the teenagers we had 20, 10, or even 5 years ago.

Fact is, the teenager we are dealing with is differently affected by media than any other student in the history of the world.

They are over-processed and under-developed. They have the access to answers, yet have less capacity to develop thoughts. They are more connected than ever before and have less capacity for intimacy. They are more programmed than ever, yet have less time for personal growth and development.

I’ve always said that the needs of the teenager have not changed. However, what has changed is the spectrum of which needs are being met vs. those needs which our youth show up having unfulfilled.

We can no longer assume that teenagers need the same things they needed from teachers, youth ministers, ministers, etc. that they’ve needed over the past several years.

And, we can no longer debate whether or not media, specifically Social Media, is “worth it” or not.

It’s now time to talk about how to adapt to this new age, embrace the potential and guard against the dangers.

Generation Multimedia – It is what it is.

And what are we going to do about it?

(Image Courtesy of OnlineSchools.com)

To Be Continued…

Thank God (and Google and Apple and Facebook) for Job Security!

Study shows multitasking with various digital devices hinders social development

 

A recent survey, published in a scientific journal (Developmental Psychology) by Stanford University, concluded that girls (8 to 12) who are most actively multitasking between different digital devices (texting, TV, Facebook, etc) are less likely to develop normal social tendencies.

One of the study’s lead professors, Clifford Nass, was quite disturbed by the findings.

“No one had ever looked at this, which really shocked us,” Nass said. “Kids have to learn about emotion, and the way they do that, really, is by paying attention to other people. They have to really look them in the eye…If you eschew face-to-face communication, you don’t learn critical things that you have to learn,” Nass said. “You have to learn social skills. You have to learn about emotion.”

 

What This Means For Youth Ministers

For a long time, I assumed my job was to provide a safe and lasting environment to explore, know, and seek God in a way that holds up well after they go to college and their world gets turned upside down. Further, I assumed it my responsibility to provide opportunities to explore, articulate, and live their lives (and futures) because of God’s love for them and others.

However with a theology that asserts that God is among and within everything everywhere, it becomes hard to prove or promote the need of the institutional “Youth Group” or even “Church”.

But alas, while the opportunities to experience God are all around us, the opportunities to experience the beauty of God in one another seem to becoming fewer and fewer.

Sad part is, our students may never realize their isolation.

Between the Pinterest, Google Plus, Facebook, Tumblr, iTunes, YouTube, FaceTime, Skype, iPhones, Twitter, Tablet, Fast-Food, T1-Speed options youth are given to feel “connected”, are plenty of band-aids to cover bullet-wounds for years to come.

It might be years until our teens understand the effects of the double-edge sword of constant saturation of less-than-human interaction.

Gone are the days when a student could come home from the gossip and pressure of their social environment to debrief, decompress, and recharge to be able to freshly start the new day.

And gone are the days when students were readily available to their own emotions through intimate interactions with their friends and peers.

Unless we continue to force the issue.

What to Do, What to Do

It’s clear that our teens have a desire to connect with others, otherwise, there would be no social media.

In many ways this quasi-connection has become a safety net. In the same way that many teens will operate the handheld devices as a buffer while in a conversation, these luke-warm connections keep them safe from their fears of being lonely on one extreme, and vulnerable on the other.

What used to be the luxury of organized play before or after youth group has now become a necessity. What used to be the expected conversation in a circle has now become endangered. The laughing, crying, sharing, and even being amongst teenagers in a safe space is becoming more and more rare, if not sacred.

We can no longer take for granted that our students (the generation that begins, sustains, and ends relationships through the screen of a cell phone) know and are comfortable with the norms of relating to one another in the flesh.

Youth groups have always been really good at creating safe environments for face-to-face contact. The trick for this day, I think, is realizing that our teens are less prepared and may require more patience, instruction, and build-up to these moments.

We must continue to assert that God is present “whenever two or more are gathered”; we must continue to assert that God’s embrace can often be found in the interaction with one another.

We must be willing to coach them, challenge them, and lead them so that they are willing to claim it!

Have you noticed differences, challenges, or successes in how your teens connect with one another? How do you create these valuable connections?

 

Israel 2012 – Day One (Travel Day): Heading to Armageddon

Welcome new readers who are interested in following our group pilgrimage, here we go!

Many of you, friends, colleagues, and family will be very present in my mind over the next 10 days.

I’m at the Orlando International Airport overwhelmed, excited, and humbled;

humbled by the opportunity that lies before me, humbled by the opportunity to experience new places, people, customs, and represent the places, people, and customs I know and love.

humbled by the opportunity to walk some of the footsteps of the humble man who changed the world.

I’ve been desperately trying to detach myself from “my” world – even a five day fast! – so that I could focus on preparing for the world I am entering.

I was quite unsuccessful.

Maybe that’s the beauty of this pilgrimage. Maybe that’s what a pilgrimage really is. Less of me and more (if not all) about where I will be walking and whom I am walking with.

Like the rest of my faith journey, I am being forced to move forward regardless of how unprepared I might feel.

That being said, it seems like the timing could be perfect.

When I return, my wife will be entering the period of pregnancy that will make her more dependent upon me, and from what I hear, Daddyhood will leave me pretty busy too.

Meanwhile in Israel, there are Israeli and Palestinian Leaders agreeing to meet for the first time in a while (Although both are clear that this is NOT a negotiation. Read the Story Here.)

There are stories of an emerging “Rosa Parks of Israel”. (Read the Story Here)

Heading to Armageddon

When I land tomorrow, I will be in Tel-Aviv. We will be transported by bus to Cesarea (more on that tomorrow) and then taken to Har Megiddo.

Har, meaning hill, of Meggido was the hill where many (if not most) of the major Biblical battles had taken place. Thus, it was natural that it became the place where prophets of the time figured the last battle would take place too.

Over time, as the Greek speaking world gained influence, Har Meggido (say it fast, it’ll make sense) evolved into Armageddon. (You might need to reread that sentence)

Coming from a culture where “Armageddon” is a scare tactic and a marketing ploy, it is exciting to see the simplicity and beauty of the origins being traced back to what I think is a more appropriate, beautiful, and real presence.

Maybe that’s what this trip is about, tracing back the myths, places, people, and stories to experience the beauty, simplicity, and power from which it all began.

Of course, I cannot omit the fact that there is also conflict, suffering, and injustice in these parts as well. Perhaps it will be possible to unpack the spin of time and culture to better experience the truth and complexity as well.

All in due time.

But, as I prepare to board the plane and detach from yesterday, I prepare for just tomorrow:

- Ceserea
-Meeting a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and
- Armageddon.

Or is it Har Meggido?

Again, all in due time.

A Prayer for the Pilgrimage

(Written by Dr. Casey Baggott)

Pil.grim.age (n) 1. A Journey to a sacred place. 2. A long journey or seach, esp. one of exalted purpose. (The American Heritage Dictionary)

Blessed are You, Lord our God, for you have created the wide and wondrous world in which we travel. We ask your blessing upon us as we are about to embark upon our pilgrimage. Be our ever-near companion, O Holy God, and spread the road before us with beauty and awe.

May all the pathways ahead of us be free of harm and evil. May we be accompanied by your HOly Spirit, as were the saints and prophets of days long past. Show us the invisibile meanins in every event of our journey, from delays and disappointments, to discoveries and dreams renewed.

On this trip, we venture toward the Holy Land, which had given us our scripture, our Savior, and our church. Help us to see the gifts there for us still. Let us find your footprints among the holy sites; let us hear your voice call along the cobbled streets; let us sense your presence alive and strong among the ruins. Let us know your Sacred Presence in all that befalls us.

May our journey awaken us to the mystery of your holy plan for all your children of the world, worked out slowly across time and space. And may our travels help fulfill your plans for us.

Let the blessing of Your name, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be upon us throughout this trip, and bring us home again in safety and peace. Amen.

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(This post edited by the other half of the odd couple)

Click Here to Link to Day Two

Click Here to Link to Day Three
Click Here to Link to Day Four
Click Here to Link to Day Five
Click Here to Link to Day Six
Click Here to Link to Day Seven
Click Here to Link to Day Eight
Click Here to Link to Day Nine

A Few Facebook Tips for Parents

 

Growing up, I took a few Karate classes.

Literally. I took three of them.

I went for a class where they talked about how important it was to “harness my energy.” Then I went back where they showed me how to stand so that I could use my new (not-yet-learned) resources most successfully. I don’t really remember what I was taught during my third Karate class, but it must not’ve been the roundhouse kick I was hoping to learn because I quit immediately after.

Some twenty years later, in the middle of this social media revolution, I’ve begun to understand and appreciate where sensei was coming from.

For this newest generation, learning to use Facebook is as easy as learning to speak and as awkward as figuring out how to uniquely blend in to the crowd like an individual – just like the rite of passage we all went through as adolescents and teens.

However, for the newest generation of parents (and their parents), it took a while to grow comfortable with Facebook in particular. However, it seems that Facebook has proven itself as a useful (if not increasingly necessary) tool for networking, reminiscing and yes, even parenting.

While most Facebook users feel they understand what they need to understand in order to use it for their own intents and purposes, few parents seem to realize that there is a certain craft, a certain martial-arts-like restraint necessary while being a parental Facebook user.

But, first, the argument.

Making the Case

Argument #1

Make no mistake about it, parents, your student is aware of your Facebook activity. Even if you just use it for “personal connections”, your student is as embarrassed by what you do on Facebook as easily as they’re embarrassed every time they see you smiling, singing, or having fun while you’re on the parental clock.

Your teenager will always see Facebook as THEIR medium just as they see their room as THEIR room or their friends as THEIR friends. The more fun they think you’re having on THEIR medium the more agitated they’re going to get. I’m not trying to discourage your use (see below), I just want you to understand what you’re up against. See: myparentsjoinedfacebook.com. I rest my case.

Argument #2

Facebook is such a tremendous tool that we as educators, ministers, and parents have to stay engaged with our students and their environments. We can be more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and activities all while being less invasive than the generation before us had to be while getting to know us!

It’s like karate (so I’ve heard). It is a tremendously powerful resource that if used correctly can help keep our teenagers, and our relationships with them, safe and healthy.

Yes, I’m Talking to You

Probably.

Allow me to be more specific.

If you ever worry about becoming

  1. a parent who has been “un-friended”, or by your student
  2. a parent who is “friends” with your student who has not yet realized that you are being “blocked” on some (or the majority of) the pictures, comments, and statuses that your student posts, or
  3. a parent who has argued with your student about whether or not a post, comment, or picture they posted was appropriate,

I’m talking to you. I’m not judging, I’ve just spent the last two weeks talking with parents and teenagers, and feel like I might be in a position to help, ya know, as the middle man.

In those conversations, there were three clear themes that surfaced in almost every conversation. Again, these rules will be as unique to you as your relationship with your teenager. Please consider said relationship in your interpretation of the rules. Bear in mind, I don’t know you, your teen, or your relationship with your teenager.

In other words, don’t get mad, ijs (shorthand: I”m just sayin’).

A Few Ground Rules

RULE #1: DO NOT POST PICTURES, COMMENTS, OR STATUSES ABOUT YOUR TEENAGERS WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION.

I can understand where this is a toughy. The obvious response is “It’s my status, and I can post whatever I want about my day and my family!”

And you’re right. You have every right to post want you want. The same as you have every right to walk into their classroom and announce their next doctor’s appointment. Point is, to them it’s the same thing.

Facebook is an extension of school at it’s worst and an extension of their social identity at its best (in their opinion) as many students are prone to keeping their family life separate from either of those two realms, the same is true on Facebook. As irrational as that may seem to you, the gesture to acknowledge it would be much appreciated.

Remember: odds are good that their next romantic relationship will begin (and most likely end) on Facebook. Your student might not want to date in the presence of their family photo album.

RULE #2: DON’T COMMENT ON YOUR STUDENT’S WALL, POSTS, OR PICTURES.

Ya know that “eye-roll-of-death” you get from your teen when you walk up to join in on a conversation with him/her and their friends. I’m not sure there’s a way to comment or post on your student’s thread without seeming invasive.

I’m not saying it’s a rational emotion. Neither was it rationale when he chastised our parents for “trying to be cool” either.

And most importantly.

RULE #3: CHOOSE YOUR BATTLE

That is not a typo, folks, choose your battle.

With greater accessibility to your teenager’s life, you are inevitable going to see things that make you uncomfortable. You might even see stuff that you think is wrong. I can’t help you determine the difference between the two. All I can say is this: choose your battle, because you will only get one.

I believe that as soon as you directly confront a post or picture on your student’s (or student’s friends) profile they become drastically more aware that you are watching – and they become uncomfortable. That used to be the same sense of discomfort that our parents used to motivate us away from doing “wrong.” However, this generation is given a technological “out”. You will be blocked, and they will continue as usual.

To today’s teenager, their Facebook page feels like some combination of their property and their diary. Treat the information that you gleam from there accordingly.

HINT: I am not at all suggesting that you NOT use the information. Nor am I suggesting that you not hold your student to the expectations you have decided are appropriate. Just make sure you ask enough questions, gather enough sources, so that it doesn’t look like you’ve been reading their diary; especially since they would just assume find a new hiding spot for their diary.

You would be amazed how many times I’ve seen a picture or post on Facebook that has led me to ask a student how they’re doing. “How’d you know?” they often respond.

Stay calm, don’t rush to confrontation, and you may just appear to be an intuitive genius. A true magician never reveals his/her secrets/sources.

Conclusion

I would think that every generation of parents has had to dance the awkward shuffle of being an involved parent without being the helicopter-parent who hovers, worries, and suffocates.

These new guidelines are just a dance-step towards better understanding how to understand the power of technology, the power of a teenager’s trust, and the power of parental presence.

Now, if I could only master the power of a roundhouse kick!