About the Guest
The media will influence your child. Author Jonathan McKee reminds parents of the media's impact on our youth, and encourages parents to be wise in how they monitor their children's interaction with TV, the internet, and smartphones.
Jonathan McKeeJonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices, If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; an...more
Author Jonathan McKee reminds parents of the media’s impact on our youth, and encourages parents to be wise in how they monitor their children’s interaction with TV, the internet, and smartphones.
Bob: The McAfee Corporation, the company that makes antivirus software for computers, did a study not long ago where they asked parents and teens about issues related to internet safety. The results were very interesting. Here’s author, Jonathan McKee.
Jonathan: Not only did the majority of parents asked say, “Oh, I don’t even believe my kids can get into trouble on the internet,” but 74 percent of parents said: “I can’t even keep up. I just hope for the best,”—“hope for the best.” Don’t be like those parents, who just hand their kid a phone and say: “Here; what are you going to do?” We’re like, “Oh, they know better than us!” and we don’t teach them anything.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 17th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Your sons and daughters are curious about sex. Someone, somewhere, is feeding them information.
The question is: “Just how safe is the information they are getting?” We’ll talk more about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, for years, we have encouraged moms and dads to really have “The Talk” with their kids about sex—fifth or sixth grade—that’s kind of been the target. Do you think that’s still the target in this culture today?
Dennis: Well, I don’t think it’s the time to begin. I do think you have to have had a conversation by the time they’re in the fifth or sixth grade; okay? But I would start talking when they’re in kindergarten / first grade—begin to have some discussions. There are all kinds of great books that are available that are age-specific for children that really give a mom and a dad a head-start in introducing some of the topics to their kids, and then, casually talking about it.
And that’s what we’re really talking about here—is conversations with your children as they grow up about—
Bob: Over and over again—a series of them; right?
Dennis: —stuff that they are going to face. And we have an expert from the youth culture, who has worked with teenagers for more than two decades. Jonathan McKee joins us on the broadcast again. Jonathan, welcome back.
Jonathan: Hey, thanks for having me back. Glad to be here.
Dennis: He has written a couple of books—one called More Than Just “The Talk”: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex—and a second book that is—is this book, Sex Matters, written for the kids?
Jonathan: It’s actually written for the teenager; but it’s a great discipleship guide you, as a parent, can use and interact with because it’s got discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
Dennis: It’s got almost any question you can imagine receiving from your child—
Bob: Does it have the answers in it too—
Dennis: It does.
Bob: —because—yes? Good; alright.
Dennis: It mocks up the answers to kind of help you, as a parent, know what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
Well, let’s go to the heart of the issue. I mean, this is a porn-saturated culture—
Dennis: —we’re living in. We’ve got these little screens that are a click away from images that were unthinkable a couple of decades ago, without going to a bookstore, etc. What’s a parent to know about what’s happening with young people today because they have these screens in their hands?
Jonathan: Yes. It’s constantly changing. In the parenting world, it’s changing because, back in 2010—which seems like an infinity ago, now—The Journal of Pediatrics came out with this report, where they told parents: “Hey, parents, we’re realizing, because we keep seeing in our patients”—these pediatricians were writing—“that we’re seeing young people distracted by screens in the bedroom. So, let’s get rid of computer, internet / let’s get rid of TVs—out of the bedroom.” This was back in 2010. So, the parents that did listen to that—they pulled TVs out / pulled computers out.
Well, let’s fast-forward—in 2012, something happened in America—and that was we crossed the 50-percent mark of how many of us Americans had smartphones in our pockets. Of course, with a smartphone, you don’t just call or text, but you also can get online—you have access to apps / you have access to Google®. Well, currently / right now, as we’re sitting here, we’ve got over three-quarters of 12-17-year-olds have a smartphone in their pocket in America. So, here—now, we’ve got most young people kind of charge their phones in their bedroom at night / it’s on their bedside.
As a matter of fact, I read these reports all the time—National Sleep Foundation and all this—the number one thing that keeps young people up at night is the phone because they hear a little [buzz]; “Ooh! Ooh! Did somebody post about me?” and they quickly get up. They’ve got these devices with them all night in their bedrooms. And yes, it’s just a click away from who knows what—images, content, all of this stuff.
Bob: And it’s not just in their bedrooms at night. It’s around the table at school cafeteria. I mean—
Dennis: Yes, you can protect your own kid from having one; and they’re just an arm’s-length away from a friend’s.
Bob: That’s right.
Bob: Yes; so, if you think the solution is to get rid of the devices or to find a way to protect, that may be part of the solution—
Bob: —but that’s—you ultimately have to work with a young person’s heart and mind.
Jonathan: And what you are getting at, too, is the answer to the question because parents always come up to me: “Well, not my kid, because we have porn blocks. We don’t allow the phone at night,” or “We live in Amish Pennsylvania; and we, in our buggy, just…”—you know? Well, yes—guess what? I’ve spoken in Amish Pennsylvania. They brought me out to speak in some of the most conservative Mennonite Brethren Churches; and they are going through the same stuff.
You know why? They let their kids out of the house. And if your kids go out of the house—because I actually homeschooled my girls during junior high years—and when I homeschooled my girls, they were still in sports. They were actually in swimming, and gymnastics, and track. And guess what songs were being played then and guess what their friends were talking about?
So, we, as parents—
—we have to realize our kids are hearing this. I mean, I was at the grocery store the other day. I was setting food on the conveyor belt. Not six inches above the conveyor belt, where you slap your food right there, is a magazine cover. I look up—so, I mean, my eyes went from the baloney to six inches up. It was like “Hot Summer Sex” or whatever article. Immediately—that’s right there!
And we all know there has been times—where we’ve been at the grocery store and we let our kids out of the house—which I do recommend, by the way. You’re standing in a grocery store line—and you’ve got some of the titles of a magazine and some of the pictures—it’s there! Parents always ask me—they say, “Jonathan, are you saying that we need to bring this stuff up all the time?” Well, you know what? No, I’m not saying that because, sadly, the world brings up the subject of sex all the time. We, as parents, need to just be ready to engage our kids and have conversations.
If we notice that they are looking at a picture or you’re watching that family TV show together and, all of a sudden, something comes up—
—we need to be ready to hit the pause button or, maybe, just stop and say: “Huh? What was it that just happened right there?” Ask a good question like, “How’s that going to work out for her?” Just ask a question—start the conversation.
Dennis: Okay; so, I’m going to put you in front of a group of moms and dads, who have children ages, probably, eight to eighteen.
Jonathan: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: Give them some guiding principles about—okay: “When should they be trusted with a smart device?” and “What are some important rules you need to put in place?” because there are some life-and-death issues around this phone that can get them in serious trouble in a hurry and impact their future way beyond high school and college.
Jonathan: Absolutely. Well, and I’ll tell you what a lot of the experts are saying—I mean, secular experts. You could pick up The Huffington Post, and you could read an article from a secular pediatrician, saying: “Stop giving kids under 12 portable mobile devices. Stop doing it!”
Parents always come up to me after workshops and:
“Oh, my kids don’t have a phone. They have an iTouch.” I always ask them—I say, “Do you know the difference between an iTouch and iPhone?—the phone part.” I said, “Frankly, my 11-year-old—you know what I would let my 11-year-old have? A phone—get one of those old—remember those original brick cell phones / those big old things like that?” I’d love to give my kid that. You know why? They’ll call me and say, “Hey, come pick me up after track,” or whatever.
Jonathan: That would be great, but it’s funny because these parents are like: “Oh, I’d never give my kid a phone. I’d give them an iTouch.” Well, you know what that is? It’s all that other junk—all the internet access / all the apps. The funny thing is—the very thing which pediatricians and all the experts out there are saying, “Stop giving kids under 12 these devices.” So I’ll just start there—if secular experts are saying, “Stop giving kids under 12…,” then, let’s not think that our eight-year-old can handle the new iPhone 6—or whatever is going to be current at the moment.
Dennis: So, what did you do—you and your wife?
Jonathan: Well, you’ve got to realize—my youngest, right now, is 18. So, back then, I was having the discussion about having a phone—it wasn’t even a smartphone.
Jonathan: So, we went—the smartphone change in 2012 was happening right as my kids were mid-teens. My 13-year-old—I remember when she wanted the first phone. We were like, “Okay…” “All my friends,”—she would tell me—“All my friends have phones.” I studied youth culture—I said, “Well, actually—correction—76 percent of your…”—“AH! Dad!”—because I told her how many actually have phones—“76 percent of 12-17-year-olds.” She didn’t appreciate that.
Dennis: Isn’t it wonderful to have the upper hand on a teenager?
Jonathan: Yes. It didn’t work. [Laughter] It was a big failure; but you know, we said, “Hey, if your grades are this, then, yes; but we’re going to…”—and the younger age—back to your question you asked, “What should parents do?” Well, first of all, stop giving your young kids these devices; but as they get the devices, start strict and get lighter and lighter as they get older.
And so, man, when they first got phones, we were like, “We’re going to charge it.” And that’s what most of the experts are actually advising. They are saying, “Hey, you can have a phone; but, maybe, even have a phone contract of:
“’Hey, you’re going to charge it in our room at night.’”
And I tell you—if you gave a 12- or a 13-year-old their first iPhone or their first smartphone—specifically, here are some things you should consider, such as—with social media, there are certain things you want to do with privacy settings. Instagram—parents always ask me, “Is Instagram bad?” You’ve got to love questions like that, “Is Instagram…” I’m like: “I hope not. I use Instagram. I just posted a picture of me and my wife. I hope that wasn’t bad.” “Is Instagram bad / for kids, is it bad?” Well, I always tell parents: “First, if you don’t even know, just Google ‘Instagram privacy settings’ / ‘Instagram safety.’ You’ll probably start to be able to read some articles about, ‘Hey, do you know, when you post these pictures—that if you don’t set privacy settings like so—then, everybody can look at them?’”
Immediately, you, as a parent, can say, “Well, I’ll tell you what—when my 13-year-old girl is posting pictures about her and her friends, I want the only people who look at these pictures to be people who she’s approved”—
Jonathan: —“as friends.” So, again, have these conversations.
Bob: Yes; you mention in your book—and by the way, we’re talking to Jonathan McKee on FamilyLife Today. He’s written a book called More Than Just “The Talk.” You reference a study that was done by the McAfee Corporation—the company that does internet security for a lot of computers. They went to parents and teens and asked them questions about issues related to internet safety. What they found—I thought it was pretty interesting.
Jonathan: Well, they did a study where they asked a bunch of parents and a bunch of kids about their internet habits and internet safety—this and that. Not only did the majority of parents asked say, “Oh, I don’t even believe my kids can get into trouble on the internet”; but 74 percent of parents said: “I can’t even keep up. I just hope for the best”—“hope for the best.” Don’t be like those parents, who just hand their kid a phone and say: “Here; what are you going to do?” Don’t be like that at all. It’s okay to say: “No, I’m sorry. Guess what?
“We’re going to talk about this, and I’m going to teach you about it.”
And the same way—if you were to give your kid car keys—I don’t know many parents that would just hand their 15-year-old car keys and say, “Good luck!” We actually have laws that require a parent to sit next to a kid—
Jonathan: —for six months and teach them: “Okay, be careful as you merge. Okay, be careful.” But we just hand our kids a phone, and we don’t—we’re like, “They know it better than us!” and we don’t teach them anything.
Bob: You write about this, as you said, on your blog—we’ve got resources on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com—articles about this / resources that are available. I’d just encourage the parents, who are listening, to go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “GO DEEPER.” There is a link to your website / there is information about the resources we’ve got available.
I think your point—“Don’t just throw up your hands and say, ‘Oh, I can’t keep up,’”—you’ve got to stay in this / you’ve got to stay diligent.
Dennis: And I’ve got a key question for you: “Did you spy on your kids?”
Jonathan: Yes; you know, that is the key question. As a matter of fact, when I taught a parent workshop—where I very often just bring one of my kids with me—
—and my daughter, Alyssa, who is my middle child—she would sometime be at the back table. I always told parents: “You can ask her whatever you want—ask her,” They’d go back. When she was 18, I remember her sitting there at the back table: “What do you think of this? What do you think of everything he is saying? Do you agree with everything he is saying?”—they would always ask that / they would drill her.
She goes: “I agree with all of that—except that he can look at my phone whenever he wants. I don’t like that. That’s just wrong!” That’s the one thing that my kids just always didn’t agree with. I, as a parent, still contend that we, as parents, should have the passwords because of that accountability.
The funny thing is—I actually blogged about the dialogue I’ve had with Alyssa about that. I said: “How many times have I said: ‘Come on. Let me see your phone. Let me check up on you?’” And literally, by the time she was 16 and 17, I rarely, “Let me see it.” I didn’t go through all her personal texts and discuss stuff, but there were times where we knew that we had the password—we could do that—and there was that accountability. She didn’t like it, but—
—yes / no, we absolutely had the ability to look at it. “Did I look at it very often?” No, I didn’t because she was trustworthy.
Dennis: And I would say to a parent, who has gotten the line from their kid: “I disagree with this. I think it is morally—
Bob: “My right to privacy is being infringed upon!”
Dennis: “It’s my citizenship as a teenager in the United States of America,”—
Bob: “It’s against the Constitution!”
Dennis: —“and the United Nations would uphold this.”
Bob: —“this right!”
Bob: “This is child abuse!”
Jonathan: “The Supreme Court would absolutely support me!”
Dennis: I just want you to revisit the Bible—the Bible says children are a gift from God. They are not yours to own for their entire lifetimes, but they are ours to steward for a period of time. I have to say—I’ve had more than one of our children ask me, “Dad, it doesn’t sound like you trust me.” To which I would say, “You know, I’m 45,” or “I’m…”—whatever age I was at the time—“I want you to know:
“I wouldn’t trust me with the opposite sex in a situation like you and I were just talking about”—
Jonathan: That’s good.
Dennis: —“or if I’d been you, back then, I wouldn’t have trusted me.” The Bible says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of child.” It’s a parent’s responsibility to address that foolishness—help them become wise and keep them out of a ditch that could cost them their lives. I mean, we have people who are preying on teenagers / young teenagers—
Dennis: —and could take their lives. We’ve done radio on that here. There are other issues like sexting, taking selfies—pictures / girls and boys—of them being nude. Those pictures last on the internet for a lifetime. They can end up costing your son or daughter a job after they graduate from college. I mean, these aren’t minor issues. They leave a footprint that can be very dangerous on the internet.
Jonathan: Yes. We, as parents, need to start having these conversations, and educating them, and talking with them about this stuff.
And one thing to keep in mind is—this is, again, a gradual decrease in control. I think a lot of parents don’t keep their eyes on the calendar. I mean, here are the facts: In America, when our kids turn 18, they can, if they want, go join the Marines—whatever—get a job, move out of the house, and say, “See you!” and we have no input in their lives what so ever. Now, that—hopefully, it’s not that dire.
Jonathan: But they could go to the point, where they are like: “See you! I am gone.” And we need to realize: “Are we preparing them for that day? Are we raising up Daniels who, when they are plucked from the safety of their homes and put in the middle of Nebuchadnezzar’s court, will resolve not to defile themselves?”
Bob: The truth is—your child’s probably, not at 18, going to say, “See you”; but as a parent, you want there to be a day—
Bob: —when they say: “See you. I’m on my own, and I can handle life.
“You have prepared me well.” That’s what we are preparing for. We are looking forward to the day when we can say, “Here; you are now a launched arrow.”
Jonathan: And we need to think about that because I will often have a parent come up to me after one of my workshops. They’re like, “Oh, yes; I don’t let my kids have any of that filth—email / social media.” I’m like, “Yes, email is filthy.” “Social media—all of those—I don’t let my…”—and I go, “Well, how old are your kids?” “Fifteen, seventeen, and nineteen,”—and she goes—“Well, the nineteen-year-old, now, lives by himself; and can do whatever he wants. He has all that stuff.” “And I bet he’s having to figure it out on his own; huh?”
See, she never sat next to him and said, “Hey, here’s how you are going to need to use email, by the way, in college because your professors are going to say, ‘Hey, I emailed you all your assignment’”; you know?
Jonathan: So, it’s good to learn how to use email; you know? It’s okay to learn how to use certain social media and learn: “Hey, guess what? When you post this picture, there is a thing called location services, where it posts where you are on map.
“And if it’s one in the morning—and you are in college, and you finish at Starbucks your study session, and you go: ‘All done studying! Heading back to my car,’—like girls always do—boom—they post it right there, and it’s on a map.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we equipped our girls to actually know that: “Hey, guess what? I’m not going to throw my location out there—
Jonathan: —“because there are predators out there.” And we can have these conversations, and we can start preparing them for that day when they are going to be on their own.
Bob: Well, this is some of the common sense stuff that you talk to parents about in the book that you’ve written called More Than Just “The Talk”: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person About Sex. You talk the same way to teenagers in the book, Sex Matters. We’ve got both of these books in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. And our listeners can order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or they can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,” to order copies of these books over the phone.
But the point is—we’ve got to be engaged as moms and dads.
We’ve got to be equipping, and we’ve got to know what the issues are if we’re going to be engaged with our sons and daughters on this stuff.
Dennis: I know what I’m about to say is going to sound like heresy to some parents, but I want you to hear me: “We would rather have our kids make a mistake, if they’re going to make a mistake, and be at home, where we can guide them in terms of ‘How you handle that mistake,’ than so protect them and so keep them away from “harm” that we turn them loose—as you described the 19-year-old—to have to finally learn how to use email and have them have the wild, wild west preying upon them and us not be there.” It’s not merely a matter of their bedroom being down the hall / they may be living in a dorm at a university campus, where their being bombarded with stuff they have no idea how to handle.
I think parents need to realize, as we let the kite string out for the kite to soar—you let it out a little at a time—but don’t be surprised if the kite breaks the string and crashes. While they are at home, take the time to get into the mud puddle with them / into the mess and coach them / encourage them—back to what we talked about earlier—be a safe person that doesn’t over-react and doesn’t freak out about it but equips them to handle their failures because they, like you and me, will fail multiple times in our lives.
Bob: This is a process that, as a parent, has got to start when your kids are very young and has got to continue regularly throughout their lives. And we’ve got a resource, Dennis, that a lot of parents have used over the years called Passport2Purity®. We continue to hear from moms and dads just how helpful this getaway time with a son or a daughter can be.
We’ve set everything up so that you can have conversations with your preteen about, not just the birds and the bees, but about dating, and about peer pressure, and about all of the issues that come along with adolescence. You can begin the dialogue so that, as you said, when a son or a daughter fails at some point, this is something you’ve been talking about for a while. It’s something you can have open conversation about. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about Passport2Purity, the resource we’ve created for parents of preteens.
And by the way, for those of you who have taken a son or a daughter through Passport2Purity, next month, we have a brand-new resource coming out called Passport2Identity™. It helps you get with your 13-, or 14-, or 15-year-old son or daughter and talk about the issues that junior high kids are dealing with—issues like: “What am I good at? What’s my purpose in life?
“Why am I here?”—all of those identity issues that young people are wrestling with. We’ll be talking more about Passport2Identity in the months to come; but right now, if you are interested in Passport2Purity, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, you have probably heard us mention, if you’ve been listening at all this year—this is our 40th anniversary as a ministry. FamilyLife Today is celebrating 40 years of providing practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. But during this year, we don’t want our focus to be on our 40th anniversary; we want it to be on all of the anniversaries that have been celebrated because of the work that God has done through FamilyLife Today.
And we, also, want to provide you with some ways to make your anniversary celebration, this year, a best-ever anniversary. If you’ll go to FamilyLifeToday.com or if you’ll call 1-800-FL-TODAY and let us know when you’ll be celebrating your anniversary this year—
—about a month before the celebration begins, we’ll send you either text messages or emails with some suggestions on how you can prepare for and, then, celebrate on your special day. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to give us your anniversary.
We, also, want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who make everything we do here possible—those of you who are supporters of this ministry, either as Legacy Partners or those of you who will, from time to time, make a contribution in support of what we’re doing here.
If you can help with a donation today, we’d like to acknowledge it and say, “Thank you,” by sending a copy of a book called Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family: Avoiding the 6 Dysfunctional Parenting Styles. It’s our thank-you gift when you go online to donate at FamilyLifeToday.com, or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and donate over the phone, or when you mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk more about how your son or daughter can stand for a biblical view of sexuality / stand for truth without becoming a Pharisee in the process. We’ll talk with Jonathan McKee about that tomorrow. Hope you can be back and join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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