Kids and media

Child with computerFamily life is being increasingly affected by screens … TVs, computers, game consoles, along with hand-held electronic media — the ubiquitous cell phone, and portable devices like Sony’s PSP. This generation, more than any that preceded it, do not regard electronic media as anything special. Concerned parents can wonder just how ‘normal’ all this screen time is, as well as wondering just what their kids are actually doing.

Technology is normal

Parents are commonly baffled and irritated by kids who simultaneously do homework, instant message three friends, and listen to music on their iPods. Studies show that teens consider ‘multi-tasking’ to be totally normal. After all, this generation has never had to adapt to the information age. Technology and the web have always been present, and are assumed to be a natural part of life — much like their parents view a microwave or a refrigerator.

Erin Research conducted a large study called Young Canadians in a Wired World, released in 2005. They surveyed more than 5,200 students, who were in Grades 4 to 11, from every province and territory, in both official languages, from both urban and rural environments. The study was funded by Industry Canada’s SchoolNet program.

A remarkable 94 percent of Canadian teens have internet in the home. This represents an increase of 15 percent in only four years (when Erin researched the same kids). In addition, the majority of kids (61 percent) now have unrestricted 24-hour high-speed (ADSL or Cable) internet service. Thirty percent have their own computer with internet access (as opposed to sharing a family computer). By grade 11, 51 percent have their own computer. The increasingly multi-featured cell phone is becoming commonplace for teens; 23 percent have their own cell phone (six percent in grade 4, rising to 46 percent in grade 11). Further, 22 percent have a webcam for personal use (31 percent by Grade 11).

Smoke and mirrors

Instant messaging using MSN or Yahoo IM was found to be the single most popular internet activity of kids, across the board. This raises concerns for parents who may look over their childrens’ shoulders and see an enormous list of indecipherable contact names. The Internet offers everyone an environment of anonymity. Protection of online privacy is a genuine issue of concern. Parents are concerned about stalkers who may prey on children. It appears that kids are savvy to this.

Even when dealing with a bona fida company like Yahoo or Microsoft, when asked about signing up for a free email account, only 30 percent would give their real name and address, 37 percent only an email address, and 24 percent would hesitate to give any real information.

However, the anonymity tempts users to assume a different online identity.

  • 52 percent have pretended to be of a different age.
  • 26 percent have pretended to have different personality characteristics.
  • 24 percent have pretended to have abilities they do not really have.
  • 23 percent have pretended to have an appearance different from their real one.

Offensive sites

Students in grades 7 to 11 were asked whether they had visited certain “offensive” sites on purpose during the current school year. Overall:

  • 16 percent had visited porn sites.
  • 18 percent had visited violence or gore sites.
  • 12 percent had visited gambling sites.
  • 9 percent had visited adult chat rooms.
  • 5 percent had visited hate sites (e.g. those dealing in racial or religious hatred).
  • 34 percent had visited at least one of the above types of site.

More boys than girls visited this set of sites, and more older than younger kids visited them.

What can parents do?

Persuasion and protection

In perhaps the most arresting — and encouraging — of results in this study, parental interest and involvement in teens’ internet use makes a measurable difference, specifically by the setting of guidelines and rules. Teens report that their household has rules about:

  • Meeting someone in person whom you got to know online (74 percent)
  • Sites that you are not supposed to visit (70 percent)
  • Giving out personal information online (69 percent)
  • Telling your parents if something makes you feel uncomfortable (69 percent)

Whether or not these rules are explicit, and enforced in any way, cannot be corroborated. The research focused on four areas parents can discuss with their teens:

  • Sites you should not visit
  • Meeting people whom you got to know online
  • Giving personal information online
  • How much time you can spend online

The results of such discussions are measurable and significant, with a two thirds reduction in teens’ visits to offensive sites.

“In each case the existence of a rule makes a considerable difference in kids’ online behaviour,” said the Erin study. “For example, in households where there is a rule about ‘sites you should not visit,’ 14 percent of kids in grades 6 and 7 have purposefully visited sites dealing in porn, gore, hate and related topics. In households that have no such rule, 43 percent of kids have purposefully visited these sites.”

With 61 percent of households in Canada now having 24/7 broadband, even if the computer is in a “public place” such as the living room, with continual internet connection, parents cannot possibly be present at all times.

Erin Research disconcertingly states: “For an activity that accounts for a large proportion of children’s time, internet use is largely absent from family conversations.”

Young, dynamic & faithful

April 17 saw 800 – 900 youth gather at Broadway Church in Vancouver for ONE.3, the third annual gathering.

Facilitated by the Hope Vancouver Youth Network (HVYN), the interdenominational event’s main speaker was CRY Canada’s Faytene Kryskow.

HVYN’s Mika Kostamo told BCCN: “At the altar call, over a hundred youth came forward to consecrate themselves to God. For others, commitment to the Lord was a new thing.”

Kostamo noted the participation of Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals – a wide representation from the church, coming from all over the Lower Mainland.

“There is a ONE event planned for next year along with a New Year’s gathering, he confirmed. hvyn.org

Historymaker

Historymaker, one of Canada’s largest Christian gatherings of youth and young adults, will take place May 15 – 17; it will mark the first use of the brand new Langley Events Centre. Organizers anticipate a capacity crowd of up to 6,000.

Historymaker started back in the 60s, and was originally based in Kamloops. In recent years, the size, scope and location of the event has changed. Over the years, more than 100,000 young people have attended the gatherings.

According to Historymaker’s director Ben Johnson, “We are encouraging youth to take action, not just to have a head belief. [We're] calling people to faith and works.”

Although birthed and supported by the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, the event is primarily self-funding and highly multi-denominational. Historymaker’s Marc Poitras confirmed this, adding: “HM’s vision is to support youth in the local church, and be part of a movement to empower youth to discover the presence of God.”

This year’s event features New Zealand’s Parachute Band, As One, Revolution Band and Ontario rapper Manafest. The main speaker is author Lisa Bevere. historymaker.ca

Youth Church

Eight years ago, six teen Christians found themselves churchless; their congregation had dissolved under them. With some mentoring, they began their own ‘church.’ Co-founder Simon Gau told BCCN: “We started a church for youth, run by youth — somewhere I can bring my friends.”

Called simply ‘Youth Church,’ they now have a main congregation of 300 — 400, almost all 15 — 25 years old. They meet at People’s Church in Surrey, 7 pm Sundays.

In addition, there are four other campuses (East Vancouver, Cloverdale, White Rock and Abbotsford), with another soon to start in Chilliwack.

On May 31 at Life Church in White Rock, various church members will gather for ‘Six in the Mix’; they expect around 800 youth. Youth Church is an independent endeavour. Although mentored by Rick Ellis (a 50 year old leader), they tend to be “entrepreneurial,” according to Gau — not necessarily joining in with events like Historymaker.

Asked what accountability they have with the wider church, Gau told BCCN that they meet weekly as Youth Church leaders, and he is connected to the Surrey Youth Pastors.

“I have been asked that question a lot. But since we’ve now been going over eight years, questions about our legitimacy have diminished,” he said.

Youth Church is very ‘seeker friendly’ according to Gau. “Every week we do an altar call.”

They anticipate the Chilliwack church campus starting in the summer. preachitliveitworkit.com

Shack author strikes a nerve

The Shack by William P. YoungThe Shack is Christianity’s latest runaway best-selling book — and author Willam P. Young was in Abbotsford, BC last weekend for his only Canadian appearance.

The book concerns a father whose daughter was killed on a camping trip. His marriage and his relationship with God have suffered, but one day he receives a note — apparently from God — inviting him back to the shack in the woods where his daughter was killed.

The resulting portrait of God is somewhat fresh and unusual, and has been praised by several Christian leaders.

Eugene Peterson has endorsed the book, saying: “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!”

Anglican minister Dale Lang, whose son was killed in a Columbine copycat shooting nine years ago, has also endorsed The Shack, stating: “This book goes beyond being the well-written, suspenseful page-turner that it is. Since the death of our son Jason, the Lord has led us to a small number of life-changing books — and this one heads the list. When you close the back cover, you will be changed.”

Other celebrity endorsements have come from singers Michael W. Smith and Wynonna Judd.

The popularity of the book has made a big impression on Lando Klassen, owner of the House of James bookstore, where Young appeared for a signing.

“There is no other book like it,” Klassen told CC.com. “Some people are buying five copies to give to friends! We have sold 2,700 copies in six months.”

Readers have posted 172 reviews of The Shack at Amazon.com, with an impressive 152 of them granting the book a full five stars out of five.

Eric Wilson, a novelist based in Nashville, praised the book and its depiction of God in his review, stating: “This is not the God of stodgy Sunday school classes. This is not a flannel-graph Jesus. This is not limited to a fluttering dove of the Holy Spirit. The descriptions here are startling, while remaining true to the nature of God’s love and grace as portrayed through Scripture. Not only are they startling, they’re wise and moving and beautiful.”

Young, speaking to CC.com from his home in Oregon, said he was inspired to write the book because “I was trying to save my kids 40 years! I actually wrote it out of obedience to my wife, who thought I should record the big picture of how I think and what I believe. I did just that, and gave them [the manuscript] in a spiral binder.”

Young said he wrote the book — which portrays the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as individual people who visit Mack — to explore the centrality of “relationship” to Christianity, “as opposed to the ‘performance’ paradigm that seems to be so common.”

Relationship, said Young, “has to exist within the very nature of God; I just describe them relating to each other. It has been totally accidental, but some consider the book a significant contribution to understanding the nature of the Trinity.”

Vulnerability and Connection

In her essay ‘Thoughts on the Meaning of Frailty,’ Wendy Lustbader, M.S.W. encapsulates many people’s thoughts on aging, “We have come to fear frailty more than death. We imagine being “put” in a nursing home, like a jar on a lonely shelf. Will a parade of paid strangers take care of me someday? Such images have become the focal point of our fear. Frailty coupled with abandonment has become our most dire existential dread.”

Compassion & honor

My own journey of care for my now deceased father taught me much. I had emerged into adulthood a rebellious long haired hippy that was both incomprehensible to my parents and profoundly rebellious and disrespectful of them. Oh there were reasons for my rebellion in my so called “dysfunctional” family. However despite the fact that relationship with my father had been fraught with conflict and periods of estrangement, his demise into painful failing health, coupled with his expressed emotional need of my support, allowed me to see him with more compassion than I had previously been able to muster.

I considered his childhood and saw the seeds of his chronic anger and abuse. I found a way to simply think better of him than I had. To “honor” him in my heart if you will. I also began to see positive qualities that he had imparted to me. No one is all bad, felt love enables us “see” the positive, indeed Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9 seems to show that love and true understanding of a person are related. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern”

New language of love

There was no fruit to be found in going over old ground, in “being right,” but through the lens of my forgiveness, I was able to discover a new language of love toward my frail father. I gently hugged him on visits and determinedly kissed him as I arrived and left. I also told him that I loved him. It is the stuff of the departure lounge in an airport. We say and do things we might otherwise never have the emotional courage or motivation to express. In this space I prayed for my Dad who, at the last, received Christ as his saviour. In my last visit with him, one of many “death bed” trips I made back to England, and accompanied by my 10 year old son, we prayed at his hospital bedside. Something urged me to ask him for “a father’s blessing.”Although he scarcely knew what I was asking for, he placed his hand on me and prayed a stanza from the Lord’s Prayer. Neither my son or I will ever forget the last time we saw him.

Lustbader recounts a moving experience in her book Counting on Kindness: The Dilemas of Dependency1. “My patient was a large man, and the dead weight of his stroke made it impossible for his tiny wife to move him at all. His son agreed to come over and learn how to do a wheelchair transfer, but he came in looking so hostile I wanted to call off the whole thing. He didn’t even say hello. I explained that he had to grip his father in a bear hug and then use a rocking motion to pivot him from the bed to the wheelchair. The son went over to the bed where his father was sitting and put his arms around him, just like I said. He got the rocking motions going, but then, all of a sudden I realized that both of them were crying. It was the most amazing thing. They stayed like that for a long time, rocking and crying. This son was moved to linger in his father’s arms for the first time since boyhood. Unexpected embraces, uncharacteristic expressions of feeling — these are only some of the ways that relationships grow through frailty’s demands. We prefer to go on fending for ourselves, but the triumph of doing so can turn into a regretted isolation. To let go, to depend, to accept tender attention may satisfy yearnings long contained.”

The best may be to come

Relationships are complex and hurts may run deep, however our increasingly frail and failing loved ones are vulnerable, fearing aloneness, and may be more open to deep connection than any time in their lives. It is easy to underestimate the impact of touch and simple pure hearted affection. Allow the Spirit to lead, and take faith that God can leave the most tender and best connection with your ailing parent to the end.

1. Lustbader, W., 1991. Counting on Kindness: The Dilemas of Dependency. New York: Free Press.

A big investment in Tyndale’s future

Morrow Park, newly acquired by Tyndale University College.

Morrow Park, newly acquired by Tyndale University College.

In a bold $40 million deal, Tyndale University College & Seminary – which was struggling financially only a few years ago – has purchased the nearby 56 acre Morrow Park from the Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph. This is the largest acquisition in Canadian evangelical history.

The property, located on Bayview Avenue in Toronto, is currently home to St. Joseph’s Morrow Park High School.

Tyndale, Canada’s oldest school of its kind, will retain its current campus, where some 1,200 students study humanities, social sciences, business and theology. Tyndale will take limited possession in the fall, and ready parts of the additional campus for use in September 2007. The agreement allows for an extension of the Catholic School Board lease until the end of the 2009 – 2010 academic year.

This acquisition had some unusual real-estate elements. A key negotiator for Tyndale, vice president for advancement Larry Willard, highlighted the unusual spirit.

“We found the Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph people of great integrity and good will,” he said. “Throughout they were a delight to work with. All of us feel that the Catholic-evangelical Protestant cooperation on key social issues over the last three decades has paved the way – this development seems to be a continuation of that. They certainly could have sold their property to a developer for far more money.”

In a press release issued by both organizations, Sister Margaret noted, “In recent years we and our independent advisors have reviewed a number of alternatives surrounding the future of Morrow Park. Key to our decision was the knowledge that Tyndale will continue the use of the property for Christian education and that the Chapel will continue as sacred space.” The acquisition itself was approved by the Vatican.

Founded in 1864, Toronto Bible College was only the third of its kind in North America and the first in Canada. In 1968, it merged with the London College of Bible and Missions to become the Ontario Bible College. Tyndale Seminary, a graduate school, followed.

The school’s name honours William Tyndale, described as “the early English reformer whose commitment to making the scriptures available to all persons led him to undertake the first English translation of the Bible, at the cost of his own life.”

Veteran Christian journalist Lloyd Mackey said Tyndale’s success is part of a trend among Christian establishments that have begun as training schools and eventually become universities, “like Trinity Western University in B.C. It seems that Tyndale is poised to follow Trinity.”

Willard agreed. “Tyndale is technically a university college – a status that is en route to gaining full university status. In order to gain that status we will need additional courses.

“This deal took around two years to complete, but was several years in the making,” he added. “As a university college, what we really need to serve Canada well was to enable us to have space for additional programs, including a planned bachelor’s [degree] in education, communications and media, and psychology.”

This development is particularly encouraging for Tyndale. As recently as five years ago the school was severely stretched financially. “In the midst of a seminary building program, some pledges didn’t come in,” Mackey recalled.

“Tyndale president Brian Stiller is to be commended, along with Winston Ling, VP of finance, in wisely guiding Tyndale through that challenge.”

Along with a number of other Christian colleges, Tyndale is applying to join the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada for accreditation as a full university. A team from the Association will be visiting Tyndale soon.

“Christian higher education is becoming mainstream,” concluded Willard.