Why screen time inhibits toddler development

Posted on: 02/14/19 10:00 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Where’s Nathan?

I just changed his diaper and plopped him in front of the TV… again.

Any theories why Nathan doesn’t walk yet?

It’s probably not a surprise to you to hear that if we plop our toddlers down in front of a screen it hurts their development. We’ve heard the arguments before. Too much screen time has negative effects all around. And some experts even push back and try to contest it.

But according to a new study from the University of Calgary, the results are pretty clear about the effects of screen time on young kids.

“Greater screen time at 24 months was associated with poorer performance on developmental screening tests at 36 months, and similarly, greater screen time at 36 months was associated with lower scores on developmental screening tests at 60 months.”

The element I find intriguing is why.


“A lot of the positive stimulation that helps kids with their physical and cognitive development comes from interactions with caregivers.”

There it is once again—the indisputable fact. Kids need face-to-face interactions with Mom and Dad.

This wasn’t the only reason why. Experts also noticed that inactive kids tended to not develop motor skills or hand-eye coordination (more reasons to discourage too much screen time). But the big reason kids were missing key developmental skills was because they missed out on crucial interaction with parents.

Do we really need an expert to tell us that our kids need our love and attention?

It’s the one element that everyone always seems to agree on, regardless of the study. Experts argue about the effects of entertainment media until they’re blue in the face (although I’ve never actually seen someone turn blue when arguing about entertainment media), but they’ll always all agree on this one conclusion. Interaction with Mom and Dad is crucial.

Maybe your kids aren’t toddlers anymore. Maybe they’re tweens or teens. Then quantity time matters even more.

Have you connected with your kids face to face this week?

The “Relationships” Talk

Posted on: 02/5/19 3:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Next week is Valentine’s Day, and that means young people are thinking of relationships, which is a happy thought for some… and a depressing thought for others. This is probably why so many youth ministries do their “sex and dating” teaching series this time of year or at least a talk on relationships.

So here’s a few resources to help you with these conversations:

  1. One of our writers wrote two brand new FREE Music Discussions using Ariana Grande’s song “Thank U Next.” The youth ministry discussion uses scripture and provides small group questions.
  2. The parents’ discussion also uses scripture and provides three questions you can ask your kids in the car, also free.
  3. And for those in youth ministry who want a talk with graphics and everything, I wrote a 25-minute talk, and Download Youth Ministryadded graphics, slides and small group questions HERE.
  4. You’ll find even more talks from me on this subject in the past… like my talk, “What do you mean Flee?
  5. And this year I was one of four author/contributors to a book titled, 4 Views on talking to Teenagers about Sex: Pragmatic Help for Teaching Sexuality. (I was one of the conservative voices).
  6. And of course there is my quick read I wrote to students called SEX MATTERS, sharing the explicit Biblical truth about sex.
  7. And this year my second Guy’s Guide book comes out addressing the four biggest “distractions” young men face, and one of those distractions is sexual temptation. That book will release in May.

All these are helpful resources engaging our kids in conversations about truth on the subject. Keep up the good work! In a world so full of explicit lies, young people need someone who isn’t scared to share the explicit truth.

Going Deeper

Posted on: 01/31/19 3:22 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’ve always been a fan of using questions to open the doors of dialogue. But sometimes I forget how powerful they can be.

Last week I was in a corner booth at a local pizza place with four 8thgrade boys. The conversation was typical middle school boys—all over the place.

“Hey man, look at my new phone case!”

“I got one too, see?”

“I got it for Christmas.”

“Do you know what I got for Christmas? Your mom!”

After eating and listening to them talk (as if they had never had anyone listen to them before), I told them we were going to go around the table and each finish the following sentence:

“If you know me, you know I…. but if you reallyknew me, you’d know…”

I gave them an example.

“If you know me, you know I have no problem speaking to large crowds. But if you reallyknew me, you’d know that I’m actually pretty scared to talk with someone one-on-one and I get nervous and bumble up the conversation.”

I told them they could go as deep as they wanted. No pressure. It was up to them.

And everything changed.

Kids began to share deep things about themselves. Tough family struggles. Insecurities. The death of a parent. It was awesome. I love it when I’m able to make kids feel noticed and heard.

Whenever you create a safe place where kids can talk and people will listen, kids will typically open up.

What questions have worked for you?


New Music Discussions, Super Bowl Quiz and More!

Posted on: 01/28/19 3:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Many of you have probably noticed that in the last 6 months we’ve been doing some serious revamping with our websites, and …both are now not only mobile friendly and easier to navigate, but we’ve amped up the amount of new content we’re adding to each site!

What’s that mean for you?

If you’re a youth worker that means a new YOUTH MINISTRY HELP article literally every week- real world youth ministry tips and advice from guys on the front lines. And you’ve also noticed we’ve amped up the amount of MUSIC DISCUSSIONS (one new one per week) and YOUTUBE DISCUSSIONS, which all have small group discussions and scripture... and are FREE, of course.

And games… yes… we still provide the largest collection of free GAMES & ICEBREAKERS for youth workers on the entire web, and yes, we still have the CUSTOM GAME SEARCH, where you can search for game ideas by game type, room type, group size, prep time, etc. etc.

If you’re a parent that means a new PARENTING HELP article every week- real world parenting tips and advice from parents, all published authors. And brand new MUSIC DISCUSSIONS every week, all which have scripture and three questions you can ask your kids in the car! Pretty resourceful stuff!

Sadly, we did lose a few things with the website switch, mostly because we looked at what resources most people trafficked and was was the most cost effective to switch over (welcome to the life of the non profit who provides literally everything for free). We lost the teen lingo dictionary, helping us understand what kids were saying. We also lost the podcasts… again. Cost effectiveness.

But some of these things we’ve partnered with others who are doing it with us or for us. Two examples:

DYM now hosts my brand new free PARENTING TIPS podcast. DYM is knocking the ball out of the park with their resources and they are doing this for us at no cost (Whoop whoop!)

And because we love DYM, they have also taken over our Super Bowl Pre-Game Quiz. So now that is on DYM for just $4… which is pretty cool… because who doesn’t have $4? Honestly, I like their whole BIG GAME BUNDLE which is under $20 because it’s got EVERYTHING!

Thanks for bearing with us during this transition! Please let us know how you enjoy the new sites and if there is anything else we can do to serve you! Our mission is to provide you with the free resources and training you need!

Thanks for making a difference in the Kingdom!

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Resisting the Urge to Talk Teen

Posted on: 01/24/19 9:45 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s funny how often I see “old people” like me trying so hard to be current with “young people.”

Today I was on a middle school campus hanging out with young people and I noticed something. They don’t care whether I’m wearing the newest Vans (you know, the kind that looks like a checkerboard), or if I use the current teen talk (“Man, that’s sus!”) … they just care that I’m there to listen.

And that’s the secret to talking teen: just shut up and listen.

Yes, there’s a balance to this. Let me address youth workers for a moment. I’ve heard youth workers say, “You just gotta be YOU!” And while I agree that you shouldn’t try to be something you’re not, at the same time, if YOU are a slob who doesn’t shower or who hasn’t updated their wardrobe since the 80’s, a shower and a trip to Target wouldn’t hurt.

No, you don’t need to go to Tilly’s, buy Van’s and a Sweatshirt (with the word Champions strewn all over it) and invite kids to youth group because “It’s lit!” We don’t need to try to “attract” teenagers.

But it would be nice to not repel them either.

The key? Don’t try too hard. Pray that God will give you peace so you don’t feel awkward. Just be ready to listen. Engage kids in conversation.

It’s January—ask them,

“So what did you do for Christmas?”

“What was your favorite gift you received?”

“What was your favorite gift you gave?”

Or if they care about their appearance (which not every middle school kid does, but if they do) ask about what they’re wearing.

“Nice Vans. Where did you get them?”

“If you had $100 to shop at any store where would you shop?”

Whether you’re a parent, teacher or youth worker. Ask questions. Listen.

Then you won’t be so “awk.” (Sorry, that slipped out.)

Lori in the hospital

Posted on: 01/15/19 1:26 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Many of you already read on my Facebook page that we had a crazy weekend–while I was in St. Louis speaking, Lori was rushed to the hospital to have her appendix removed.

The surgery went well, but her recovery has been a little slower than expected. Doc said even though her appendix hadn’t ruptured, it had turned nasty and adhered to her bowel and started spreading the nasty (I paraphrase). So her bowel was really angry at her and the docs were trying to fight it with antibiotics.

She ended up staying two nights in the hospital and finally got to come home last night. Now she’s on bedrest and I’m bringing her soup, liquids, too many meds to count, etc.

Those of you who are used to seeing new resources being posted to and are seeing a lag… because Lori is the backbone of posting stuff to these sites. So this week EVERYONE is going to be missing Lori big time (life of the small non-profit).

So rest assured… more free resources are coming. Just pray for Lori’s speedy recovery.

So glad to have my girl home!!!

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Netflix’s “Sex Education”

Posted on: 01/9/19 3:30 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It premieres on Netflix in just two days, but it’s probably not what you think when you hear the words “sex education.”

In a world where many parents really struggle with how and when to engage their kids in “the talk”… Netflix is launching a show that once again (yes, they did the same thing with Big Mouth) is either addressing or exploiting—you decide—the subject that isn’t talked about much in most homes. But from the world’s perspective, of course.

Teen Vogue describes it as Big Mouth meets Degrassi and the trailer speaks volumes about what you can expect:

The interesting thing about sexually charged media is that the creators always claim they are just portraying a realistic glimpse of today’s youth culture. Occasionally I’ve seen films do this (remember Thirteen?), but most the time these types of entertainment media serve more as an influencer of how to behave than a representation of how kids are already behaving (something I address to teens in my The Teen’s Guide to Social Media and Mobile Devices).

A character in the show claims, “Everybody’s either thinking about shagging, about to shag, or actually shagging.”

Is that true?

Is there a chance that the pre-pubescent freshman who can’t stop playing Fortnite isn’t even curious about sex yet… or do we need to consider having these conversations a little earlier?

I guess that depends.

Do you want to be the one to tell your kids the truth about this subject, or would you rather wait until they hear the lies first?

So how can you engage your kids in conversation about this important topic?

For more help becoming your kids Go-To person about sex, take a peek at Jonathan’s books, More Than Just the Talk (for parents) and Sex Matters (for young people). Or Pre-order Jonathan’s newest book for guys, The Guy’s Guide to Four Battles Every Young Man Must Face.

Top Blog Posts of 2018

Posted on: 01/2/19 12:54 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Here are the top 10 blog posts of mine that you guys trafficked in 2018.

1. Gunning Your Kids Down

The No 1 trafficked post by far was “Gunning Your Kids Down”… my expose on violence in current music (including songs about gunning people down that went No. 1 during the Vegas shooting).

2. Mom, Is Justin Bieber a Christian?

Like my popular post, “Mom, is Chance the Rapper a Christian?” (Which, interesting side note, did you see what Chance posted on Insta last month? Fascinating.) This post provides you with questions to not rant or judge Justin’s imperfections, but dialogue about him in a helpful way Continue reading “Top Blog Posts of 2018” »

Teens and Social Media

Posted on: 12/28/18 11:17 AM | by Jonathan McKee

If you happened to turn on Christian radio the day after Christmas you might have caught Focus on the Family President Jim Daly and I talking about teens and social media on their daily broadcast. They re-aired it December 26th because they said it was one of their most popular broadcasts of the year.

They just released the FULL video of the show in case you missed it:

Amazon has the The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices on sale HERE