Navigating the waters of the tech world requires help from godly resources. At Midwestern, we have an incredible tech team led by David Meyer. I thought I would pick his brain a bit about parenting, technology and resources we can all use for our families.
David, I’d like to start with a brief bio – tell us a little about yourself and your family…
I have been married to my awesome wife for 12 years and we have 3 wonderful children, Emily 16, Kaylee 10, and Evan 8. We belong to Lenexa Baptist Church and have been attending regularly for about 8 years. I have been in the technology field for over 25 years. I have worked in all aspects of the IT field, from the help desk to IT Director. My current role is Director of IT for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am going on my 3rd year with MBTS.
You work in a world of technology at an institution that is passionately “For the Church.” How do you connect your tech role with ministry?
I feel as though God has me in this role to help those who are struggling and frustrated due to technology related issues. I see this as an opportunity to show God’s love and to witness to those around me. When someone comes to IT, people generally are not contacting me for something positive, but rather when they have a problem that needs to be solved. I always believe there are two ways to look at it, positive or negative, and I choose to take a positive approach to problem solving so the client has the best experience possible. I see this as an opportunity to serve. 1Cor 10:31 - "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Help us out - How best should pastors apply technology in their congregations and personal lives?
Never before has technology been in a state of accelerated growth and advancement. This is both troubling and uplifting at the same time. Troubling in the context of material and ease of which to obtain it, uplifting on how many can be reached and by the ease and means of doing so. Pastors should embrace technology as a tool and means to convey the good news to others. I also feel that pastors should be aware of the need for tools to protect themselves from the troubling side of technology, to use them, and to share them with their congregations. I believe individuals in the church, especially parents, are searching for reliable safety features to compliment the advancement of technology.
Should Christian parents be encouraging their kids to pursue careers in technology?
Yes, absolutely! Christian parents should encourage the technology fields as a means of a potential career. Every component in our society will be touched by technology to some degree. Going forward, this is only going to increase and we need good, strong Christian young people driving that force to reach as many as possible for God’s glory. The stronger our force, the greater the development of tools and available communication will be, as well the ability to spread the Gospel.
What are the biggest dangers in the tech world today?
As mentioned previously, access is truly the number one danger in our world today. Never before have we been so challenged in protecting our core Christian values and beliefs. Pornography is literally everywhere and freely accessible with very little effort via technology. Predators can use the same tools to manipulate and trick our kids by hiding behind masked identities and or expose them to inappropriate material. We truly live in a very dangerous time in terms of technology but at the same time never before with such an opportunity to utilize it in a positive and meaningful way as well.
What safeguards should pastors and thought leaders be placing in their lives to avoid these dangers?
Personally, I have chosen to use layers of safeguards in the use of technology for myself and my family. I would suggest pastors and others to do the same.
On a more personal level, what do you do to help your family live with the ubiquity of tech in the 21st century?
It’s all part of the layers I mentioned before.
If you could caution all parents about one thing in technology, what would it be?
The one thing in technology that I would caution parents about is secrecy, especially with the “deep web” which is something many parents know very little, if anything, about. The “deep web” consists of hidden world from public search engines. Without going into technical details, Child pornography, arms trafficking, drugs, hired assassins, prostitutes, terrorism, etc., all make the Deep Web the largest black market ever to exist. There are applications that have a special keystroke and/or function to activate it known only by the user that installed it. Our kids are very tech savvy today and it is a constant “cat and mouse game” for us to stay ahead of the curve. We have to talk to our kids and make them aware of the dangers that are out there and what to look for so they don’t stumble across something they shouldn’t, or be tempted to hide things from us – if something has to be hidden, it is probably not a good thing. It is also important that we talk to them about what to do in case they do encounter something questionable. Just like drugs, there is a very real threat with technology and peer pressure is ever present. The safeguards I mentioned above are the key and the best chance of ensuring our family’s safety.
How can churches come alongside families to help them deal with the technology concerns of our day?
I believe that the church can come alongside families by inviting experts in these areas of technology to teach classes specific on the threats our kids face, what to look for, and how to prevent problems. Parents and church leaders cannot sit this one out. We must be vigilant in keeping up with this ever changing technology; we can be assured that our children are. I believe it would be prudent for the leaders of churches to review the different tools available and combine efforts with the companies to purchase and provide those at an affordable and realistic price to families. If offered in this way there may be a nonprofit pricing tier that could provide substantial savings. It would be a win/win for the company and for families if procured.
Thanks, David, for your service to our school, for your encouragement to me as a dad and your investment in us today!
If you want more information from David, follow him on Facebook or LinkedIn
If you could take unwanted web material and filter it in your home, would you? What if it were really easy to do so?
I’ve talked with countless parents frustrated about how hard it is to help shield their kids from unwanted material on the web. You can pursue DNS blockers or router solutions, but often there is a certain level of technical know-how that is assumed before you can implement these safeguars. Additionally, they can be “fiddly,” as one parent put it.
Circle Media began with the hope of making tools available for families to easily manage their home’s web content and have more extensive conversations with children growing up in a digital universe. An initial Kickstarter campaign by Circle Media never quite got off the ground, but Disney saw an opportunity and got behind a re-vamped product.
Circle is a small cube that plugs into your existing router hardware. You set up the rest from your phone. In a very simple to navigate app, each device that accesses the web in your home is relegated to a specific user and then each user is assigned a category: Pre-K, Kid, Teen, Adult and “none”. Every time a new device accesses your network, you are asked to assign that device to a person or to a filter level. This helps even as your kids mature and their peers bring iPhones or other devices to your home.
When a user surfs over to content that is deemed inappropriate, they are met with a screen that says “You’ve been filtered” and offers alternative, age-appropriate (and often Disney sourced) material. Each filter level even allows for platform-specific filtering like Facebook, YouTube or Snapchat can be completely filtered out. Additionally, you can allow sites, but have Circle filter out ads, require Google Safe Search and YouTube Restricted – all welcome additions for families who care what their kids see and experience online.
Parents are also given tools that restrict access to wifi during specific times or after a certain time limit has been reached. If your kids attempt to access the web at night alone in their rooms (never a good idea), the web is completely disconnected until the next morning at a specific time. Additionally, Parents can manually “pause” the internet on any device in the system which is perfect for those families who like to have their children “earn” time on electronics only after chores are completed.
This is an incredibly helpful device that simplified so much of what we needed to manage in our home. Even with 6 people who are accessing the router at a single time, we have never experienced a major slow down in web speed either (thank you, Google Fiber).
With so many positives, there are a few difficulties, though.
Overall, Circle has become an integral part of how we aid our family to think wisely about how each person accesses information. If you are a concerned parent or even an adult who struggles with pornography, Circle can be a quick and easy solution that helps manage the wifi content in your home.
We strongly recommend it.
Does it ever feel as if your fight against the hoards of unwanted internet content is a losing battle? Not only does the constant barrage of near pornographic images in advertisements and media continually wear on me personally, but I have concerns about my teens and pre-teens who are learning to swim in this same culture.
A few years back I wrote on the encroaching of porn in social media venues. I discovered how hashtag searching within ubiquitous sites like Instagram, Facebook or Twitter could enable your children to access a plethora of images, videos and links to the very dark world of pornography. While these sites are doing an increasingly better job of filtering the content, the sheer volume of posts still means that new issues arise by the minute.
Adding to the challenge for us are the massive number of apps that appear on the scene regularly. Take Snapchat whose meteoric rise in the under 20 demographic has much to do with two factors: the images/videos disappear after a certain time and their parents don’t use the app. And it seems there’s a new app every day.
What’s a family to do?
We could propose a moratorium on technology and retreat into some form of supposed Luddite utopia. Ultimately, that’s not the best response as many jobs or even beneficial things require that same connectivity.
Our family has chosen to tackle this problem with accountability. We know full well that we aren’t perfect, nor are there perfect solutions to this issue. However, we have found some tools that help us navigate the issues we face.
Unfortunately, not all of these safeguards will keep your children (or yourself) safe. Last week as I read news on a variety of sites, it seemed as if most of the advertisements belonged in a specific issue of Sports Illustrated. As I was looking at a vehicle listing on Craigslist, I clicked on an additional link about the buyer that sent you into his “personals” ad. I wanted to throw up. I had no idea that people would publically try to negotiate sexual liaisons so graphically on Craigslist.
The battle is real. The casualties in the battle are real.
As parents and families, it’s smart for us to work together for the good of each other – even if the culture doesn’t understand.
Never give up the fight!
 http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/snapchat-statistics/ And, while parents may not use the site frequently, those photos don’t actually disappear. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/10/snapchat-photos-dont-delete-saved-on-phone_n_3248567.html
John Mark Yeats