Mr. Jonathan McKee: Take these opportunities to sit down with our kids, and instead of checking up on them, instead, just try to enter their world. Because when you enter their world, they’re gonna be more responsive to listen and to open up these doors of dialogue with you.
John Fuller: Hm. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Well, we’ll hear more from Jonathan McKee, today, on Focus on the Family with your host, Focus president Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller
Jim Daly: Yeah, we’ve got lots to cover from Jonathan today about teaching media discernment to our teens. And if you missed part one yesterday, please get in touch with us. We can send you the entire message on CD or audio download, or you can get the Focus on the Family broadcast app for your smartphone.
John: And you’re gonna find all those tools and resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call us for details. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: So, let’s get right into it.
John: Here now is Jonathan McKee speaking at Castle Oaks Covenant Church in Castle Rock, Colorado, on Focus on the Family.
Jonathan: Here’s the Kaiser Foundation. Here’s what they said. They said, “We need to give our full attention to anything that takes up this much space in young people’s lives,” referring to entertainment media. If young people are soaking in an average of nine hours a day, yeah, we should probably pay attention.
So, when it comes to Netflix, we might know – if our kids are on Netflix, it’d probably good for us to find out, “Hey. What are they watching on Netflix?” So, if we ever go by our daughter’s room and she’s sitting there and she’s streaming something, you know, ask her. Say, “Hey. What are you watching?” “Parks And Rec.” Have you ever seen Parks and Rec? Sit down and watch it with her. Try it and see what it is. Or even better yet, jump on Netflix yourself and click around.
Have you ever gone into your profile on Netflix and set the passwords and set the age limits? And if you set the age limits to ‘only appropriate for 14,’ have you ever looked at some of those shows that are only appropriate for 14-year-olds? Innocent shows like Pretty Little Liars? Have you ever watched an episode of that, that’s appropriate for 14-year-olds’, you know? Do you know that on Netflix you can go in and you can click on viewing activity and you can see, in my case, what my wife has been viewing – The Crown, The Crown, The Crown, The Crown, Longmire, The Crown. Anyway – Gilmore Girls. Anyway. But you know, you can actually look at the viewing activity and find out what your kid’s been viewing.
By the way, this is all if you have a password that they don’t know. So, moms and dads – quick side note. Don’t use your birthday, OK? Don’t use your anniversary. They know it. I laugh so hard because hanging out with teenagers is one thing. I’ve been in youth ministry now 25-plus years. I love listening to kids talk about their mom and dad’s passwords. They’re like, “Yeah. They have no clue. Their password’s 1-2-3-4, you know? I use it all the time, you know?”
So, it’s good for us to know just what are some of these things that our kids are accessing. If we see headphones on their heads, you know, it’s a good idea for us to maybe think about, “Hey. How is it that we can get our kids to listen to music out loud?” I literally went to Costco and bought all three of my kids these giant – I don’t know what to call them – the ’80s reference would be called a boombox. But it’s basically a giant docking station now. It’s a boombox with a dock for your device that you throw it on there, and so it [can] project their music super loud. And some of my friends were like, “Jonathan, why would you buy your kids these loudspeakers, so they can blast you out of the house?” I said “‘Cause I know exactly what they’re listening to.”
And so, it was funny because I bribed my kids. I basically got these giant docking station boomboxes. I’m like, “Guess what I got you guys.” And they’re like, “Yeah!” And as they were literally running up the stairs with their loot, I’m like, “By the way. Hey. We’re not gonna do headphones in the house. You guys just play your music on this. We’ll do headphones on trips and other times like that.” And they basically all kind of quickly sold their soul and said, “Yes” because they got the boombox, went upstairs, and I was like, “Yes,” you know, because – and sure enough, I could walk in the room and be like, “Hey. What’s this song? Who is this? Oh, what’s he saying?” And we could have some dialogues about this.
Again, this isn’t so we can become parole officers and start monitoring every single thing they’re doing. But we need to enter our kids’ world and be aware of what it is that they’re watching. And yes, let’s quickly talk about what they’re listening to.
One of the favorites for young people, of course, today would be Spotify when it comes to listening to music ’cause it’s free. You can make your own playlists. You can follow your friends’ playlists. I mean, it’s honestly – it’s a great app. And my dad, who is now 78-years-old, loves Spotify because he follows one of my daughter’s country lists, and I follow one of my daughter’s country lists. And my other daughter who hates country has this list called The Soundtrack Of My Life, and I follow that. And it’s really cool because now that they’re out of the house, we kind of follow each other, and I’m really offended that they don’t follow any of my lists – Polka music – no, I’m just kidding. I don’t listen to – you know, but – you know, it is – and it’s one of those things where you can kind of share music and stuff. So, it’s kind of a fun thing.
But when it comes to, in the world of teen culture, it’s interesting to find out what the top songs that young people are listening to. Which, by the way, you can jump on – and Spotify even has these Billboard Hot 100 charts where you can look at any time and you can find out most of the music that young people are listening to. And you could find out – and if you find out that your kids are listening to, you know, to Drake, you know, or – and as you sit there and, like, read about many of these different artists – and you know, Halsey, Post Malone – it’s good for us to maybe, if you have no idea who these people are, to look them up. One of the great places to look them up is go to YouTube. And if you look and go, “Hey. Do you know that for seven weeks in a row this year, there was this Ariana Grande song, you know, called 7 Rings – what was it?” Jump on YouTube and click on the video and watch it.
And sometimes after about 10 seconds of viewing, you’ll sit there and go, “Oh.” And if you’ve chaperoned a school dance, you’ll be like, “So that’s where they all learned to dance.” There you go. Have you ever chaperoned a school dance? Because if you have, now you know exactly what the school dance’s dancing looks like.
Um, if you had no idea what somebody said, jump on Google. If you didn’t hear what Cardi B said, type in, “Cardi B lyrics” to whatever song it was and go there. And that way, you’ll be able to read your – her lyrics. And you’ll be able to find out – “Hey. This girl’s really obsessed with telling all about her sexual escapades and describing her anatomy to a T, you know, just in case people don’t understand.” I mean, talk about sex education right here. Yeah. This is why I’m writing about some of this stuff. Talking about, “Hey. You know, especially when it comes to young men, let’s talk about” – you know, when every one of their role models is talking about having sex and smoking weed and it’s no big deal, is it really a big deal? What’s the Bible say about that? And that’s where we’re starting to open up doors of dialogue, talking with young people about this ’cause this is important.
So, it’s good for us as mom and dads to know, “Hey. What is it that they’re actually listening to in their headphones?” Especially in a world where – guess what? Year after year we’re seeing a change in how many minutes of music Americans are listening to. And currently, right now, as of the last Nielsen study, Americans are listening to 4 1/2 hours a day of music. 4 1/2 hours a day of music alone. So, moms and dads, let’s notice their world.
Here’s the crazy thing. When we step in and notice our kids’ world, we need to understand something else – and write this down; this is No. 3 – understand that this culture affects our kids. And the reason I say that is because, sometimes, if we see this and we observe this about their culture, sometimes the first reaction our kids have is to say, “Oh, Mom, Dad, this doesn’t affect me.” Right?
We hear them say it all the time. “Oh, these influences don’t affect me.” And sometimes we hear it come out – and we’ve heard this for decades – “I don’t listen to the lyrics. I just listen to the beat.” Right? You know? “I don’t even know what they’re saying.” The interesting thing is at school assemblies when I actually talk – I do school assemblies, right? I’m talking to young people about sex. And sometimes I will actually play music. And the interesting thing is I will be playing a song, and they’re all singing along. And then when I stop the song, guess what happens. They’re still singing the lyrics that they ‘don’t know.’ But anyway, you know, remember they don’t listen to the lyrics.
You know, this stuff is affecting young people big time. We’re seeing all the, uh, stuff on their devices affect them on – when it comes to anxiety, when it comes to depression. And these same kids are saying, “This doesn’t affect me at all.” We’re seeing it affect them in all kinds of different ways.
Let me touch on just a couple of the different ways. How many of you guys have daughters? I’ve got two daughters. How many of you guys have daughters? OK, let’s talk about the sexualization of the young girls. This is huge. And the American Psychological Association did this study where they actually defined this word sexualization. And the way they defined it is ‘when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior to the exclusion of other characteristics.’ What’s that mean? Think about this. What this means is who cares if your daughter is talented, is good at soccer, is a spiritual leader? It doesn’t matter. Is she sexy? Does she look good in a bikini? That’s all that matters.
Where – do you want me show you an example of sexualization? Hey. We just saw an example of sexualization. We saw Ariana Grande wearing some weird, sparkly lingerie thing, crawling around on a countertop. And here’s the crazy thing. You guys, Ariana Grande is an amazing singer. She is so talented. She has got a great voice. She’s actually funny. She’s done some acting. She’s got all this, but yet she plays the sex card all the time because she knows that works. And sadly, if you’re – and especially in American culture, we’ve learned – “Hey. This is a card you must play. And if you play this, they’re gonna like you a lot more. You gotta get that sex appeal.” And sadly, a lot of our kids are learning that as well. And by the way, our girls who say, “Yeah, these influences don’t affect me,” we’re seeing the consequences of these – of sexualization affecting them big time.
Now, some of you might say, “Well, Jonathan, uh, wait. Is this just about girls?” How many of you guys have sons? I’ve got a son. You got sons. You know, I tell you when it comes to our boys and the lyrics they’re listening to, I hear the same thing all the time. “Oh, I don’t even listen to the lyrics.” Well, all the studies are very clear, and there’s so many of them – too many to count. Here’s one out of the University of Central Florida that I actually wrote about in my book, Teen’s Guide To Social Media And Mobile Devices. And they concluded this. Very simply, they said exposure to music containing sexual content is associated with engagement in risky sexual behaviors. The journal, Pediatrics, actually concluded this. And listen to how specific they get. They said, “Teenagers whose devices are full of music with raunchy sexual lyrics, they start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs.” The difference between yesteryear and today is more access, less accountability. More access because we have it coming into our devices, less accountability because those devices follow us into our bedroom at night.
And most moms and dads don’t even realize what their boys are watching in the middle of the night on those devices. So, this is some of the things I talk about in my books, talking to us about how do we have the sex talk with our kids? How do we have that ongoing conversation? Because it’s not just one talk. It’s communicating with them about this because in a world full of explicit lies, we need to be talking with them about explicit truth.
John: And that is great wisdom from Jonathan McKee on Focus on the Family.
And we’ve got his book, The Teens Guide To Social Media…and Mobile Devices for you to use in your family. Make a generous donation of any amount to this ministry, a monthly pledge or one-time gift, and we’ll send a copy to you. You can donate, and request that book, when you call 800-A-FAMILY, or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Let’s go ahead and hear more now from Jonathan McKee.
Jonathan: Now, some of you are thinking, “Jonathan, this is the most depressing parenting workshop I’ve ever been to in my life. Come on, man. I can’t believe the lyrics. I can’t believe all this different stuff.” And that’s why I want to share with you tip No. 4. Ready? Don’t freak out. (LAUGHTER) And the reason why is because I know. I know. Right now, I can’t see it on some of your faces. Some of you guys right now, you want to go home and you want to just – you’re not even gonna wait. You’re gonna be like, “Kids!” and you’re gonna blow a whistle, and you’re gonna line them up like a bunch of von Trapps. You know, you’re just gonna – you know, line them up. And there’s a millennial set of parents I see in here that are like, “Who are von Trapps?” Forget it. (WEAK LAUGHTER) You – never mind.
But you’re gonna line them all up, and you’re gonna be like, “Phone. Now!” Right? Some of you guys are thinking about that. You’re gonna go home, and you’re gonna be like, “I want to see if they have that Post Malone or Cardi B on their device. I’m gonna check that out tonight. And we’re going to” – we want to go home and freak out.
And I want to just give you one little piece of advice as the guy who has freaked out far too many times. It doesn’t work. OK? Guess what. If this – if they’ve had this on their device, a couple of days isn’t gonna hurt. I want you to do something. I want you to press the pause button, and I want you to sleep on it. Matter of fact, I want you to sleep on it a couple of nights. I want you to think about this. I want you to pray about this. I want you to read. I want you to talk to some friends.
This week while you’re just gathering information, if you see your kid playing a video game, instead of going, “Hey. Are you done with your video game time? How many – have you done your hour yet? You know, you’re only allowed an hour on weeknights,” try something different. Try – and it’s not even my advice. This is actually from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The use this word all the time. Co-view. They say if you want to learn about your kid’s world, sit down with them and partake in that entertainment media with them. If they’re playing a video game, sit down and go, “Hey. Can I try?”
You guys, my son and I had some rough moments in our house growing up. Our best moments are when I would sit down and play video games with him. He would open up to me because I entered his world. He’d be like, “Dad, so tell me about where you’re travelling next. Where are you going to?” – whatever. He started talking to me.
Sometimes take these opportunities to sit down with our kids, and instead of checking up on them, instead, just try to enter their world. Because when you enter their world, they’re gonna be more responsive to listen and to open up these doors of dialogue with you.
Now, some of you are sitting here going, “Well, Jonathan, does it have to, I mean. You know, I don’t even know. I…I mean isn’t there a way we can avoid it getting to this where we have to, you know, correct because they’re down” – yeah, absolutely. And I’m glad you asked that question because here we go, point No. 5. Wouldn’t it be great if we could move from reactive to proactive? Wouldn’t it be great if we weren’t constantly doing triage and going, “Oh, my gosh. I can’t believe I let this go unchecked”? It would be neat if we actually moved from reactive to proactive. And what I mean by that is instead of constantly reacting to something that went crazy, what if we were actually proactive about it in the first place? And one way we can do that is by setting helpful boundaries.
And by the way, when I talk about these as boundaries, realize boundaries, without bonding, is useless. We need to have that bonding time. But boundaries can be a big help. So, with that in mind, realistic boundaries. Um, most experts agree that we should limit screen time in some fashion, to the point that many of you might remember last year, finally, we saw iOS and Droid come out with these new updates where you can now actually monitor screen time. It’s called ‘Screen Time.’ And you can enter in time limits and all kinds of cool stuff.
See, young people are spending all kinds of time in front of screens. And most of your experts, especially – and I tell you, here’s where the American Academy of Pediatrics really gets on this when it comes to screen time, talking about all these screen time limits and not even letting young, you know, kids be on screens.
Some of you guys might have seen the New York Times articles a while ago that was talking about how the people from the tech world’s, people like this guy Chris Anderson, former editor of WIRED, who said, “On a scale between candy and crack cocaine, it’s closer to crack cocaine,” when he’s talking about screen time. This is the thing that so many experts are saying. You guys – matter of fact, a lot these guys who work in the tech world, their instructions to the nannies when they leave for the day are no screens. “Take the kids to the park. Play outside – no screens.” Because most the research is saying it’s not good to start getting kids on screens at a young age.
So, screen time limits are very important. And the cool thing is, you know, my guess is the device that your kids have right now – thank goodness now because of these upgrades last year – you can go on and you can set these time limits. And they’ve got all kinds of cool features that you used to have to buy some special software to do, where you can set app limits, downtime. You can enter in your parent passcode that’s, you know, a passcode that your kids don’t know. You guys, do something random. Walk outside, look at your diagonal house across the street, and use that address. Use something that your kids have no way of guessing, OK? You know, get a good passcode. Um, do something to limit screen time.
Most of your experts say, “It’s good to not let your kids just go endlessly.” Now, what that is, you’re gonna have to figure that out, you know? One person will say, “Hey. We don’t let our kids play video games during the week.” Others will say, “We let them play just an hour on weeknights, but we let them play multiple hours on the weekends.” Others will say, “Hey. I’m letting them decide because they’re going to do it on their own.” You’re going to find all across the board. But most experts will say some sort of limits are good. You should probably figure out what those look like in your family.
Um, setting age restrictions. You guys, at the beginning of this workshop, we talked about the fact that, you know, the average age of a young person who gets a smartphone is 10.3 years old. The – probably the biggest question I’m asked from people at my parent workshops is, what age should I give my kid a phone? What age is the magic age? Because we live in a world where young people are getting devices [at] 5 years old. And so many experts who are in this are saying, “Wait. Stop giving your kids these devices.”
So, it’s interesting when you start finding out what the experts are saying. For example, Jim Steyer, who’s the CEO of Common Sense Media. He didn’t give his kids smartphones until they started high school. Bill Gates – asked the same question. Guess what? When they turned 14 and went to high school. You guys, you’ll find that these tech guys who know exactly what’s going on these devices, for them, very often, the age is high school.
Um. And remember, Common Sense Media says Instagram, 15-plus. You might want to think about that one. Um, remember that most experts out there saying, ‘Hey, don’t be in a hurry to give your kids these devices.” And if your kids already have devices, for sure every expert’s saying no devices in the bedroom. No devices in the bedroom.
Where the National Sleep Foundation is saying, “Do you realize that if a kid’s got their phone in their bedroom at night that they’re going to get over an hour less sleep than a kid who doesn’t have their phone their bedroom,”
But these are good idea to have because, you guys, um, you know, kids are going to absolutely be distracted by these devices in their bedrooms. And pretty much most experts agree, hey, let’s not have that.
Another good boundary to think about is tech-free zones. This is one of those things where every piece of research out there is saying, “Hey, find places that are sacred,” like the family dinner table, where you just take a break from tech. Call it no tech at the table.
Um, we in, our house, actually, had no-tech Tuesdays, where after they finished their homework, that was a night where we read, and we did without tech. And the kids actually came up with that.
Um, and it was one of those things where it really became this freeing time. A lot of people think that kids won’t respond to that. It’s funny how many people have done studies. I told you I read a bunch of these parenting studies. There was a study that these guys did in 2018. There was a group of researchers, and they were studying a group of 12- through 16-year-olds who basically went to camp for several weeks in an area without any Wi-Fi or cell service. So, these kids didn’t have their devices. And these researchers basically predicted that these kids were gonna go crazy without their devices. But in fact, the results were quite the opposite. As a matter of fact, 92% of the teens and tweens experienced greater satisfaction or ‘gladness’ – to quote the report – being away from their devices. As a matter of fact, only 41% felt any kind of frustration at any time.
So, we need to look for these ways to kind of connect. This is the kind of stuff I’ve written a lot about, of how can we as families find ways to connect face-to-face in a screen-to-screen world.
Um, so a lot of this is us being proactive. That might be something like setting boundaries because we, in our house – remember, in the parenting world, bonding and boundaries are both very important. So, we can’t just raise our kids hoping for the best and hoping that they’re going to, you know, govern themselves. Some of these realistic, loving, helpful boundaries are going to help us move from reactive to proactive.
No. 6: Don’t expect parental controls to raise your kids. And I follow this up to No. 5 because the tendency is once we get these helpful boundaries, sometimes we think, “Cool. My kids are safe now,” you know? “I got the right porn controls because now I set those controls. I’ve got my, you know, password in there that they’re never gonna guess. We’re fine now.” And just realize that every expert out there is saying, “No, no, no, no. It’s good to have boundaries, but they are in addition to conversation with your kids.”
Common Sense Media actually had this interesting article called Five Ways To Block Porn On Your Kids’ Devices. And here’s how they started that report. Listen to this. They said, “Here’s the thing. You could set all the blockers, filters and parental controls in the universe, and not only will your kids still see porn, you still have to talk to them about what porn is and why it exists and why it’s not for them.”
Because any expert who’s out there knows that, you know, you could try to set all these blocks and whatever, and you know what? Your kid’s still going to be in class, and some friends going to AirDrop a nude pic in there, or they can get a text, stuff you can’t block. And even if you had ever – even if your kid didn’t have a phone, your home-schooled kid could go to soccer practice and their friends are going to walk up and go, “Hey, check this out.” And what are you going to do to prevent that? Are you gonna have a drone follow your kid around with laser beams that shoot your kid’s friends? That’s a pretty good idea. I could probably market that. The thing is, you know, we cannot expect parental controls to raise our kids.
You need to raise your kids. And that’s why, actually, I tell you, one of the things that I learned to talk about if I had a parenting do-over was this. And it’s No. 7: Don’t become so focused on blocking the lies that you forget to talk about truth. Some of us as parents, we make the mistake of becoming so focused on our – the perfect porn filters instead of talking to our kids about what the Bible says about sex. We live in a world with so many different lies that one of the best ways they’re going to recognize those lies – if we are tellers of the truth. And yes, it’s good to have some good filters out there to block some of this stuff away. It’s good to have some of these loving boundaries. But they also need to be hearing the truth so when they do see some of these distractions, they’re not ill-equipped. They know – they know the whole story. They know the truth, so they recognize it, and they recognize the lies when they see it.
We got to walk with our kids and talk with them about this stuff. And we, as moms and dads, we don’t have to have all the answers. You guys might be here and be like, “Man, I don’t know the difference between TikTok and – whatever, you know – and a Tic Tac. I mean – you know, which – which is an app, which is a breath mint? Help?” you know? And guess what? If our kids say, “Dad, can I have this game?” Maybe the best thing to do is be like, you know, “Well, let’s try it.” And if your daughter asks you for some app and you don’t know anything, the good answer is this – “I don’t know. Let’s check it out together.”
So, we need to look for opportunities to dialogue. To point them towards Scripture. Some of you are sitting there saying, “Jonathan, what if I don’t have one of your books in my hand, and I don’t know what Scripture to go to?” Well, let’s talk about Wisdom 101 real quick. And think about this – you know, when you take English in college, it’s English 101 as a freshman – right? – or History 101. So, think of Wisdom 101, and you know where you can find Wisdom 101? What book in the Bible has at least 101 chapters? Psalms, OK? So, go to Psalms 101, and when you read Psalms 101, you’ll find stuff like, “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.” Look for opportunities to talk about this stuff.
Uh, I’m going to give you some homework as we wrap this up here. During this week, when you’re not freaking out, where you’re not asking your kids to see their devices today, but you’re gonna sleep on it for several nights, here’s your homework: I want you to talk with your kids this week, and I want you to find out one thing about them that you never knew before.
That doesn’t mean you’re gonna line them up like, you know, you’re some parole officer and start quizzing them questions. You know, “All right, I wanna know; what’s your best friend’s name? Brian, huh? Is that with a Y or an I?” No, that’s not what we want. No. I’m talking about – enter their world. Look for opportunities to talk about this stuff.
John: Really appropriate ending to the message from Jonathan McKee for this episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: Boy, John, I have to say I really appreciate Jonathan’s expertise in this area. And his heart as a dad.
Jim: Uh, he’s got that great combination of love and limits that children of all ages need from a parent. And I’m sure many of you are itching to fix what you might see as a problem in your child’s life today. But remember Jonathan’s advice to just gently get to know a little bit more about your child and what’s going on in their world right now. Ease your way into their orbit. Play a video game or explore an app with them. And get those conversations started.
And while you’re laying that groundwork, we can send you a copy of Jonathan’s book, written directly to your teenager, called, The Teen’s Guide to Social Media…and Mobile Devices, and you can walk through it with your child when it arrives.
John: You can donate online and request that excellent guidebook at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: And John, I’d like to make Jonathan’s book available for a donation of any amount, so that everyone who needs it can get a copy. It’ll be our thank you gift to you when you support the work of Focus on the Family – helping families around the world thrive in Christ.
John: And when you’re online to make that donation, be sure to look for the extra audio we have from Jonathan about what to do when your child mishandles their media privileges. It really is some good stuff for you.
So, again, the website: focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call, if you’d like. 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Next time, you’ll hear from John Stonestreet with encouragement to take a loving, compassionate stand for biblical values in the culture.
John Stonestreet: So, we fight for these things. Not to win. We fight for these things because they’re true. And because we’re on the side of the One who has won. He’s risen from the dead. So, the future is secure.