23% of the same group would give up one of their senses (with smell being first to go).
38% would give up drinking.
15% would swear off sex to keep a handle on their smartphone.
Do these young people not realize that losing a finger would slow down their rate of Snaps?
Maybe, maybe not. But their American counterparts do know that they waste an awful lot of time on their smartphones, themselves. Research from YouGov Omnibus conducted on Millennials on our side of the pond found that 51% of them agreed with the statement: “I waste too much time on my smartphone.” Another 42% confessed, “I think I could be more productive if I didn’t have my smartphone with me.”
The same study asked participants where they kept their smartphones while they were asleep. 46% of Millennials answered with “directly next to my bed” while another 24% of them admitted to literally sleeping with their phones (“on my bed next to me”)! These young people were also the most likely to “strongly agree” they felt “anxious” without their phones.
One other piece of research, this one conducted for Screen Education, found that more than half of 13- to 18-year-olds (60%) felt their friends were “addicted” to their smartphones. 52% said there were extended periods when they’d be in the presence of their friends without talking because they were busy with their mobile devices. Another 41% felt “overwhelmed every day” by the amount of notifications they received.
It’s undeniable: smartphones are changing kids.
A Lesson from Gollum Remember Gollum, the bug-eyed and slimy-looking creature that lurked in the background of The Lord of the Rings movies? Many years earlier, he was a normal guy who happened to find the powerful One Ring, but instead of possessing it, he was possessed by it. It changed him…and entirely for the worse.
Gollum was make believe, but the transformation today’s kids are undergoing due to smartphone obsession is very, very real. For instance:
That’s just a short list. There is much more research showing the ways kids are being changed because of their smartphone use (and abuse). So what can we as parents and youth workers do to make sure our kids don’t turn into modern-day Gollums?
First, make sure you’re not preoccupied (or distracted) by your own smartphone. Your leadership and influence will be compromised from the start if you have the same habits you’re trying to correct in them. Kids don’t just hear what we say, they watch what we do. You have to fight the same temptation if you want to help them overcome it.
Second, make sure your kids’ smartphones connect them instead of isolating them. Parents, don’t let your kids disappear into their bedrooms behind closed doors when they get home from school. And don’t let dinner get hijacked by incoming notifications. Youth workers, you can address the long-lasting consequences of reckless use of smartphones…and how to take advantage of second chances when they appear. Parents and youth workers can tag team the teaching on smartphones.
Finally, don’t shy away from creating phone-free places/times. Many families have found the dinner table (at home or a restaurant) to be a no-brainer. If you share a morning commute with your kids, you might consider this as another opportunity to bond face-to-face without the distraction of phones. Classrooms should be another phone-free zone. Many schools stipulate that anyway. Bedrooms after a certain hour in the evening should also be considered. Otherwise, kids will be texting at 2am.
If your kid is new to a smartphone, put these guidelines (and others of your choosing) in place before they turn into a 21st Century Gollum. If your kid has already made the transition into Gollum, consider taking serious steps to reverse the process. In the long run, your decision will be a blessing to them, you, and others.
Our son started 7th grade this week which meant we had to do some back-to-school shopping. Fortunately, Amazon allowed us to point, click, and purchase. You can get anything you want…and you can get it right away. You don’t even have to leave the house!
That’s exactly what online porn offers young users: what they want it, whenever they want it.
Sexuality’s Instant Gratification We’ve known for years that porn contributes to the get-whatever-you-want-whenever-you-want-it mindset. Today’s buffet of adult entertainment – including thousands and thousands of unique fetish sites – paired with instant mobile access, means users don’t have to wait to get their specific fix. As the anti-porn organization Fight the New Drug says, “There aren’t ‘no’s’ in porn….”
But there are “no’s” in real life. So what happens when those desires that are accustomed to instant gratification leave the digital world and enter the real world?
Only time will tell what porn use will lead to in the future. However, we know the effects of porn use…right now! Along with the potential for addiction, porn use rewires the pleasure sensors of the brain, can lead to isolation/loneliness, is linked to depression, increases the risk of divorce among married couples, and, of course, can lead to erectile dysfunction among men, even young men.
But other than that, it’s completely harmless.
Forging the Future Porn is big. It’s powerful. It’s popular. The “adult entertainment” industry – which happens to have a firm grip on teenage entertainment, too – has lots of reasons to stay that way: almost 100 billion, in fact. That’s how much the industry rakes in, globally, each and every year. With population increases, advancements in technology, and good old fashioned inflation, that number is only going to go up. Way up.
Sexually explicit entertainment is already huge, and will get even bigger. So, should we just let porn determine our kids’ futures? Absolutely not! Here are two ideas to help forge a porn-free future for your kids.
Don’t reduce the conversation to just porn. Lust is the underlying issue. Think about it like this: if our kids grow up avoiding online pornography, but regularly engage in casual sex, what have we truly accomplished? So what if they never visit PornHub, but become serial adulterers later in life? Don’t lose sight of the real disease by focusing on the symptom(s). In Proverbs 11:6, the Bible says, “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.” There are plenty of other passages about lust that speak about its variations as well as its consequences (and Jonathan McKee provides great discussion points about it in his book to teens, Sex Matters). Sexual immorality is multi-faceted so keep the ongoing conversations focused on the umbrella of lust instead of just one example of it.
Put guardrails in place to help protect integrity. When our kids start driving, we put as many protections in place as we can to keep them safe. Why shouldn’t we do the same when it comes to protecting their minds, hearts, and souls from sexual immorality? Does that mean installing parental controls? Sure, but don’t assume they’re foolproof. Maybe it’s a practice, for example, putting the computer in an open area of the house. Maybe it’s ongoing conversations about the hibernating (and immediate) effects of porn use. Maybe it’s an agreement between parents and teens to allow the former to inspect smartphones on a regular basis. At the very least, it requires your commitment to be an example of personal purity.
More often than not, young people are unable to correct their problems with porn. (After all, they tend to get desensitized to their porn use over time.) But we don’t have to stand idly by while sexual immorality hijacks our kids’ hearts. We can shape a godly future for them through prayer and intentional leadership in their lives.
It’s summer, and that means backyard BBQs, visits to the beach, and box office blockbusters. Unfortunately, summer also means an increased rate of car accidents for teen drivers.
But summer isn’t the only time driving is dangerous for teens…or those who share the road with them.
90 Days of Independence According to two reports on the subject of teen driving – both released in July – it seems as though the danger(s) of young drivers comes in cycles. The first report, published by the National Institutes of Health, claims that a student driver is 8 (eight!) times more likely to be in a car accident (or near miss) during the first three months of driving alone with their operator’s license versus driving with an adult using their learner’s permit. In other words, unsupervised driving is more dangerous than supervised driving.
During the same 90 days, student drivers were also found to be four times more likely to drive recklessly, for example, “rapid acceleration, sudden braking and hard turns.” Unsurprisingly, there was a noticeable difference between freshly licensed male drivers and female drivers, with the former engaging in riskier driving habits more often.
While those 90 days can take place at any point throughout the year, there’s another dangerous season that has a set timeframe.
“100 Deadliest Days” Each year, AAA (American Automobile Association) tries to remind young drivers and their communities that the (approximately) 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day – aka summer – are usually the deadliest days of the year for motorists. The culprit most frequently responsible for traffic fatalities are none other than teenage drivers.
In 2016, the transportation authority found that more than 1,050 people died in car accidents involving at least one student driver. Why are summers more dangerous than other seasons of the year? Experts think it’s probably a combination of factors. “They’re out of school, they’re out later, they’re hanging with their friends, and when they’re driving at night, it’s a dangerous mix,” said Matt Nasworthy, a representative from AAA’s Florida office.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) further claim that “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.” More than 2,300 young people die each year – or 6 per day – due to car accidents. Young drivers, ages 16 to 19, also account for $10 billion worth of damage each year stemming from car accidents caused by their age group.
Hitting the Brakes on Accidents Knowing when car accidents involving teen drivers are more apt to take place can help us decrease the frequency and fatality of them. Experts on the subject offer several good insights, but common sense can go a long way towards prevention, as well. Here are a few ideas.
Don’t become “hands off” just because your teen gets their license. They might have a piece of plastic, but they don’t have any experience. Even doctors who graduate from med school with a degree are required to attend a residency period where they practice under the watchful eyes of experienced physicians. As we wean our kids off of our presence in the car, we should do so as gradually as possible. Also, we should make sure they experience several different kinds of driving conditions, such as nighttime or rain, with us along for the ride so we can offer helpful feedback and tips. Speaking of difficult driving conditions….
Reduce the amount of dangerous conditions as much as possible. Early on, it’s not a bad idea to make sure young drivers are back home before nightfall to avoid driving in the dark. If the forecast calls for inclement weather, for example, rain, snow, or even high winds, it may be best to just wait it out if they don’t have any experience in those conditions. But don’t forget to address other “driving conditions” such as driving with music, or friends, or a smartphone with a tempting text message waiting for a reply. The first few weeks and months of driving are stressful enough without these kinds of added pressures.
Teach car safety and model it. No matter how old your kids are, it’s never too early to start talking about safety behind the wheel. Talk about things like speeding, driving under the influence, and avoiding distractions of all kinds. But remember, your kids aren’t just listening to your instructions; they’re also watching your example. So make sure to reinforce your advice with your actions.
The day our kid pulls out of the driveway alone for the first time can be terrifying. Make sure you begin preparing him or her for that moment right away. The difference it makes could be life and death.
We’re in the second half of summer and several million teenagers are just weeks away from the biggest change in their young lives: leaving home and going to college. That means millions of parents are wondering if they’ve paved the way for a successful future.
After all, college prep involves much more than prepaid tuition plans and parking decals….
That’s not exactly encouraging news. Are graduation rates so low because the academic work is so difficult? Are more kids failing to graduate because they chose to go to the “kegger” instead of the library? Are more kids dropping out because college is just too expensive? Maybe it’s a combination of several possibilities?
How “self-aware” are they? In what areas do they need to improve?
Do they demonstrate a proper balance between work and play?
Do they know how to deal with setbacks and outright failure?
Do they have good ol fashioned “grit”?
Have they developed enough self-discipline to govern themselves in various areas of life?
Anyone who owns a vehicle understands the importance of maintenance (preventive or curative). Essentially, we need our kids to understand how important it is to take care of themselves…and be able to do it.
Spiritual Though I’m mentioning it last, it’s far from the least important. My wife and I spent almost 8 years as campus pastors at a large state college in Florida, so I know the importance of faith firsthand.
Does their faith wax or wane under pressure…and are they aware of that reality?
Have they picked out a church or campus ministry to attend?
Do they have a devotional life?
How often does their faith inform their decisions? How can that be further developed?
College is all about expanding mental horizons. It need not decrease our spiritual fervor for Jesus.
Crash Course Maybe your child is several years away from leaving home and heading to school. If so, you’ve got time to help him/her develop the necessary strengths and aptitudes to be successful at college. Just make sure you maintain diligence on the task without becoming lackadaisical.
And don’t do it alone. It takes a village. That’s why one of the key elements we teach in youth ministry is “people” over “program.” The most important thing parents, family and the church can do helping young people today is providing positive mentors in their lives that engage them in conversations about real life, helping them apply their faith to day to day issues. In fact, most “program” is really there with the purpose of connecting kids with positive mentors in arenas like small groups where real conversation happens.
But maybe you read these questions and thought, “Oh my gosh! Heather’s not ready for college!” Freaking out won’t help, so plan on spending the next few weeks working through the most crucial points to prepare your kid for life away from home. Additionally, you can develop a plan for ongoing communication even after they’ve left for college.
Intentionality on your part will go a long ways toward success on their part.
Four kids crammed on the youth room couch each looking at their own phone. A young boy is consumed with the next game of Fortnite on his mobile device. A girl scrolls through Instagram while eating at Olive Garden with her family. Is anyone noticing how addicted these kids are to their screens?
Not their parents.
Mom and Dad are quickly developing their own set of bad habits when it comes to smartphones.
“Distracted Parenting” That’s what Erika Christakis calls the quality of care most kids receive from their moms and dads because of the amount of time the adults spend on their smartphones. In a rather lengthy – but insightful – article for The Atlantic, Christakis outlines many of the negative implications brought into kids’ lives by their tech-obsessed parents. For example, one study she cited highlighted the vocabulary disparity between young children whose parents intentionally talked back and forth with them at a young age compared to kids whose parents did not. Unsurprisingly, the kids with verbally interactive parents had twice the vocabulary as the kids whose parents did not. (Hey, you can’t talk to your kids if you’re always answering email.) On a more dangerous front, she pointed to studies that showed an increase in ER visits for children in particular regions as smartphone adoption rose in the area. (Evidently, busy thumbs on parents’ part led to bleeding wounds on their kids’ part.)
Of course, there’s a wide gambit in between vocab and bodily harm. Distracted parents were found to more easily turn grumpy if their attention was stolen away from their phones. The more addicted parents were to their smartphones, the more likely they were to misread emotional clues…or simply miss them altogether! The phrase “continuous partial attention” certainly describes how many parents govern their homes and kids…even though it was coined years and years before the advent of smartphones.
In case you’re tempted to think it’s not as bad as Christakis makes out in her article, take it from a 2nd grade girl in Louisiana. When Jen Beason gave her class a writing assignment, one little girl wrote, “I don’t like the phone because my [parents] are on their phone every day.... I hate my mom’s phone and I wish she never had one.” Another educator, Abbey Fauntleroy, found a similar sentiment among her students. “We had a class discussion about Facebook and every single one of the students said their parents spend more time on FB than they do talking to their child. It was very eye opening for me.”
If you want to find out how that little 2nd grade girl – and her classmates – will be impacted by her parent’s constant smartphone use, look no farther than the findings released by Psychology Today that claim these kinds of kids will grow up to be more negative and less resilient.
But at least we parents will be up-to-date on sports scores and celebrity gossip….
(Re)Focusing on What Matters Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be that way. With a simple increase in self-control, parents can resume the helm of leadership and influence in their kids’ lives. It doesn’t take much to make a huge difference. Here are a few ideas to help any parent start connecting with their kids right away.
Use smartphones to actually connect with your kids. One of the greatest ironies of this generation is they have the high tech tools to connect to a massive percentage of the population, and many of them are as isolated as Tom Hanks in Castaway. As parents, we can easily change that. Devise at least one way you can connect with your kids via their smartphone, and I’m not talking about the occasional text message. For instance, I play at least two games of PUBG (the “other” Fortnite) with our middle school son each afternoon. For the better part of an hour, my son shakes his head, calls me a noob, and then risks his character’s life to save mine…because I drove the Humvee into the river again. The lack of hand-eye-coordination is nonetheless rewarded when my son says, “Thanks for playing with me, Dad. And don’t worry, you’ll get better.” Little does he know I’m just trying to become a better dad.
Establish phone free times and/or phone free zones. One of the best ways to make sure your smartphone isn’t a distraction from your role as a parent is to establish boundaries for your own use. You might pick one evening of the week that all smartphones go in a drawer. Or you might declare that the last hour before family bedtime is a phone free hour. At the very least, you should make sure your dinner meals are distraction free. If you think this sounds extreme, just remember, the geniuses that designed our smartphones (and more) have rules that limit use. If it works for them….
Model online behavior you want mimicked. Of course, there comes a time when you have to pick up your smartphone again and rejoin the rat race called life. But when you do, model the civility that you want to see in your kids. Don’t be snarky. Don’t be cruel. Don’t be self-centered. The folks over at Impact 360 Institute – who are great, by the way – compiled a superb list of ways grown up Christians can set a better example for Gen Z on social media. It’s worth the read…and the implementation.
Keep perspective in mind when it comes to balancing smartphone use and raising kids. Very little we do on a screen will make a difference in the next ten years. Almost everything we do in our kids’ lives will make a difference in the next ten years, and perhaps the rest of their lives. That’s worth putting our phones down for!
Terrorists. A Ghost. More terrorists. Corrupt governmental leaders. And still more terrorists. Yep, the second half of 2018’s summer movie lineup has plenty of bad guys to go around.
Let’s get to it!
Act Two It’s already been a huge summer at the box office! The films we highlighted in Part 1 of this article series have drawn massive crowds (and incredible profits) in May and June; now it’s time to look at what July and August have in store for moviegoers. We’ll follow the same format in this half of our review providing a short description for each flick, links to official trailers, themes incorporated, and its MPAA rating (if available). Afterward, we’ll offer a few tips and resources to help you manage the movies this summer.
Here come the terrorists.
July 4 – The First Purge “After this night, nothing will ever be the same again.”
What better way to celebrate our nation’s birth and independence than by going to a movie that focuses on twelve hours of unchecked violence, lawlessness, and injustice?
Yes, the fourth installment of this (gruesome) movie franchise will hit theaters on Wednesday, July 4th. For those of you who didn’t see The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy, or The Purge: Election Year, you’re in for an education. The First Purge explains how our nation’s “new founding fathers” came up with the idea for a “purge,” one evil night of legalized crime in which nothing – absolutely nothing – is morally out of bounds. The official trailer for this prequel is a fairly graphic one, and the MPAA has already slapped a well-deserved R rating on it for “strong disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug use.”
Here’s the deal: this immensely violent film franchise does one thing really well: make money. Tons of it, in fact! The budgets for the first three movies were quite small by today’s standards, and they raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on the other side of the ledger. For that singular reason, I highly doubt #4 will be the last film in this series. That said, economic success hardly equates with wholesome entertainment.
We suggest skipping this film that intentionally blurs the lines between good and evil. There are better movies being released in the second half of this summer, like this one coming out just two days later.
July 6 – Ant Man and the Wasp “Maybe you just need someone watching your back, like a partner.”
Ant Man, the world’s tiniest superhero is back, and this time he’s taking on a scary villain named The Ghost who’s out to steal powerful technology that will allow her to take over the world. The movie’s official trailer shows the action-packed sequences, the embedded comedy, and the star-studded cast that will almost certainly catapult this flick to box office success. Paul Rudd (Ant-Man/Scott Lang), Evangeline Lilly (The Wasp/Hope Van Dyne), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), and Michael Peña (Luis) are joined by Laurence Fishburne (Goliath/Bill Foster) in yet another Marvel movie that will draw millions of young people to theaters over the holiday weekend.
Scott Lang’s desire to balance his role as superhero and father is only part of the struggle he’ll face in this sequel. The evil Ghost is so powerful that he’ll need all the help he can get; fortunately for him, the beautiful Wasp is willing to help. This movie is definitely going to focus on teamwork (duh!), but it’s going to have a healthy dose of family sprinkled in, as well.
As of this writing, Ant Man and the Wasp doesn’t have an official rating by the MPAA but it will more than likely carry the PG-13 label used on most of Marvel’s films. It should prove to be a solid choice for families.
Hopefully the next movie on our list will be, too.
July 13 – Skyscraper “My family is the only thing that matters to me right now.”
Following a life-threatening mission that cost FBI agent Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) his leg, the former war veteran charted a new course for his future and family as a security analyst. But as the movie’s official trailer shows, his white-collar job is no less dangerous than his days spent in the military. (But hey, isn’t everything supposed to go haywire on Friday the 13th, the date this film is being released?)
The movie looks intense. It looks appropriately “scary.” It looks like it has all the right ingredients for a blockbuster. But it also looks an awful lot like Die Hard. (Evidently, I’m not the only one who thinks so….)
In spite of the (obvious) similarities with 1988’s cult classic, Skyscraper looks to be a promising flick that will address themes of family, overcoming obstacles (like his prosthetic leg), and courage. That said, the movie’s MPAA rating is still PG-13 for “sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language.”
After “The Rock” battles terrorists in China, another hero will tackle terrorists…everywhere.
July 27 – Mission: Impossible – Fallout “Some missions are not a choice….”
Jaw-dropping action scenes. An absolutely perfectly balanced cast. And a theme song that hasn’t lost its edge in over 50 years! Yep, it’s another Mission: Impossible movie, the sixth installment in this spy-based saga.
The movie’s official trailer reveals bad news for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise): his latest nemesis, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the bad guy from Rogue Nation, has somehow escaped and has promised traumatic bloodshed and destruction to anyone affiliated with IMF (Impossible Missions Force). Our only hope is the fantastic team of Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and Alec Baldwin which is further enhanced by the “weapon of last resort,” Agent August Walker played by Superman’s own Henry Cavill.
Themes in this movie will clearly be duty, trust, and friendship. The MPAA hasn’t released an official rating for Fallout as of this writing, but it will probably land in the massive collection area known as PG-13 for intense action, etc.
The next movie on our list is also a spy movie, but that’s all they have in common with one another….
August 3 – The Spy Who Dumped Me “This is happening because you dated a spy.”
When Audrey (Mila Kunis) learns that she’s been dumped by her boyfriend – who was actually a spy for the CIA – she and her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon) become wrapped up in an international plot where almost anything can – and does – happen. The movie’s official trailer shows the leading ladies dishing up lots of humor that will probably attract a female audience…and just enough action to maybe get a few of their boyfriends, as well.
It looks like the movie will focus on themes of relationships, friendship, and trust as the girls navigate the unknown trying to save themselves…and the world. The MPAA hasn’t issued an official rating yet, but my guess is that it’ll land squarely in the realm of PG-13 for edgy humor and action.
Making the Most of Movies We at The Source for Youth Ministry are routinely asked about the appropriateness of certain films. It’s an important question that deserves a solid answer…which is why we’ve developed a couple of terrific resources over the years that will help you make informed decisions for your families and youth ministries. These tools don’t just apply to summer movies; they can help you year round. Take a look:
Our MOVIE REVIEWS AND QUICK Qs page. I love this resource! Our resident movie gurus (Jonathan and Todd) take the time to preview every single one of the films highlighted in this 2-part article on opening weekend and then offer their thoughts on the film’s entertainment value, appropriateness for teens, and even some ways to use the movie to springboard into discussions about biblical values. If you want a last-minute point of reference, make sure to use this invaluable tool.
Our MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS page. If a movie has a particularly powerful, encouraging, or Gospel-centered scene, we build a ready-to-use small group curriculum you can share with your family or youth group that’s connected to God’s Word. The entire page is searchable by movie title and topic/subject. We’ll definitely be adding some of these summer blockbusters to our growing list of resources, so check back often.
You don’t have to completely avoid the summer box office because of a few bad apples, but neither do you have to resign your family’s entertainment choices to a roll of the dice. Use our two resources (above), or other online tools, or even a person you trust (such as a friend or your church’s youth pastor) to help you make solid decisions when it comes to movies.