The CDC, teen risks, and who is vulnerable

Fewer high school students are drinking, having sex and using drugs… but the CDC still says the findings of their most recent teen risk assessment “leaves room for concern.”

And please don’t undervalue my use of the word “fewer.” I really mean “a whole bunch!” We’re not talking a few percentage points. For example, in 1997 a whopping 37% of kids “currently” smoked cigarettes (in the 30 days prior to the survey). In 2017 only 8% “currently” smoke cigarettes. That’s a huge decrease!

Why is this? Why the overwhelming decrease in the number of kids engaging in many of these risky behaviors, and what are these concerns the CDC is referencing about their new survey results?

Let me give you the quick answers:

Why are today’s kids engaging in less sex, taking less drugs… even smoking less marijuana (yes, really) …than kids in years prior? A few months ago I listened to Dr. Jean Twenge talk specifically about this and her answer was simple: kids aren’t hanging out together as much. They’re staying home staring at screens.

It’s hard to have sex when no one else is in the room.

So what is the CDC concerned about?

I’ll highlight two concerns:

1. Even though kids are engaging in less risky behaviors, they’re still experiencing consequences. For example: the number of kids having sex is down, but the number of people with STDs is at an all time high. Why is this? Maybe because this year’s data shows less kids using condoms. Or perhaps kids are also participating in sexual activities that spread STDs, but aren’t intercourse (oral sex, anal sex).

Some of these consequences are psychological. For example, “feeling sad and hopeless” is up, but just a little, unless you compare young people by sexual identity… which leads me a second concern…

2. Young people identifying as LGBTQ are far more likely to take risks and experience consequences than kids who identify as heterosexual.

Again, this is no small percentage. For example, this new CDC report shows 27% of heterosexual high school kids “feeling sad or hopeless “almost every day for 2 weeks or more in a row so that they stopped doing some usual activities, during the 12 months before the survey.” But 63% of gay, lesbian or bisexual high school kids felt the same way. More than double.

Or 19% of heterosexual kids used marijuana within 30 days of the survey, compared to 30% of gay, lesbian or bisexual kids. Cigarettes 8% of heterosexual, compared to 16% of gay, lesbian or bisexual. Again… double.

Bottom line: LGBTQ kids are hurting.

So let me ask you this?

What are you doing to help them? (This is something my friends Greg Stier, Sean McDowell and I hope to do something about at this conference…)

Or are we just leaving that up to Justin Bieber?

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Helping Teens Press Pause

Whenever I talk with young people about their mobile devices I ask, “How many of you think people are spending too much time staring at their devices?” An overwhelming majority of hands will go up.

Yet if you followed those same teens for 24 hours, you’d probably catch them “spending too much time staring at their devices.” (And before we start labeling anyone hypocritical… adults are in the same boat).

Let’s review. Teens are aware that phones monopolize too much of their time, but they aren’t really doing much about it.

So why not help them feel the relief of just pressing pause.

Both parents and youth ministries can do this. I’ll start with youth ministries.

How about an event called PRESS PAUSE? Overnight, hanging with friends… and no phones. Your basic 24-hour media fast.

I was recently speaking at a church in Tampa where they did an event similar to this. Families in the church opened up their homes as “host” homes for the evening, then they did an array of activities. You could add a service project during the day Saturday. The sky’s the limit… just no phones.

Add a 20-minute phone binge if you must in the middle of the event. Allow them to post pics, check social media… whatever… just for 20 minutes. Then back to face-to-face conversation.

24 hours is simple. Young people have spent entire weeks at camps without devices and actually felt relieved. Is it really surprising? Most studies show that teens who spend more time on devices are less happy than teens who devote less time to digital media. In fact, kids who spend more time on social media have higher instances of depression and wanting to commit suicide.

Pressing pause might be a good idea?

Parents should always keep their eyes open for venues where media is put aside and face-to-face conversation is forefront. This could be the simple practice of “no tech at the table” at dinner time, or seeking out those creative and fun activities where hands are busy doing other things besides texting and scrolling through Insta.

Common Sense Media provides 5 strategies to do that in this article. I provide 52 ways to do that in this book.

Have you talked with your kids about being smart with their smartphones?

What are some of the ways you get your kids to press pause?

Posted in Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does Google and Apple care about your kids’ digital addiction?

Yes and finally yes? (It’s about time!)

We’ve all heard stories of tech companies concocting evil plans to launch new gadgets and apps addicting children to their devices. Sound like a rumor? Sadly, these legends have proved to be true on many levels. Like when former Facebook president Sean Parker had second thoughts about what the social network was doing to our children’s brains and cast a little insight behind the scenes.

“It was developed to be addictive,” he admitted.

He wasn’t alone in his concerns. In fact a coalition of 97 child health advocates (including iGen author Jean Twenge) asked Zuckerberg to actually shut down Facebook messenger for kids (targeting 6-12 year olds) for the sole reason that kids this age shouldn’t even be on social media!

In a world where teen depression, anxiety and suicide are all at an unprecedented high, people finally seem to be taking a second look at many of these dangers many of us have been warning young people and their parents about for years now. Even tech companies seem to actually be taking some of these concerns to heart.

In May Google introduced an array of time management tools helping users “better manage screen time, track app usage, and limit the phone’s ability to distract.” (Hmmmm… it’s almost as if they actually want us to “get stuff done in the constantly connected workplace.“)


Apparently Apple didn’t want to be one of the only companies not making efforts in this area, so they’ve just announced a new initiative called “digital health” which will monitor how much time kids spend on devices.

It’s like parents voices are actually being heard.

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised last week when I heard SnapChat actually removed “Cosmo after Dark” after uproar from parents. Pretty cool, huh?

Are you having conversations with your kids about their entertainment media diet?

Here’s some articles that might help:

Please Remove Your Headphones: 3 Tools to Engage Your Kids to Tune You In

Helping Your Kids THINK Before They CLICK: Two Conversations We Need to Have

Who is Peeking at Your Kids: Four Wise Privacy Practices Our Kids Need to Know 

Read even more helpful articles on our PARENTING HELP page!

Posted in News, Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media, Youth Culture | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

People are signing up…

I’m so excited how this conference is coming together… sign up now! 

(and hit REFRESH on your browser if you’ve visited the site before… the main page has new buttons that need to be refreshed to hit the registration button)

Posted in Speaking/Training | 1 Comment

Everything’s different in just 5 years

A few months ago I was eating dinner with a couple who had been in youth ministry for several decades, took a 5 year break, and just began serving in youth ministry again this year. The husband leaned over to me and said, “Jonathan, everything’s different! I’ve got kids who say they’re ‘pan’ or ‘a-gender’. I’ve got a girl who doesn’t want to be a she or even a he… she wants to be a ‘they.'” Then he asked me, “What the heck has happened in the last 5 years?!!”

Great question. And I answered it in this quick little YouTube video

This is what prompted us to launch the Anchored Leadership Conference… check it out HERE! (One day early bird registration is this Thursday!)

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Helping leaders reach LGBTQ youth

Many of you have heard the buzz… I mentioned it in my blog once prior… I talked about it on Facebook… and now it’s official. It’s happening in California November 2nd and 3rd:

Sean, Greg and I have been hearing the same questions from pastors and youth workers over the last year:

“What do I say to the kids in my youth group who say they’re ‘pan’ and the student who identifies as a different gender?”

“How can I teach God’s design for sex, a man and a woman in a monogamous relationship, when everything these kids are hearing is the complete opposite?”

“How do I respond to the kid in my small group who always brings the subject back to her new identity… and it ain’t in Christ?”

Laws are changing, culture is shifting, and pastors are struggling to know how to truly reach LBTGQ young people like Jesus would. How can we effectively point to Jesus, the only one who truly transforms lives?

That’s what this conference will tackle. Take a peek at the details and mark your calendars for our early bird registration on May 31st! Spread the word… you aren’t gonna wanna miss this conference!

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My baby is getting married

Last weekend was a huge answer to prayer… or I should say an answer to a HUGE prayer Lori and I have been praying since my daughter Ashley was a baby:

“Lord, we pray for the man you have for Ashley.”

Last Friday night, that prayer was answered, and my baby girl got engaged to an amazing young man!

Some of you remember seeing Ashley grown up. She often traveled with me at my parent workshops, and even helped with some of the parenting videos we did on YouTube. Well, Ash is all grown up. She will be graduating from Westmont college this December and marrying her junior high crush, Joe.

Oh yes… junior high! Here’s what they looked like then:

Joe asked Lori and I permission for my daughter’s hand last month and then planned the proposal without Ash’s knowledge. Lori and I drove down to Southern California where Joe graduated from Vanguard University (where my friend Doug Fields graduated from… back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), and my older daughter Alyssa drove over from her place in Santa Barbara to hide in the bushes and take pictures. Then a bunch of friends and family gathered for a big surprise engagement party (all hoping Ash would say “yes!”)

Joe drove her to their favorite lookout spot and popped the question… and Alyssa popped up from the bushes and took this picture! (and then many more)

I’m so excited for Ash and Joe!

Joe is being commissioned as an officer into the Army next week and the two of them will be married sometime in the next year. (Yeah… I better start saving my money! Is this a good time to ask you to buy one of my books?)

Congrats Joe and Ash! I’m so excited what God has in store for you both! And Joe, I’m so excited that God brought a man of God into my baby’s life! (Oh… and we need to talk dowry!)

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment

Reaching LGBTQ kids

I’m away with my wife celebrating 27 years of marriage… having a blast with her, I might add… but we’re checking email every other day and doing about 15 minutes of work those mornings (not sure if that is allowed on vacation, but we’re both doing it).

Every time I log in and check into the real world I see an article addressing something in the world of LGBTQ, like raising genderless kids, or the new bill in California that everyone is freaking out about, or churches desperately wanting to know how to reach out to kids experiencing same-sex-attraction (SSA), and yes… the event we’re launching this fall helping church leaders respond to this issue in grace and truth

Continue Reading More…..

Posted in Faith, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Refreshingly brutal advice to young guys

Today’s guys face a lot of distractions… a lot more than I faced as a young man.

Let’s be honest. When I was 13 in 1983 I had access to porn, drugs, and raunchy entertainment media.

  • But porn wasn’t just a click away in my pocket, it was in a magazine at my friend’s house if we dared to sneak into his dad’s bedroom.
  • Marijuana was available, but it wasn’t mainstream or encouraged… and it sure wasn’t legal.
  • I loved movies, music and television, but my house had one screen and a boombox. Now I have a dozen screens, and my entire entertainment media library is available in the cloud. Name a movie or music video. I can watch it within seconds, regardless of rating.

But I think the biggest difference between then and now is

Continue Reading More…..

Posted in Books, Entertainment Media, Jonathan's Rant, Movies, Music, Self Image, Sexuality, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media, Youth Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Four conversations parents must have

As requests are coming in for speaking this fall, I wanted to let you know about a new workshop I’m launching… FOUR CONVERSATIONS! It’s the first parent workshop I’m doing where I have parents and kids in the same room!

Right now my go-to workshop for parents is PARENTING THE SMARTPHONE GENERATION… I taught this workshop in almost 30 churches in the U.S. last year

Continue Reading More…..

Posted in Parenting, Smartphones/Cell Phones, Social Media, Speaking/Training | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment