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Keeping Your Kids From Craving the World

with Ron Luce | September 8, 2008

What is it about the culture that is so irresistible to our teens? On the broadcast today, Ron Luce, co-founder and president of Teen Mania Ministries, tells Dennis Rainey about the need for parents to talk to their kids about the culture around them and to train them to see through the lies that are paraded as truth.

What is it about the culture that is so irresistible to our teens? On the broadcast today, Ron Luce, co-founder and president of Teen Mania Ministries, tells Dennis Rainey about the need for parents to talk to their kids about the culture around them and to train them to see through the lies that are paraded as truth.

Keeping Your Kids From Craving the World

With Ron Luce
|
September 08, 2008
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: Maybe you've been aware of what's been going on with Britney Spears over the last couple of years.  Ron Luce says we should not be surprised by what we're seeing.

Ron: Essentially, what has happened to Britney is exactly what the media is doing to all of teenage America.  For the culture machine to work, they have to have pop star potential, and they have to have fans.  So they find somebody that they can basically make money off of.  They feed them into their machine, they make stars out of them, and at the end of their career when they think it might be over, like MTV did last year, they put her on the opening act, they knew she wasn't prepared, they put her, anyway, for the sake of ratings. 

She bombed, you know, the whole world has seen her demise kind of thing, you know, emotional collapse and everything else, and they don't care.  They're just looking for the next piece to come to the culture machine, and that's exactly, when you look at what's happened with, bless her heart, 26-year-old Britney shaving her head and emotionally wrecked, that's really what they're turning the whole generation into, and they just don't care as long as they keep making money.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, September 8th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll talk today about how you can build a culture in your home that is stronger than the culture that is destroying children all around us.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I'm just sitting here trying to do the calculations – how long has it been since you've had a teenager in the house?

Dennis: Well, it's been four years.

Bob: Four years.  So let me just test your cultural IQ here, can I do that to start things off?

Dennis: Bob, no – you've got a smirk on your face.  He's not really trying to test my cultural IQ, you're wanting to expose how disconnected I am.

Bob: I just want to see …

Dennis: Let's ask our guest.

Bob: … if you're in touch here.

Dennis: He's the young, he's the youth …

Bob: We can ask him, but I want to ask you first – have you ever watched an episode of "Hannah Montana?"  Do you even know who Hannah Montana is?

Dennis: You know, I have not watched a whole episode.  I am aware of her.  That's a Disney production, isn't it?

Bob: That's correct, all right, that's good, that's good.

Dennis: Huh?  Okay, how am I doing?

Bob: Can you name …

Dennis: I didn't cheat, there's no cheat sheet here.

Bob: Can you name the artist who had the best-selling record of the year, so far, and had the smash hit single, "Lollipop?"  Can you name that artist?

Dennis: No.

Bob: You don't know him?

Dennis: I don't.  Who is it?

Bob: That's Li'l Wayne.  You have to say it "Lil," L-i-l, Li'l Wayne.

Dennis: Did you know the answer to that, Ron?

Ron: I didn't know that, but I …

Dennis: You're a youth expert, and you did not know that.  This makes me feel …

Bob: Didn't know Li'l Wayne, it makes you feel better, doesn't it?

Dennis: It does.

Bob: All right, here is my last youth culture question for you – of these three movies that came out this summer, which one did the biggest box office – "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man," or "Indiana Jones?"

Dennis: Oh, that's easy.

Bob: Which one?

Dennis: "Iron Man."

Bob: Is he right?

Ron: I think so.

Bob: Yeah, that's right.  "Iron Man" was the …

Dennis: Hands down.

Bob: Okay, so you knew the comic book …

Dennis: The hulk was just a green spot.

Bob: You knew the comic book stuff, you didn't know the rap artist, and "Hannah Montana," you're kind of halfway there on that.

Dennis: I am, and let me introduce our guest who is aware of all this – Ron Luce joins us again on FamilyLife Today.  Welcome back, Ron.

Ron: Thank you, Dennis, it's great to be here.

Dennis: Ron is the founder of Teen Mania Ministries.  He speaks to teenagers all over the world.  In fact, he's spoken to 12 million teens in 50 countries since 1986, and he is the proud parents of three teenagers.  He is in the thick of it, Bob, and I have to start this interview out because you've just written this new book, "Re-Create."  You're in the middle of raising teenagers today, you're a parent, what's your biggest challenge, practically speaking?

Ron: Well, we're blessed – our kids, all three of them love the Lord, but I think our biggest challenge regarding with our children is the culture is constantly hammering, knocking at the door, trying to invade in all kinds of new ways – technology, stuff at school, stuff – you know, billboards – and, you know, parenting today isn't like 20 or 30 or 50 years ago.  We can't do just what our parents did even though it may have been great, we have a different culture kids are growing up in, and we better make sure we're very alert with what is slipping into the purview of our kids – their ears, their eyes, their conversations – and beginning to shape them without us knowing about it, and that's probably the biggest challenge.

Bob: So your biggest challenge is the challenge that you're addressing in the book, "Re-Create."

Ron: Absolutely.

Bob: It's really every parent's biggest challenge today.

Ron: Not just parents of teenagers but parents, even starting with your kids when they're very, very young, and we tried to be very vigilant when our kids were two and three and four years old.  We started way back then.  People would think, "Well, you won't let them watch TV, and you won't let them do this and that," well, we're just trying to, like, keep them from craving all the stuff that the world baits them with.

Bob: When you talk about not letting them watch TV, some parents just go, "Oh, so you're an 'isolate them from the culture, keep them shielded from the world, and hope that you get them strong enough, and then that they'll survive when they're finally out there?'"

Dennis: Well, here is what he says in his book what we're up against.  He said, "By the time teens graduate from high school, they've seen 20,000 sex scenes on television.  That's 6.7 scenes for every hour on teen TV.  This is a deluge.

Ron: Right.  It's not even a fair fight.  I mean, when you bombard young people with that kind of stuff, and it's all wrapped in coolness and, you know, it's a lifestyle and, of course, there's no consequences, according to Hollywood, and then there's studies out there that have shown now that you and I, people with common sense have known for a long time, the more kids see this the more likely they are.  The Rand Corporation did a study – they're twice as likely to be involved sexually once they see sexual scenes.

And so, to your question, did we totally isolate them?  Well, we taught our kids when they were very young, you know, how to – the difference between good and evil.  They'd see a witch on a cartoon, they would switch it off, and they always did well.  But what we started seeing is that, you know, there would be a commercial that would come up that they weren't expecting, and they would see or hear something, they were like – "Oh!"  You know, and just – their young little minds, and so we trusted them but didn't trust the world.

So then we totally shifted when they were very young, our television viewing habits.  They could never watch unless we were there.  Ultimately, it was one hour a week, and then a couple of cartoons on Saturday.  But we had lots of videos we'd watch together and, of course, that's something that parents can screen, what they're watching and can approve of.

The big coup for us came when, I think the girls were 8 and 9 years old, and our son was younger.  They called a family meeting and said, "We've got really important – something we ought to talk to you about."  And so they called this meeting, and they had all these banners that they had made up, and they were going to convince us of something, and they had done all the research and decided that, as a family, it would be a smart thing for us to have a trampoline in our backyard. 

And the girls had done the research – the best deal and the best warranty and the best quality, and they had made these little placards what the advantages would be for our family, and one of those would be "we'd spend more time outside playing, not so much time watching TV."  Well, they're only watching one hour of "Touched by an Angel," anyway, and they didn't even want us to pay for the whole thing.  They'll pay for half of it if we would pay for the other half.

So we counter-offered them and said, "Well, we'll pay for the whole thing if you commit to give up TV altogether for an entire year.  Now, we don't want you dragging your feet.  If you decide to do this, you're the one that said it's going to be great playing outside and this kind of thing."  They really struggled over that and had to pray over the night over that and came back the next day, and they said, "Well, you know, for a while we were thinking we can't give up TV for a year, but then we thought that's just our flesh" – eight and nine-year-old girls.  So we decided, "Okay, we're good with it."

Well, how long do you think it took us to get that trampoline?  About 30 seconds.  And we got that trampoline in the backyard, it's still there today, and we just had fun together.  And after the year was over, we never turned the TV back on.  It just never happened. 

And so maybe that's too radical for some people, I don't know, but, I've got to tell you that one, when your kids are really young, it protects them from wanting every little game, every little toy that everybody begs for and all that kind of thing, and from so many things when you're not there, all the messages that – these people don't love our kids.  They're just trying to make a buck, whether it's sex or it's violence, or it's rebellion towards parents or whatever, and parents – this deluge of media, whether it's movies or television or music or Internet or music getting to the kids via iPod – we have to be very, very alert, and I would say parents need to know every piece of media getting into their kids' brain, and you might think, "How in the world can I possibly do that?"

Well, it would have been easy 20 years ago, because there was only three scratchy channels and eight-track tapes.  And now the way the culture has developed, it has found a way to bypass parent scrutiny to get to our kids to make a buck.

Dennis: Okay, so let's say you've got media down to a bare minimum, and you're watching the news, and here is a teenage rock star, Britney Spears, whose life story is being paraded not just one night but night after night after night on major nightly news.  That begins to have an impact on young people today just because of her presence.

Ron: Absolutely.  I think ultimately we were never going to be able to isolate our kids from culture, and that's not the goal, but it's to help take your Christian worldview and your values and go, "Okay, now, let's look at that, and let's process it together."  One of the things we've talked about regarding Britney herself is that essentially what has happened to Britney is exactly what the media is doing to all of teenage America.

So they find somebody that they can basically make money off of.  For the culture machine to work, they have to have pop star potential, and they have to have fans. They feed them into their machine, they make stars out of them, they make lots of money off of them, they influence lots of kids off of them and at the end of their career when they think it might be over, like MTV did last year, they put her on the opening act, they knew she wasn't prepared, that she hadn't rehearsed her stuff, her outfit didn't look good, they put her, anyway, for the sake of ratings. 

She bombed, you know, the whole world has seen her demise kind of thing, you know, emotional collapse and everything else, and they don't care.  They're just looking for the next piece to come to the culture machine, and that's exactly, when you look at what's happened with, bless her heart, 26-year-old Britney shaving her head and emotionally wrecked, that's really what they're turning the whole generation into, and they just don't care as long as they keep making money.

Dennis: You have two daughters, 18 and 17 years of age.

Ron: Right.

Dennis: What did you say to them when all this was kind of unraveling on TV, because it had to be news at your house?  They had to be watching her; they knew who she was.

Ron: Well, as I said, the TV is not on very much, but you still – it's everywhere.  It's on the front of magazines, it's – you know, and so it's very much a part of the public awareness and psyche, and so we talked through these issues all the way through.  In fact, when our kids were really small, our girls, we started talking to them about love and dating, and so teaching them to see through the lies, I think that's one of our responsibilities as parents – to teach our kids that everything is sugar-coated, and there's poison in the middle of it.

And so it was natural – they saw Britney when she was real young, you know, we would talk about "Oh, she's singing this but now she's singing this," or "Not So Innocent" was one of her songs when before that she was supposedly a virgin.  Now, all of a sudden, she's singing that she's not so innocent.  And we're, like, let's talk about these things because we know your friends are listening to this kind of stuff, and so let's not buy into the lie.

Bob: You made a key distinctive just a few minutes ago that I think is helpful for parents on a diagnostic level, and that is, is your family media-centered, or is it relationship-centered?  And I think each of us can stop and ask the question – how many minutes a day are invested in media versus how many minutes a day are invested in relationship, and it's got to be that in most families in America, it's a huge victory for the media, and relationships are getting maybe minutes, but certainly not hours, right?

Ron: Sure, and I think what's happened is media has made us parents of convenience.  It's very easy when your kids are small – put on the cartoon, put on the – whatever the video game, and that kind of thing, and so we have kids that have relationships with technology but not with people.

Bob: Yeah, and it's interesting to stop and think that 10 years ago, as a parent, we have the same kind of situation you had, which is how are we going to monitor television in our home, how many hours a week are we going to allow those kinds of things?  Today our TV is relatively quiet at home.  Our kids aren't that interested in television.

But if you go to the computer, the Internet is getting used all the time.  That's really where the new media is penetrating – between the computer and the cell phone, those are the two media devices every teenager has.  I guess you'd have to throw an iPod in the mix there, and you've got it covered, right?

Ron: Right.  And so it is a shift in how they get their media, but they're still getting media, and when you think about, you know, a lot of parents, "Wait a minute, that's not my family, see, because we're godly, and we go to church, and we're raising a good family" – Sunday school and everything, and so one of the things I've put in the book is how can you tell – kind of a dashboard – how much media you're letting in.  How can you tell?  Is there a gauge you're even watching? 

And things like, as yourself questions – how many TVs do you have in your house?  And things like, do you have any regulations for how much TV or what kind of television is watched?  What about computers?  Do you have rules that regulate how many hours a day?  How is it that Bill Gates only lets his kids on the Internet 45 minutes a day?  What does he know that we don't know?  How come Spielberg doesn't let his kids watch television?  What does he know that we don't know?

I've heard this said by a politician that 98 percent of our culture are followers of culture, only 2 percent are shapers.  Ninety-eight percent followers of culture, 2 percent shapers, and I'm afraid that we end up with kids, even though they are Christian, they're in a Christian home, they go to youth group, and so forth, but more committed or more engaged in the culture than they are with Christ because they're part of the 98 percent what I call "culture zombies." 

We take our cue from the culture, and we do what the culture tells us to do with our behavior, even with our values, and not from the Bible.

Dennis: And one of the reasons we take so many cues from the culture is because media has so much access to us, and we're giving our kids phones, it seems like, at younger and younger ages.  What advice would you have for a parent about their teenager, maybe junior high, high school, being allowed to have a cell phone that can text messages?

Ron: Well, this is a huge, huge issue, and parents think that when they're getting a phone, they're just, like, talking on it like we do, you know?  It's a whole media communication device, of course, and, first of all, I would say just because friends have it doesn't mean you should let your kids have it, you know?  We didn't let our kids have a phone until they were 16, even though it was inconvenient for us because we wish we could talk to them and call them, and – but never, ever give your kids technology without strings attached – always have strings attached. 

For example, texting was very limited.  If it got out of hand, we would cut it off, and almost every single one of these teachers that have gotten caught in a sexual relationship with kids in their class – those relationships started by texting.  It's like a secret conversation that a kid can have with somebody that's not supervised at all.  And so all kinds of perversion.

It's rampant now– one of the common ways of accepted flirting with somebody you like if you're a teenager, is to send them a nude picture of yourself from your phone to their phone.  And so if you just don't enable those things, they're going to feel – if you feel like your kid really needs a phone, they're going to feel like, "Oh, I don't really get the cool stuff."  It doesn't matter.  You're protecting them.

Dennis: Bob, you've got a couple of teenagers at your house?

Bob: I do.

Dennis: Text messaging?  Pictures?

Bob: Our 14-year-old is the only child in his group that does not have a cell phone.

Dennis: In his group – as in – in his class?

Bob: I mean when he goes and hangs out with the kids, and we need to get in touch with him, we have to call the kids' cell phones, and say, "Can you put David on the phone?"

Dennis: So you are totally an uncool father?

Bob: I guess.  We have said that when he's old enough to pay the cell phone bill, he can have a cell phone.  But, until then, we're not doing it.  And so he doesn't have a job, he can't pay for the cell phone.

Now, our 17-year-old and our 20-year-old both have cell phones, and, it's interesting, because I monitor the bill.  When I get the bill every month – [laughs] – I was just sitting down with my 20-year-old, and I said, "Let me tell you something about you and the cell phone,  can I do that?"  He said, "Sure."  I said, "Do you know how many calls you made last month – cell phone calls?"  "No."  I said, "You made 650 cell phone calls last month."

Dennis: Uh-huh, I've seen one of those bills.

Bob: I said, "That's about 20 calls a day that you made."  "Wow," he said.  I said, "The longest call was 12 minutes long.  Most of them are one minute, two-minute calls," he's a guy, right, and he doesn't have a girlfriend, because his brother, who has this girl he likes, his longest call –

Dennis: His usage is up there?

Bob: Two hundred and 11 minutes on one phone call – that's three and a half hours for that phone call.  I was just glad they didn't break signal, you know, that they didn't get dropped. 

Dennis: At least electronically.

[laughter]

Bob: And then I asked him about texting.  I said, "Do you have any idea how many texts you sent last month?"  "No."  I said, "Well, you sent and received about the same number," and, again, it was about 20 a day.

Dennis: So we're talking about 1,200 touches a month?  Forty a day?

Bob: Well, the interesting thing to me is it's 20 phone calls in and out a day, 20 sent messages, 20 received messages a day.  I'm thinking, "What are you doing with the rest of your time?  Do you have any time for anything else?"  It's fascinating to see how the phones are being used.

What was instructive for me was to look at that cell phone bill and see what time of day are these being use, what are the numbers to which they're going.  I think it's very important for parents to get the bill out with a magnifying glass and start to do some analytics, because it will tell you a lot about how your children are spending their time.

Dennis: Ron, what Bob's modeling here for parents is really what parents need to be doing, isn't it?

Ron: Absolutely, and I think, just like we ought to measure and monitor all of their media, phone is part of the media, monitoring all of their friends, and friends can get to your kids that you don't realize can get to your kids through texting and through the phone and so, absolutely, looking at the bills, knowing who they're talking to, how long are those conversations, who are their friends?  And sometimes I think we surrender our kids to, well, if it's peer pressure, we're not going to know all their friends.  Well, who made those rules, you know?  It just takes a little more energy, a little more question-asking, and they're going to feel it's a little invasive.  Well, that's part of being a parent.

Bob: I think when a child reaches 12, 13 years old, they start to push their parents away, and I think too many moms and dads say, "Oh, I guess it's time to back out," and that leaves you in a pretty dangerous spot, doesn't it?

Ron: Absolutely.  In fact, one of the things I talked about in the book is what we did with our kids is, you know what?  Maybe seven, eight, nine, 10 years old, you start feeling that – "Well, Bobby doesn't have to do it, Susie doesn't have to do that," and the peer pressure is starting to control their attitudes and their behaviors or their heart towards you, and then they get a little bit older – 10, 12, 13, 14 – "Well, I saw this on TV.  Why can't I have it?"  And then it's the culture pulling them away.

And so what we did is we sensed some of those – we'd hear some of those phrases, we would, instead of getting mad and saying the proverbial, "Well, Johnny doesn't live here, does he," or "You don't live there," and we think we just invented that, and it's really clever.  What we would do is, we would lean into the relationship and so what I mean by that is go and get a Coke with them more often, go and have coffee with them, take my daughter on dates, and lean relationally in so that the contention is whoever owns their heart has the most authority in their life.

And when you lean in like that, it endears their heart back towards you so they want to listen to what you say rather than what the cool people at school or what the culture is telling them.  You've got to maintain ownership of your kids' heart after, of course, Jesus.

Dennis: And that means parents have got to know what's going on, they've got to know who they're spending time with, and they've got to be vigilant and intentional about staying connected to their children.  And as you were talking, I was thinking about a verse we don't normally think about when it comes to media, and text messaging and computers and Internet and music and the like, but it's 1 Corinthians 15:33 – it was one of the verses that I used with my sixth grade Sunday school class for a number of years to prepare them for the pressures they were going to face during the teenage years.  The verse reads, very simply, "Do not be deceived – bad company corrupts good morals."  Media can be bad company.

Ron: Absolutely.

Dennis: And, as parents, one of the things that concerned us as we were finishing up our stint of raising teenagers, Ron, was we saw parents doing the very thing Bob was talking about – parents allowing their children to push them out of their lives during the most dangerous season in a human being's life.

And I think the takeaway on today's broadcast, Bob, is that parents need to know what's going on in their children's lives, and they need to be equipped to know how to handle these issues in an intelligent way but one that doesn't turn off their teen but helps them become a discerning young person as they grow into adulthood.

Bob: Yeah, I love the subtitle of your book, which is, "Building a Culture in Your Home Stronger Than the Culture Destroying Your Children," and we really do have to be intentional about this.  As parents, we've got to be involved, we can't back off, we can' relax, we've got to be diligent, we've got to be vigilant, and I think your book helps us do that.

We've got copies of the book, "Re-Create," by Ron Luce in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  You can get more information about the book or order a copy from us online at FamilyLife.com.  When you go to our website, on the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to an area of the site where you can find out more about Ron's book, you can order it from us, if you'd like.

Again, the website is FamilyLife.com.  You can also call to get more information about the book or to order it from us – 1-800-FLTODAY is the number.  1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you get in touch with us, someone on the team will make the arrangements necessary to get the resources you need sent out to you.

Let me ask you when you do get in touch with us here at FamilyLife, would you keep in mind that we are listener-supported.  Folks like you, from time to time, get in touch with us and let us know that you appreciate the ministry of FamilyLife Today and to help support us with a financial contribution, and this month, if you are able to make a donation to FamilyLife, we'd like to say thank you by sending you a two-CD set that features a conversation we had not long ago with Tim and Joy Downs.  They've written a book about conflict in marriage called "The Seven Conflicts," where they look at some of the most common areas where couples get tripped up in their relationship.

This two-CD set is our thank you gift to you when you make a donation of any amount this month to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You can donate online at FamilyLife.com, and if you do that, and you'd like to receive the CDs, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type in the word "conflict," or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like the CDs on conflict in marriage or the CDs with Tim and Joy Downs.  Again, we're happy to send them out to you, and we do appreciate your financial partnership with us here at FamilyLife Today.  Thanks so much.

Now, tomorrow we want to talk about what you can do as a part of a local church and about what local churches can do to make sure that teens feel involved and feel like they're a part of what's going on in the local church.  That's coming up tomorrow as we continue to talk to Ron Luce.  I hope you can be back with us.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  

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