Q: I try to avoid conflict, especially with my spouse. But we still argue sometimes. It makes me worry and wonder if this is a sign our relationship is struggling. What's your take?
Jim: The presence of conflict doesn't necessarily mean a relationship is in trouble. In fact, certain conflict can actually be an indicator that a relationship is strong.
For example, conflict can easily occur when two people are close. Husbands and wives know one another inside and out, so it's easier for them to rub each other the wrong way. Although that dynamic has the potential to create problems, it also shows there's an intimate bond. And that's a good thing.
Spouses can also argue because they're both thinking, opinionated adults. They know what they like, what they want and what they believe. Again, that can create challenges — but on its own it's one of the ingredients that can make a marriage truly great.
And, believe it or not, spouses often have conflict because they really love each other. Each partner genuinely cares about what the other says and does. This can lead to some heated exchanges, but it's usually for a good cause.
Every human relationship is susceptible to conflict, especially one as close as marriage. And sure, conflict can become destructive if it's allowed to progress unchecked. That's why it's important to learn how to handle conflict in a healthy way, so you build up your relationship rather than tear it down.
My colleague, Dr. Greg Smalley, has done some great work in this area. Greg and his wife, Erin, wrote a helpful book called "Fight Your Way to a Better Marriage." I highly recommend it. You can find that book and many other resources at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My kids and their friends keep talking about TikTok. What is it, and what do I need to know about it as a parent?
Adam Holz, Director, Plugged In: TikTok is an app that gives users a chance to post short smartphone videos online. It was the second-most downloaded app of 2019 (behind WhatsApp Messenger). Overall, TikTok feels like YouTube with a very short attention span. Videos can be as long as 60 seconds, but many are much shorter.
TikTok videos can feature almost anything — anything that will grab users' attention, that is. You'll see dancing and singing (which the app originally focused on). You might see a horse stick its tongue out or someone lying down drinking milk. In other words, it's an expressive digital medium that tweens and teens (and plenty of adults, too) gravitate toward to broadcast silly antics.
But it's not all silly, and there are some real issues parents need to know about. Usage guidelines prohibit graphic, violent, risky, sexually explicit or hateful content. But those rules are pretty loose. Profanity? No ban on that. And many young users post videos that are suggestive while avoiding explicit images. The app theoretically prohibits users under 13, but that's a guideline many underage users ignore. Young users could potentially find themselves in conversations with adults they don't know via the app's comment feature. TikTok has also become a go-to destination for viral video challenges, many of which can be risky.
On a more philosophical level, TikTok is all about grabbing attention. Videos practically scream, "Look at me!" This is true of social media in general. But TikTok feels custom-made to encourage narcissism. And it's easy to burn a lot of time watching inane videos, too.
TikTok says its mission is "to inspire creativity and bring joy." That said, TikTok also offers many avenues for kids to drift into trouble if parents aren't closely engaged with what they're watching and posting.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.