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Let me take a selfie real quick. Yeah. I guess that's where we're starting today. I was going to say every Christian parent is hoping to raise their kids in the faith, and we are living in a day and an age where what you just referenced, the selfie, the phone, the digital world is controlling our kids.
It has changed everything. And as parents, we're lost. We don't know what to do. We don't know whether to be passive. We don't know whether to be active. Are we the good guy?
Are we the bad guy? And so I feel like parents are desperate. I think a lot of parents are doing nothing.
Because they don't know what to do. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. So we got Jeremiah Johnson back in the studio. Welcome back, Jeremiah. Thank you, Dave and Ann. This is an important topic for me. I have five kids that are Generation Z.
And so if you have kids right now or grandkids who've been born since 1996, we're talking about the largest generation ever, Gen Z, larger than millennials, larger than any other generation before it. It really gets my attention because if you don't mind me being transparent, I just feel like I'm in your family room talking to y'all. We always love having you.
You can come to our family room anytime. I'm no expert, but I'm working on it. The biggest battles that we face in the Johnston Home are battles over these nuclear devices that society has put in our hands called cell phones, smartphones. They're nuclear?
I didn't even know that. And nuclear devices, they will blow up everything. And we have to respond as parents biblically as Christian thinkers. We have to talk guard rails because these things are the silent killers of our kids right now.
And I think it's so important we discuss for parents the realities of it, and then hopefully we can get to some solutions. You and Audrey have been married how many years? 18 years. 18, your oldest is how old? 18.
She has a phone. All right. Yeah, worst decision I ever made as a dad was giving her a phone, so I'm willing to confess that. Justin is 10. He's in fourth grade, and Dave and Ann just give you my reality. We had two awesome guys, Christian kids, come over and spend the night. Justin's friends from school both had cell phones and TikTok on their phone.
So naturally, Justin feels like he is socially on the outs. And we have triplets, age six. Now I will tell you, do you mind if I share a funny story? I called my dad because the triplets' birthday was coming up. I said, Dad, we need to get the boys iPad minis. He's like, that's a really expensive birthday gift, son. I said, Dad, next time you watch the boys, if ever, after one hour, you're going to be running to the Apple store to get three iPad minis for those little boys.
Done. He said, that made sense. So even our boys have iPads, okay? So you're not against having devices?
No, I'm not against it. We can't boycott everything. We can't leave our house. We have to know how to live in the world but not be of the world. And so I began to research this as a concerned dad and I am a professional researcher by trade and I wanted to really study the effects of phone usage because I'm seeing the influence of it on my own kids.
So there's some stuff that I think we need to dialogue and you hit the nail on the head. When Apple released the front facing camera and we started having the selfie generation in 2012, the world literally changed and there's a great thinker by the name of Jonathan Haidt at NYU. I highly recommend any parent to look at his research about the damaging effects of social media on our young people because he tracks, 2012 incidentally was also the year that Facebook buys Instagram, selfie year. Mr. Haidt research confirms that depression rates started to rise quote all of the sudden around 2013 especially for teen girls but it's only Gen Z and not the older generation.
What were Gen Z starting to do? They became this generation of compare, performance, selfie highlight reels and despair and he is showing and again don't take my word for it, go look at his open research, his open source data. Another colleague of his, Scott Galloway on a recent nationally televised news channel, you can Google it, said he was asked Scott tell us what effect social media is having on families. He said well just to be real honest I would rather my 14 year old son have Jack Daniels and marijuana than have an Instagram or Snap account. So he's saying this is how negative the effects are.
And by the way if anyone just caught us, we're not endorsing marijuana or whiskey, he was drawing a comparison. Parents need to wake up with how dangerous Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok. Do you know that Gen Z right now, they're not even going to Google for their search, they're going to TikTok for search.
Who curates TikTok? Think about this for a moment. So these truth curators who don't believe in absolute truth by the way, like the Chinese government with TikTok, they know Gen Z is actually going to TikTok more than even Google now to find truth.
I didn't know that, did you? No, and I think we're like most parents, we're clueless. It's like it's not that harmful, can't be that big a deal. So dig into what is so harmful about it. Obviously if depression rates are rising, that's an alarm.
Yes, it's fascinating. 43% of Gen Z remember the last website they visited and they can't remember their parents' birthday. Geez, that's depressing. 95% age 13 to 17 use YouTube, TikTok, Instagram. 95%? 95%. The most popular app right now on the App Store, and I dork out with my daughter.
I do this just to get under her skin. I call it Get Real, but the app is really called Be Real. It's a vanishing app called Be Real. It is the number one app right now on the App Store and all the kids have it. It's one of these vanishing apps like Snapchat and these kids are on it all the time.
And so we have to put guardrails in place. So a vanishing app, I mean, so you take a picture or whatever and it's gone. A few people can see it. It can have streaks like on Snapchat. So you can imagine if you're a girl, if you're my daughter's age and she's not getting the streak that the friends are getting, this causes an emotional crisis, a social crisis and it causes very skin deep friendships or relationships. And so where we grew up with authentic friendships and we'd hash things out, these kids don't have authentic friendships. And so I'm having to struggle with sharing what is a real friend. I was speaking to a group of thousands of kids recently and then we did breakout sessions and I'll never forget this precious girl.
She raised her hand, middle schooler. She said, Dr. Johnson, what's more important, my real friends or my online friends? It's a valid question today. Yeah.
And when we talk about digital first impressions, I mean, Gen Z, which marketers know is the largest generation for business, for purchasing, they make a judgment about us based on our online presence before they ever meet us in person. And so we have to just grapple with these truths out there. And there are some very important solutions though I think. So I mean, those are some of the realities.
And as leaders right now, we're defining reality. This is probably a challenge in your home. I mean, my son's a gamer. We love gaming, but we don't play it all night long as he's tried before.
We put guardrails in place. And I love, Jeremiah, that you're a dad in this spot because I mean, I'm like, wait, so you're talking to your daughter about this, but she does have some apps on her phone. Yes, she does. And she tries to get around some of the protections we put in place. And so right now the internet age is 13. A lot of people don't know this. This was approved in the 90s. The internet age was approved in the 90s.
It probably needs to be updated. And in fact, there's a thinker, a Jewish thinker by the name of Yuval Levin. And he said, Instagram, this was a great op-ed in the New York Times. He said, if Instagram and TikTok were brick and mortar spaces in your neighborhood, you probably would never let even your teenager go to them alone. Parents should have some say over their children's presence in these virtual spaces. And so he's even recommending raising the internet age to 18. Because here's what our kids and grandkids do. This is real talk on family life.
I love this. They get a phone and then they lie about their age because there's a one little screen that says, are you over the age of 13? And what do all the kids including mine do lie? And then they get the app, and then they find ways to hide the apps.
And there are some devastating stories. In fact, many parents have come together and they've called social media today, the silent killer of Generation Z because of the higher suicidal ideation, the isolation it causes, and especially so coming out of COVID, where people are even more isolated today. They don't know how to be friends, Gen Z, and they don't take risks. Because for fear of being dropped, they struggle having dialogue because you might block me. So we don't have dialogue. And so what kind of social relationships are we modeling? So as parents, as I'm hearing this, why don't we get involved?
Why don't we research it? I mean, I'm just like, I know one, they're tired. Their lives are demanding.
What are the other reasons? Well, you're like me, I mean, triplets, stick the iPad in front of them and have a moment of peace. But it's incumbent upon us, just like every other generation before us, we're gonna have challenges.
I mean, think of the television, think of the radio, think of going to the movies. I was at once at a church where the guy who was teaching me, I went and crying to my mom because we'd like gone to a movie the night before said, well, you know, if Jesus returns and you're in a movie, you're not going to heaven with him. So, you know, of course, I had just been to a movie with my parents. And so we have to put up careful guardrails and I've been studying this a lot. So what do we do right now in the Johnston Home?
Yeah, what are your guardrails? Like I'm not endorsed by anything I'm about to share. I don't get money off any of this. Like I've had to research this. Well, number one, I have learned how to turn off my son's gaming devices using Alexa, and he hates it. Okay, every parent's like, wait, let me write this down.
It's time for dinner. And by the way, there's some really fascinating, I was mentioning this to your executive producer, Jim, who's a good buddy of mine. There's some really cool research about men and boys right now with as far as gaming goes, guys will talk to each other while they're gaming. They'll go out for pizza, and then they might continue the conversation over Fortnite or whatever. And there's community there. And so it's not having the same devastating effects on men that perhaps social media is on young ladies because social media is like, do I have as many likes as her?
I don't look like her. I'm not with that guy, to where it seems to be more isolating for females. But even so, I figured out and again, I'm a busy guy, just like so many of our leaders and our listeners and families, but I had to come to a point where Justin played his game all night long. I mean, had red eyes the next morning, looks like a zombie. I could tell this has gone too far. So now when it's time for dinner, Alexa, turn off the Xbox and it's off. And it's a beautiful thing. They can't say, Alexa, turn on the Xbox. No, no, we don't allow that.
So yeah, there's little things like that. I do have, there's some great software out there with a click of a button, I can shut down Lily's phone. She's the only one in our home. And what's my advice on cell phones? Wait as long as you possibly can to get your child a cell phone and they're going to scream for it.
You know, and then if you do have to give them a phone, I wish I would have started with a phone that doesn't have all the apps like, hey, we can reach you if you need to be picked up from practice. And you know, you wish you would have done it. I absolutely do. Absolutely. So with Justin, we're doing it differently. And he hates it. But that's that I've learned my lesson. So but with Lily, it's been healthy to have those conversations with her. I showed her the clip that I just shared the quote for Scott Galloway said, honey, look, Scott Galloway and I don't have the same beliefs about Christianity. But we do agree on the devastating consequences of social media.
And let's listen to this clip. So I am educating her. And I think we need to bring girls into the conversations about how toxic these apps are. Whistleblowers from these big tech companies know that these apps are toxic.
And here's the strange thing about it, though. I mean, it really is a weird world because as an author, you know, I signed book contracts promising I'm going to promote my material on social media. And I'm here promoting. We need to get off.
We need a social media fast from time to time. And what I'm advocating for parents is you don't just have the right. If you're a mom and dad, you have the responsibility to absolutely curate the digital experiences your children are having. You should know what they're watching. You should know what's on their phone.
I paid for this app Qstodia that works with apps, or with iPhones in particular, and I can shut down Lily's phone. How do you spell that? I need to look it up on my phone.
Again, I'm not sponsored by any of these things. I mean, I literally had to research it's Q-U-S-T-O-D-I-O. Right now I'm looking at Lily Faith's phone. I can tell that she's had 43 minutes of screen time today.
I can see she was on Be Real at 948. And then with a click of a button, I can shut it down. I can protect her from YouTube, which, you know, we have to be careful with YouTube. YouTube has autoplay on it for different videos. It'll just keep playing. And there's things that can happen that you didn't even intend because it just auto plays.
And when you shut it down, some parents are like just shutting it down. And that's because I'm have the say, which is true, which is good. But you're also having other discussions with her of why and then totally know that's it. We lead with that. What do real friendships look like? What do real authentic relationships look like?
And they're not based in social media. So we talk about that. I mean, that's the last option. But what I love is I can track her usage, her digital footprint. And I do that as a parent. You better believe I do that. There's times that I've had to step in on a conversation that was happening on text messages with my daughter. And you know, if we were at like a family camp or a men's retreat, I would probably put up on the screen the text I had to step in on for a young man who didn't text my daughter anymore. So like, yes, do you break in on a text feed? You know, Lily would be cringing listening to this right now.
Yes, I do. And I'm proud of it. So I'm not beyond calling a kid's parents saying, hey, tell your kid to not call this late at night. I've talked to parents that I feel like they're naive, where, you know, a mom might have teenage sons that are 15, 16.
She's like, oh, I don't check anything. He loves Jesus. He's a great kid. And I don't doubt any of that. And I don't doubt that you're a great mom. But to have those conversations, that's really important. And just to be having that dialogue and to put some protection. I'm like, I think I said, like, wow, good for you.
But I just want you to know, like, I want Dave to have that. I want all my sons to be having some sort of accountability. I feel like that's a biblical concept.
It is. And I appreciate you bringing that up for the moms out there. It's not an age level. It's a responsibility thing. We have the responsibility to check in on our kids because I won't share on this program, but I've heard the devastating stories of parents who didn't, who now advocate for mom and dad. And again, how do kids show us they're having anxiety through social media, constant headaches, constant stomachaches? They don't say, hey, I'm having an anxiety problem. They're constantly getting headaches. They're constantly getting stomachaches. They're starting to isolate themselves from things that they used to really enjoy. These are all of the ramifications of maybe there's an issue that you can't see.
They call it the silent killer because there's a whole world happening virtually in that girl's mind or that son's mind that we need to be aware of. And so I just advocate for, please raise awareness. And that's why I think it's so powerful about our discussion today.
Know your kids' digital imprint. Know that it's not going away. If you don't grapple with it now, you will someday.
And just know they're touching their phones 2000 times a day and they're seeing 10,000 messages a day on their phone, media messages, many of them full of lies. So get ahead of it. Start having those tough conversations. As parents, we have crucial conversations with our kids.
And I just encourage you, you know, Lily is now I'm happy to say getting it. She's understanding, you know, it's not healthy for me to be on my phone all the time. We don't let phones in private places.
There's a place we all put our phones in, in the house at night. I mean, these are just small little things that make a huge difference. Yeah. Has she responded?
I mean, was it initially like dad, please don't bring it up again. I'm not cool because I won't let her have a snap. And now she knows, no, I actually care about you. I care about your mental health. I care about your spiritual life. I care about your confidence. You're of such a great personality.
You need to be outside with people talking and doing things, skateboarding, whatever. And yes, she is getting it. But it's part of education.
It's like you said, and it's not just turning it off. These are big bad phones we can't have. No, this is a fact of life we're going to deal with. Smart technology going forward, artificial intelligence, machine learning, not going away.
We need to know how to manage it. I'm guessing that conversation begins as our kids are younger. I'm thinking of my oldest granddaughter's eight.
She's dying for a phone already. But our son and daughter and all, they've had this conversation has been ongoing of why she doesn't right now and why their friends do maybe, but that's their friend's family and this is what it looks like. So I think to be able to begin with those conversations early, hey, it may look different for our family.
And that's okay. But also talk to the family that's never had anything, like no kind of restrictions, no boundaries. How do they begin?
What does that look like? Let's say they have a 14 year old. Well, I think if they have a real conversation with the 14 year old, the 14 year old will probably reveal some things that they've seen or done online that might be shocking to the family because it just happens.
It's bent that way. What would the conversation start like? Conversation be like, how are you doing in your digital space? Tell me about your online friends. Tell me how you interact with them.
What kind of messages are they sending them? Do you have the same friends in real life that you have online or those different groups? And what are the nature of your conversations? What kind of pictures do you post of yourself?
Selfies? What kind of things do you like and interact with and content? What kind of content drives the conversation? Those are great ways to look at it and not make it this big bad thing, this elephant in the room, but make it something conversation. What do you think are healthy approaches to that?
Because just like we're not going to drop you into a digital world that's so dangerous without having some real healthy, healthy guardrails that protect you. Yeah, I think a great question would be, have you seen anything that you feel has been harmful to you? I guarantee your kids if they're going to be honest, like, well, yes. And that alerts them to like, yeah, there is good and there's bad and I need to be wise and dad and mom are trying to help me be wise. What about porn?
Oh, that is huge. I mean, I've, and I've had to have this talk with Lily as well because it's so pervasive. Oh yeah, with girls too now. That hey, you just need to assume that they're probably have dabbled in it in some way. And so we have to protect ourselves, our purity with, that's why I had to step in on one text feed. And again, that's why, I mean, it's just undeniable to me when my four sons, it's not even a question when they have devices in their hands that can access things like that, they will have all the locks in place because I do.
I mean, it's a healthy thing to protect ourselves because here's the sad thing. When our boys are gaming, an ad will come up and they don't care about that ad and they might accidentally touch it. And then that ad takes them to a weird website that has seductive things on it.
You know what? It was completely harmless and it hooks them. But if you have some kind of blocking software in place of any kind, even gaming, even with gaming, you can do that and it will protect you from being then linked, taken out of that ecosystem of the game to the website that has this ad on that links the two, it will protect them. It'll just stop it.
And then it'll even alert your phone and say, Hey, Justin has some irregular activity. You need to go check that out. Can you say what that is of the block that you use for gaming?
The same one, the Qstodia. For their iPads, it works for gaming. It won't let your phone go to those sites. So it's huge. Well, and hopefully parents won't. I was awful. I'm just going to say, I would come downstairs with three teenage boys and they could be gaming or do whatever. It's two in the morning. And I was like a crazy woman.
I'd be, what are you guys doing up so late? And then the other thing I remember when gaming, they started being able to do it with other people all over the place. So, you know, I'm like, wait, you're talking to people around the world? Like this can't be a good thing, you know?
And then like, are they Christians? You guys, I was crazy. Don't be like me. Try to be calm.
Yeah. Keep a conversation going. And even with gaming, like there's, I was with a friend that was speaking somewhere over the weekend and he looked up my son.
A fun thing you can ask people is what's your gamertag? Because there's always a funny story behind that. But he said, you've done a great job. I can't see anything that Justin does.
I can't even see the games he plays. I can't, you know, so we, you can put those protections in place and make it a fun environment and not be a legalist about it either. We can't be a legalist about it. That'll push them away even more. We have to have safety in place and then lead them through it because that's the world they're living in.
That is Gen Z. You know, stick around to hear more from Dave and Jeremiah as they process how to talk with your kids about both the positives and negatives of social media in the world today. Hi, I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jeremiah Johnston on Family Life Today. You know, this is a really special month here at Family Life, the month of May, because we've got a goal and it's a goal of gaining 350 new family life partners, partners who are recurring givers to this ministry. If you're a partner with us, I just want to say thank you so much for helping to make the ministry of family life possible. Your ongoing support ensures that family life can help guide people to God's plan for marriage and family through things like our radio broadcasts, the podcasts that we have, events like the Weekend to Remember that we talk about a lot, small group resources, website tools, and additional life-changing resources. So I'd love it if you would prayerfully consider becoming a family life partner today. As a family life partner, you'll receive a bunch of exclusive benefits, including a gift card to attend a Weekend to Remember event for free, access to our brand new curated content library of resources for some of life's most important issues collected by some of the best minds here at Family Life. So if you'd like to become a family life partner, you could go online to familylifetoday.com, or you could give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329.
And all this month, every gift given up to 12 months will be matched dollar for dollar. So again, the number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. Okay, here's Dave and Jeremiah with some closing thoughts. I would say, man, it's on us as parents to have the conversation. It's so easy to think, well, the Christian school handled that, the youth pastor, kid pastor.
It's us. And if you've never had that conversation with your son or daughter, today's the day. And like you said, Jeremiah, don't come in there with legalism and a law, but just start a conversation gently because they're probably not going to want to step right there and reveal what's going on. But if you say, man, this is a beautiful, wonderful gift, technology is, but it can destroy your soul. And it's not just a Christian thing. This is how my daughter is because they're so influenced by scientism.
Honey, here's an atheist who's a professor like your dad. I'm a Christian, but we both agree this is harmful. So what does that say to you? If we're all agreeing religion or not, because you know, see, oh, that's just some Christian thing. We're all agreeing this is harmful. It's kind of like the surgeon general warning for cigarettes.
We need one of those for social media. Imagine walking the dusty roads of Galilee with Jesus of Nazareth, braving jostling crowds just to touch the edge of his cloak and hear him say, take heart daughter, your faith has healed you. Well, those words once meant to comfort a hurting woman's soul thousands of years ago were also meant for you. Well, tomorrow, Christy McClelland is joining Dave and Ann to talk about Jesus and women. I'm excited for that and I hope you'll join us. On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. I'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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