Do you have a kid? Do they have a phone? This is a resource for you.

Everyone should have a friend like Christine Carter. Oddly, since Christine and I became acquainted through blogging, we've never met in person (yet). That doesn't dilute my opening statement -- everyone should have a friend like Christine Carter. She's full of life and wildly encouraging. She's left comments on my blog that are so complimentary I've wanted to tattoo them on myself. 

In a nutshell, Chris Carter is for people -- when you read her writing (she publishes broadly and blogs at The Mom Cafe) or interact with her online, you feel like you have a personal cheerleader in life. In fact, the only thing I can find wrong with the woman is that she's an Ohio State fan. (Being that my home team is Penn State, that's a doozy, but Christine is so incredible I can even overlook her misguided college football allegiance.)

Last month Christine, released her second book titled Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen's Guide to Navigating the Online World.  If you have a kid, and your kid has a phone, this is a resource you'll want.

Structured as a workbook, Follow Jesus invites teens to think about their online habits in light of eight distinct values: love, grace, humility, compassion, truth, wisdom, integrity, and faithfulness.  Each section provides practical tips (ex: "always pause and pray for God's guidance before you post any response to bad behavior you see online"), applicable memory verses, checklist questions that invite personal introspection, and action-oriented prompts that challenge readers to take concrete steps to ensure their online habits are safe, reflect their Christian values, and ultimately, give glory to God.

As a person who's grappled with my own online presence and habits -- and as a mother who's raising a young teen and rising tweens who are dipping their toes into the online world -- I found the checklist questions and action-oriented prompts to be most useful.  While I can envision teens using the workbooks personally or in the context of a youth group, I also imagine that parents will benefit from using the resource to prompt healthy discussions that go deeper than the default, "you've-been-on-your-phone-all-afternoon-get-off-of-it" comment, which hits more on the quantity of time our kids spend on devices, rather than the quality of the content they're viewing and interactions they're having.

Follow Jesus hits on those "quality" aspects of the online world -- areas like knowing how to respond kindly (or even walking away) when you encounter inflammatory comments, not using social media to boast, not linking self-worth with the number of likes you receive, learning how to tune into the needs of others as they share online, ferreting out truth in a crowded environment that easily disseminates lies, and interacting online in ways that preserve our personal integrity.

Daresay, these reminders are good for adults to read, too.

I'll be honest: I've felt skiddish and inept as I've mulled over how and when my kids should have access to the online world.  I'm not sure I've always made the right choices.  When should they have a phone? How long should they be permitted to be on their phone each day? How do we best monitor this largely private device?  I want to bubble-wrap my kids and protect them from the corners of the the online world that are trashy and unhealthy.  At the same time, I want them to be able to connect with their friends and have access to online resources and platforms that are productive and entertaining.

Therein lies the rub: as parents, we can't just hand over a device that lets a young person explore EVERYTHING -- good and bad, helpful and harmful, edifying and destructive -- without also arming them with guidance on how to best handle that device.  That's the goal of Follow Jesus: to provide a lifeline of wise biblical guidance so our teens can swim, not sink, and engage online in a healthy, thoughtful, and God-honoring fashion.

And THAT is something I can get behind.

Get your copy of Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen's Guide to Navigating the Online World on Amazon. And while you're at it, visit Christine Carter to hear more of her wit and wisdom at The Mom Cafe!

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