Police Detective Interviews Me About Teen’s Most Pressing Risks

This summer my friend Sean McDowell introduced me to a police detective at a recent conference we all spoke at, and the three of us got a chance to hang out and talk about engaging young people in today’s culture, and what that actually looks like. Fascinating conversation.

His name is J. Warner Wallace. He’s a homicide detective who cares about young people and wants them to know the truth in a world overflowing with lies. He’s written several books and speaks nationwide.

Jim (that’s his real name) read my new book to teens about wise posting in an insecure world, and interviewed me about the risks young people are taking with their devices.

Here’s just a snippet:

J. Warner:
Jonathan I see you as one of the foremost experts and important voices in youth ministry today. Were you seeing something in the lives of students that prompted you to write this book? Why, of all the topics you could (and have) written about, did you decide to write this book now?

Great question, and the answer is because over three quarters of teenagers now have smartphone, yet very few people are engaging them in conversations about developing wise decision-making skills with this device. Most teens are learning lessons the hard way. They post a pic and regret it later. They use an app that brags “the pics disappear” and they interpret that as freedom from accountability. A screenshot later, they realize the post wasn’t as temporary as they thought it was.

It happens all the time. Boy asks girl to send a sexy pic. Girl sends pic. Girl and boy break up. Next thing you know, boy sends pic to the whole school with the caption, “What a whore!” Girl is devastated. Every high school has at least one story like this. Principals deal with this kind of drama continually. It’s why a whole generation of young people resonated with the Netflix Series, 13 Reasons Why. It mirrored much of what they saw in real life. If only parents were engaging their kids in conversations about these real-life situations.

J. Warner:
Parents aren’t engaging their kids in these conversations. Perhaps they feel ill equipped. Is that why you address parents specifically in the beginning of a book written to teenagers—an interesting approach, by the way—briefly giving advice to the “caring parent or adult” who bought this book for the teen they care about?

Exactly. The book is for teenagers, but the publisher and I know that it’s typically Mom, Dad, or Grandma who buys the book for the teenager and says, “Here, you should read this!” In fact, I’ve already been hearing lots of parents call this book their new “phone contract” their kids have to read before they get a smartphone. But yes, I addressed parents quickly at the beginning to answer some of the daunting questions they have, like what age should my kids get a phone, or what parental controls should I use? So I answer those quickly, and then encourage them to use the book as a tool to engage their kids in conversation about this important subject. In other words, don’t just hand your kid this book, use the discussion questions at the end of each chapter to ask them, “What did you think about this Chapter on Snapchat?”

J. Warner:
Great chapter, by the way. So what do you think is the one most pressing risk you see for students and their use of social media?

I’ll answer that by summarizing several chapters into one soundbyte: think before you press SEND. So much of where kids get into trouble is when they snap a pic, send a tweet or post a comment without giving it any thought whatsoever. Their pic gets circulated more than they thought, their tweet gets misinterpreted and their comment starts a fight. We need to teach our kids to pause before they post.

J. Warner:
That’s a nice soundbite.

Ha. Thank you. Parents need to help their kids consider the permanence of their posts (again with the alliteration). They need to begin to understand: nothing you post is temporary. So don’t post anything you don’t want your principal, Grandma, your future boss… and Jesus seeing (Jesus is on Instagram, you know).

J. Warner:
What would you say to parents who are concerned their kids are spending too much time on Social Media?



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STDs at an all time high… again

Last week it was all over the news, STDs at an all time high.


Yes… it was last November that the CDC first posted a press release revealing “STDs are at an unprecedented high.” (My post about this, and my theories as to why) Well… apparently the trend is only getting worse.

The timing is uncanny. Last Tuesday the CDC announced “the highest number of these sexually transmitted diseases ever reported,” literally 9 days after the Washington Post featured a story reprinted by newspapers globally about how teenagers weren’t drinking or driving or having sex, rather, they were… and I quote… “sticking to G-rated activities such as rock climbing or talking about books.”

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New sexually explicit cartoon on Netflix

The show is called Big Mouth, and it’s premiering on Netflix this weekend. It’s a cartoon about teenagers whose lives have been upended by the wonders and horrors of puberty.

For those who think today’s young people aren’t exposed to sexual messages and imagery… think again.

Take a peek at the trailer here: (and WARNING: This YouTube trailer is very sexually explicit and contains foul language… and yeah… it’s available on your kid’s phone.)

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Is Snapchat and Snapmaps safe?

It’s the number one app kids use, and it’s the number one app parents ask me about at my parent workshops. I hear it all the time:

Is Snapchat bad?

Should I let my daughter use Snapchat?

Or more recently…

Is SnapMaps dangerous? Should I advise my daughter to go “Ghostmode”?

It’s something I’ve written articles about in detail, and something I always devote time to when I’m addressing students directly about wise posting in an insecure world. So what do Mom and Dad need to know about this app, especially with its fun new feature called “SnapMaps” where your Snap friends can see your exact locations on a map at all times?

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Coming to a city near you

Fall is always pretty busy with speaking, youth leader trainings and parent workshops. Take a peek at my upcoming schedule and see if I’m coming to a city near you:

THIS WEEKEND- Sept 23, 24, New Hope Assembly Church, Rogers, AR
Parenting workshop, preaching in morning services

October 15, Steel City Mennonite Brethren Church, Bethleham, PA
Preaching in morning services, Parenting workshop 6-8 PM

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The words I’ve been waiting for…

“In stock”

I’ve had sooooooooo many parents asking me about this book for their teens/tweens… it’s so good to see it finally “in stock” ( over two weeks early). I received boxes of them Friday, and Amazon began shipping them Saturday.

Enjoy the book! Here’s what those who screened the book for me said about it:

“McKee’s best yet. This book will most definitely be the new ‘phone contract’ today’s parents use to engage their kids in meaningful conversation about their use of technology. Required reading for any teenager.”
—Doug Fields, Author of Speaking to Teenagers and 7 Ways to Be Her Hero

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Stalking Your Daughter

Yesterday I told my friend Brian, “I hope you don’t mind, I stalked your daughter last week on her Instagram account to see if she was posting anything dangerous.”

Sound creepy? I guess it is. Good thing it was just me.

Brian knows I research this stuff all the time, and my new book helping teenagers “think before you post” is coming out next week (kinda cool, the publisher just told me the books are in and have already shipped to my website and Amazon). So last week his daughter was my guinea pig.

The good news: so far she was being really wise with her

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Is Abstinence-Only Education Really Ineffective?

Many of you might have seen or read about a report in the September issue of Journal of Adolescent Health where researchers asserted abstinence-only education is “scientifically and ethically flawed.”

So let me ask a taboo question in the Christian community:

Are they right? Is there any legitimacy to this claim?

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen people bashing abstinence programs. Back in 2004 a report prepared for House Democrats shredded abstinence programs, citing “errors and distortions” in eleven of thirteen abstinence-only curricula. (Which is interesting to look at in hindsight—a report that cited STDs going down—now that we all remember 2008 reports emerged citing 1 in 4 teens girls have an STD, and now recent reports revealing

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Does Sexy Music Really Affect Me?

I guess it’s a good time to ask this question when the No. 1 song on the charts articulates, “I want to show my mouth your favorite places, let me trespass your danger zones until I make you scream.”

Whenever I speak to parents I tend to provide them with a glimpse into the world of youth culture: the apps young people frequent (on their smartphones at an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes a day), the games they’re playing (teen boys play an average of 56 minutes per day), and the music they’re soaking in (at an average of 1 hour and 54 minutes per day) (Media Use by Tweens and Teens, page 19 and 31). Sometime I even play YouTube videos or paste lyrics of the top dozen songs right on the screen for parents to see firsthand. The reaction is always the same:

“I didn’t know it was this bad!”

Well, I’ve been doing this two decades now… and I’ve never seen the top 12 songs this bad

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Posted in Discussion Ideas, Entertainment Media, Jonathan's Rant, Music, Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Youth Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Back to School Conversations

If your kids aren’t already back to school, they’re headed there. Sure that means new classes, homework, and all that goes along with the academic aspects of school… but that also means navigating new and old friendships, trying to fit in, and wondering if everyone likes you, not just at school, but also on every app with a like button.

This is where you come in. The typical response from caring adults like parents, grandparents, coaches and youth pastors is to ask about school

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