Protecting Your Teen
About the Guest
Daniel Anderson and his daughter, Jacquelyn, both high school teachers, get a first hand look at the dating practices of teens each day. Together they give an honest take on the status of teen dating.
Bob: Jacquelyn Meza believes more moms and dads need to be having more candid, transparent conversations with their sons and daughters about dating, about sex, about what’s going on in those kids’ lives.
Jacquelyn: My Dad and I literally wrote a book, where we had to talk about sex, and all the mistakes I made when I was a teenager, and relationships. He had to have these conversations, where he said, “Here’s how I failed, as a parent.” If we can write a whole book about it, you can sit down and talk to your kid for ten minutes. And that’s really kind of about creating those right sets of circumstances to have those conversations with your kids.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, April 24th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What are the kinds of conversations parents and kids need to be having as teenagers go through the dating years? We’ll talk with Jacquelyn Meza and her father Daniel Anderson about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, not all of our teenagers were compliant. In fact, most of our teenagers weren’t compliant; but I learned something. We had one of our five who was a fairly compliant teen. In fact, he was compliant enough that Mary Ann and I looked at each other and thought, “He has to be hiding something. [Laughter] He can’t be…” I went to him several times and said, “You know, are you okay?” In fact, one time, I just said, “You obey Mom and Dad more than your brothers and sisters did.
Bob: “Why is that?” And he said, “Because I just saw it didn’t work out so well for them; I figured I might as well just obey.” And I thought, “Okay!”
Dennis: Wise young man.
Bob: “All children should be younger children,”—that’s what I decided. There should be no such thing as firstborns. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I don’t think they all turn out like that, Bob.
We have a couple of teachers, who know how they turn out, however—high school teachers in public schools in Portlandia—that’s a country somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean. [Laughter]
Dennis: Daniel Anderson and his daughter, Jacquelyn Meza, join us on FamilyLife Today. Guys, welcome back.
Daniel: Thank you.
Jacquelyn: Thank you.
Dennis: You both teach in the public school system. You teach social studies; right?—
Dennis: —and you teach English.
Jacquelyn: I do; yes.
Dennis: Bob, watch out.
Bob: I’ll watch my grammar. [Laughter]
Jacquelyn: You better!
Dennis: Together, they have written a book called The 10 Myths of Teen Dating; and it’s talking about how to protect your daughter, both now and for her future. Let’s talk about what you two are observing in today’s youth in your teaching profession.
Bob: Yes; what’s the status of dating among American teens today? How’s it going?
Daniel: Is there a good metaphor for “dead”? [Laughter] I’m trying to come up with something—if it was TV, it would be like an animal flipped upside down on the ground—
Jacquelyn: —with little x’s for eyes.
Dennis: Why do you say, “Dead”?
Bob: Nobody’s dating?
Jacquelyn: So, here’s the progression of a relation today: “I’m 16 years old. I’m on Instagram®—I scroll through—I see a cute boy. I send him what’s called a ‘direct message’”— called sliding into the DMs—you know what that is?
Jacquelyn: Yes?—okay. “So then I direct message you / Instagram® message, back and forth, a couple times; and then you text, incessantly, for the next four to eight months.” You may or may not ever hang out in person, and you’re never “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”
Dennis: You’re not going to talk on the phone.
Jacquelyn: Oh, no! Talking on the phone is a dead art.
Daniel: Oh, yes. I have students all the time—you know, I’ll say: “Give me a call. We’ll talk about this,” and they’ll say: “That’s so awkward. Why would I want to talk to you?”
Bob: So, IRL dating doesn’t happen.
Jacquelyn: No; and even if it is IRL, and they’re at the same high school—
Bob: IRL means “in real life,”—just so you know. I’m just thinking about—
Jacquelyn: Hey, you’re pretty with it over there. I like that!
Bob: Thank you!
Jacquelyn: Even if they are dating IRL, it’s some kind of amalgamation of like weird, super-intense, almost acting like you’re married at 16; or it’s the most noncommittal, nothing-thing ever. There’s not a lot of in between.
Bob: So, are there not couples?
Jacquelyn: There are couples, but the couples that there are tend to be pretty unhealthy. That’s what I see, at least, in my setting.
Dennis: So, where does the hooking up relationship occur?—because there’s been another culture—that seemed to occur ten to fifteen years ago—where college students kind of pushed down, into high school, this idea of “Let’s just get together and let’s just have sex.”
Bob: Recreational sex; yes.
Jacquelyn: That goes into that noncommittal category—so you’ll talk; you’ll hang out; you’ll hook up / you’ll have sex; you’ll do whatever you’re going to do; but you never, ever call yourself “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” That’s usually prompted by the male partner towards the female partner.
Dennis: So, what should a parent think about this, Daniel?
I mean, I can just imagine a parent listening to our broadcast, right now—maybe his or her teen may be in the back seat with a couple of friends. They’re talking; they’re rolling their eyes back in their head, and they’re wanting to turn that thing off: “I’m getting busted!” [Laughter]
Daniel: You’re getting “outed.”
Jacquelyn: “Sorry, teens; sorry.
Dennis: I’m not sorry.
Jacquelyn: “I’m on the adults’ side now. I’m not on your side anymore.” [Laughter]
Dennis: How should parents think about this?
Daniel: They should quake with fear, a little bit.
Dennis: Increase their prayer life.
Daniel: Absolutely; and I think parents probably need to be more shrewd. Students—when they grab their phones and they’re communicating with their friends, there’s a whole layer of communication that’s going on that parents have no clue about. Old geezers like us, when we wanted to—
Dennis: Whom are you pointing at? [Laughter]
Daniel: Well, you know, when it’s one finger pointed out, there are three pointed back.
Dennis: I understand!
Daniel: So, kids will learn so much about one another through all this direct communication on their cell phones that they almost can get to these points, where they’re in love; and they’ve never, hardly, spent any time together. That’s one thing that I think concerns me a lot.
When we were young, you would pass a note; maybe get it back next period / pass a note; get it back next period. You might talk on the phone for a few minutes. The direct communication with texting and Instagram and Snapshot® allows students to have thousands of individual interactions in ways that deepen relationships like hyper-speed. Kids can fall in love enormously quickly.
And then there’s the other side, which is there are students that are sexually active with absolutely no relational commitment whatsoever. And those hookups happen anywhere. At my school, we had to deal with the photo lab/the darkroom, because kids were having sex in the darkroom at my school. I don’t think parents understand—if their children are sexually active, they cannot know it; and it could be happening anywhere, with almost anybody. Is that fair, Jacque?
Jacquelyn: I’d say that’s fair. I think—at least, Christian parents—are saying: “Okay; my daughter” or “…son has a “…boyfriend,” or “…girlfriend. I’m concerned about sexual activity within the context of this relationship.” Obviously, that is a concern.
There’s a whole layer of concern you may not even have on your radar at all, whatsoever. The pace of communication—I cannot express how serious that is. You are on hyper-speed all the time with all the information coming into your brain and with how quickly you get to know that person, not to mention you say different things when you can’t see the person’s face, if that makes sense. Not only is the communication more and faster, it’s deeper.
Dennis: I want to turn this broadcast, for the next few moments, into equipping parents to being shrewd. You used the word, “shrewd.”
Dennis: There’s a passage in the Scripture about this.
Daniel and Jacquelyn: Yes.
Dennis: We should be as harmless as a dove and as shrewd as a serpent. Shrewdness is not bad, especially for a parent of a teen; so where should they begin?
Daniel: First and foremost, you have to establish some limits, right away, on cell phone usage. At our house, with our youngest foster daughter, “No Snapchat,” for sure.
Jacquelyn: —“…ever, “…ever,” “…ever,” “…ever,” “…ever,” “…ever; ‘No.’” I cannot say that enough. Actually—
Dennis: Now, wait a second—this, coming from the daughter who was told she couldn’t date—
Jacquelyn: Yes; correct.
Dennis: —and screamed, “Victim!” because that boundary was placed over you. You realize what you’re saying; don’t you?
Jacquelyn: I do, but the seriousness and the danger of Snapchat cannot be overstated. It’s communication that, theoretically, disappears; so the things that—even if your child’s not using it inappropriately—the things that they can receive on Snapchat are so dangerous and harmful.
Bob: I want to read to you an email that I sent to a friend of mine last week. He wrote me and he said, “What rules would you have about cell phone usage?” I said:
Well, we didn’t have to deal with it when my kids were coming up,”—so I said—“This is off the top of my head, but here’s what I’ll tell you—
—if I was in the middle of it now, I think I would—first of all, before a child gets a cell phone—I would have a six-month engagement period of conversations, playing lots of ‘What if…?’ games with my kids, talking about, ‘If you get somebody who sends you a picture on text, and it’s an inappropriate picture, what do you do with that?’—‘What do you do in this situation?’ I’d have a lot of those conversations, talking about how smartphones can be good and helpful and how they can be problematic. And then, I would also talk about the traps you can fall into.
But I said to them—this is why I brought this up—I said:
Snapchat would be off limits; because”—I agree with you—“that’s one of the most dangerous forms, and it’s one of the most popular forms, for kids today—
Dennis: Do you have any age limit on that, by the way?
Daniel: I would say, “Hold off on Snapchat—
Jacquelyn: —“until they’re out of the house.”
Daniel: —“…out of the house.”
Bob: “…married,”—I’d say.
Jacquelyn: Yes; even after!
Daniel: Jacque aged out of Snapchat at some point.
Daniel: I mean, you get to a point, where you’re like: “I’m 23—
Jacquelyn: “This is silly. What do I have to say that there can’t be a record of?”
Jacquelyn: At the end of the day, that’s the issue with Snapchat.
Bob: I said: “There would have to be a contract between a parent and a teen about usage—what boundaries and rules. The parent should make it clear: ‘I own the phone. It’s not your phone, it’s my phone.’”
Daniel: That means: “No password on your phone. It’s always accessible.”
Bob: That’s right: “No expectation of privacy on your part. Anything on your phone is for my eyes.
Jacquelyn: Ding, ding, ding!
Bob: “I can view any texts, any emails, [and] any Facebook® account—anything. Some apps are off limits. All phones are turned in for charging at a particular time at night.”
Daniel: We—that’s what we’ve done—our foster daughter—phone charges at night, 9:00 every night.
Dennis: —in a certain spot in the house.
Jacquelyn: —in the kitchen; yes.
Bob: Yes; like: “You’re done. You’re not texting. You’re off the phone.” And then: “You can pick it up in the morning, after a particular time, and after you’ve spent 15 minutes in the Bible in the morning.
“That’s when you can get your phone. I want to know what passage you read and what you got out of it before I hand your cell phone back to you the next morning.”
But I said the bottom line: “Your phone is a privilege; it’s not an entitlement. It’s my phone / not your phone. We’ll let you have this tool, because it can be helpful; but there are going to be high fences around the use of it.”
Jacquelyn: Absolutely; and there are ways, too, to take your child’s phone and make it kind of change the levels of control—so there are opportunities you can turn off; the child cannot download any apps. That’s a really smart way of doing it—any app that the child downloads would have to go through you, and I think that’s a great place to start.
Daniel: Yes; because some of those apps allow you to hide things on your cell phone.
Dennis: I want to get back to that.
Dennis: The real reason, you said, Snapchat shouldn’t be allowed with a teenager is it hides conversations. I want parents to hear that.
Jacquelyn: Snapchat—anything that you send—whether it’s a conversation, a type, or a picture—it disappears. You cannot recall that photo ever again.
That is—you can imagine—really super dangerous; because if there’s ever a bad interaction—I just think about instances of bullying or something inappropriate—if it’s texted to you, there’s a record of it; if it’s sent to you via Instagram, there’s a record of it; sent to you via Twitter®, there’s a record of it. Something that is intended—essentially, Snapchat was created for people to send naked pictures to one another and have them go away.
Dennis: And here’s one other rule you should instigate; and that is, “Everything is transparent.” Mom and dad need to be able to see what’s on your smartphone and have complete transparency back to your parents—that protects the child as well.
Daniel: Yes; and I would add a couple of things. If I had a teenage boy in a smartphone world, his phone would be as dumb as possible. That is a portal to pornography—24/7; 365. I don’t care what any young person says / what any adult says—
—everything that your phone is good for—the most important thing, as a parent, is, “Can I communicate with my child?” Text and phone call will do that—I couldn’t state it enough.
Bob: Your book is The 10 Myths of Teen Dating; and here we are, talking about technology and smartphones. These two are—in today’s world, these overlap totally; don’t they? I mean, you can’t talk about dating and relationships with teenagers without talking about smartphones; because, as you said, a lot of relationships aren’t happening anyplace else other than in the thing in your pocket; right?
Jacquelyn: Yes; absolutely. I think that’s one thing that—even since we’ve written the book, technology moves at such a rapid pace that I don’t think parents are able or—unless they’re really actively trying to keep up with what’s going on—and that’s really alarming. I think some parents might be hearing this information for the very first time. I challenge parents to have a conversation with their kids about what’s on their cell phones.
Bob: Yes; I want to give a shout-out here to our friends at a ministry called Axis Ministries. They have a weekly email that goes out to parents, called “The Culture Translator.” It helps you know what’s going on in your teens’ world, and it just keeps you up to date. I’m a grandparent, and don’t have any grand-teenagers yet; but I’m still getting the emails so that I can—I know what IRL means; right?—it’s for things like that.
Jacquelyn: Well done. That was actually—I’m proud of that.
Daniel: I wanted to say one thing, real quick, and that’s—we talk in the book about “too much / too soon relationships.” Cell phones allow kids to over-invest, emotionally, in very, very quick order. Their relationships take on adult dimensions way before they’re ready. It was so much of a slower process, 20 years ago, that you could integrate all those changes and there were kind of boundaries that you self-imposed by just the nature of communication. But now, with the cell phone—so fast, so quick, and the emotional depth that you can go to messaging and Snapchatting / the sexual depth you can go to without ever being with the other person—
—it’s like married couples, very quickly.
Bob: You’re talking about over-sharing—you’re talking about teenagers who are becoming emotionally-intimate with one another. Some have referred to it as emotional fornication; because at some level, it’s that kind of connection. That can be just as dangerous as sexual activity can be.
Dennis: When Barbara and I were raising our teens—and I realize that was back before the earth’s crust hardened / fossils back then [Laughter]—our principle was to realize that teenagers may begin to look like an adult / they may have certain adult behaviors; but emotionally and spiritually, they are not an adult yet. We can’t treat them and give them adult responsibilities and privileges as they go through their teen years.
Dennis: We obviously have to trust them. We have to dish that out and watch how they do with it, but it would pay you well to be shrewd in just making sure you’re believing the right thing about your teenager.
You had a young lady, who came to you, Daniel—you teach in the public school system—one of the first ones who ever came for help, and she asked you to help her. What was her problem?
Daniel: She came in after school one day, and she said she was pregnant. She said, “What do you think I should do?”
Bob: She was five months along—nobody knew.
Daniel: She was five months, and nobody knew. She wore kind of a baggy sweater and a leather jacket every day. Not a person on earth, other than her boyfriend and her best friend, knew she was pregnant. Somewhere, that started with some parenting and some interactions with her own parents that she couldn’t go to them with that.
Dennis: They weren’t safe.
Daniel: Maybe fear—it’s hard to say, you know.
I just know that she was five months pregnant and had never been to the doctor. That’s an emergency. She went right that afternoon to the counselor—I said: “You have to go talk to this person. You have to figure out what’s going on.” I gave her—I said, “You have eight hours to have your parents on the phone, calling me, to tell me that they know.”
First thing that next morning, mom and dad were on the phone with me.
That’s like the worst nightmare story; but the problem is—there are a thousand stories, not quite as bad, that parents don’t know about.
Bob: And that’s a worst nightmare story in terms of the implications; but the emotional scarring that’s happening with teenagers today in the dating world—there may not be pregnancies involved, but there’s residual scarring left on the soul of a teenager when there are dating problems; right?
Jacquelyn: And I think that that’s the issue and the biggest danger of teenagers—is that they do have free will. They feel like they’re more grown up than they are; but they are, at the end of the day, not ready for adult responsibilities and privileges. But the decisions that they make at 14, 15, [or] 16—those have consequences that echo out forever; and the biggest one, especially when it comes to dating, is marital instability.
That is, when you ask the average woman—I think it’s something like 75 percent of women say they do want a traditional, romantic relationship; therefore, you have to act like that in your teen years—something that’s going to help you preserve, grow, and develop in a way that makes you a happy married person later.
Unfortunately, the world that we’re set up in now—and the things that are okay and the way that the teenage dating scene looks like—is not conducive to a future stable marital relationship.
Daniel: Yes; there’s just a lot of really interesting research emerging around teen sex and marital outcomes. One of the most compelling is that—when a young woman has sex before the age of 16—that triggers in a much higher divorce rate. Unwanted sex, for a young woman, is even double that.
Bob: And let’s just say here, “It’s not determinative.”
Jacquelyn: No; absolutely.
Bob: Because we have to be able to say that a 15-year-old girl, who becomes sexually active, for whatever reason, she’s not consigned to divorce in her future as a result of that.
I’m thinking, Jacquelyn, about the night that everything got disclosed with your parents. Your mom took you away for three days to the beach. A lot of conversations that should have been happening over three or four years happened in three days. Those conversations were healing for you and kind of helped you get a right perspective on the mistakes of your past and how to shape your future; right?
Jacquelyn: Absolutely; and I think God has created us to be under the authority of our parents. That’s something I relish now, as an adult. I love my parents; I can’t wait to hang out with them; I think they’re awesome; but when you’re a teenager, that authority feels like a shackle instead of feeling like something that’s support. Because, as an adult, you look back and you realize: “Wait. My parents are the brick wall that’s right behind me that I can lean up against and they push me forward. That’s great, and that’s exactly what I need.”
But I think that that comes from a tough place.
Having grown and learned—I’m very happily married, now—and I don’t think it’s determinant, at all, about your future; but there has to be some growth and some tough conversations. You have to get right in your relationship with God / you have to get right in your relationship with your parents, or you are doomed in a lot of ways.
Dennis: And God does restore.
Jacquelyn: Yes; absolutely.
Dennis: He does restore our soul when we make mistakes. And parents—don’t wait until they’re 15, 16, 17 to insert yourself and have a relationship with them; because they do need to be guided. I’m just thinking, Jacquelyn, what you talked about—some of your students, who have no adult—zero/no parent. It’s just time for parents to be on guard, in the game, and not just playing defense. Go on the offense and have a plan for your child!
Bob: Well, and we’re committed, here, at FamilyLife® to providing resources, doing all that we can to partner with you as you raise your kids.
We talked earlier about the cultural translator from Axis Ministries. We’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. This is something you can sign up for—for free—get an email every week that keeps you in touch with what’s going on in your child’s world. There’s the Passport2Purity® and Passport to Identity™ weekend getaway resources we’ve created so that a parent and a preteen can get away for a weekend and talk about adolescence as it comes; or if you’ve got somebody who’s 14, 15, 16 years old, get away for another weekend and talk about identity and how God wants to shape that child’s life.
Of course, we’ve got copies of the book we’ve been talking about today, The 10 Myths of Teen Dating. You can order that from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. And then next week’s the big launch week for our Art of Parenting™ video series. We’re kicking it off with the movie, in theaters, called Like Arrows. It’s all about the journey that one mom and dad go on as they raise their children all the way into adulthood.
This is going to be in theaters for two nights only—next Tuesday / next Thursday—that’s May 1st and May 3rd. Tickets are on sale now. Get a group together; head out to the movies. Alex Kendrick is in the movie, along with Alan Powell, Micah Hanson, and others. The trailer is, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com if you want to see what the movie is all about. Then come join us next week for the Like Arrows movie and find out more about the Art of Parenting video series.
So my point is —we’re committed to helping you be intentional as you raise your kids, and we’ve got resources here to help make that happen. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information; or call if you have any questions: 1-800-FL-TODAY.
I know some of our listeners, who are all in with what we’re doing, here, at FamilyLife—listeners who are what we call Legacy Partners—who give each month to help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program; so it can be on stations all across the country and on a variety of audio platforms on the internet available through the FamilyLife app—
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If you’re a long-time listener to FamilyLife Today, and you’ve never joined the team/never made a donation, let me encourage you to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation. In fact, right now, you have your choice. You can either donate to the ongoing cost of operating this ministry or we’ve got a scholarship fund we’ve established so that we can continue sending pastors and their spouses to our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways at no cost [for registration] to those pastors and spouses. We’re able to do that because of this scholarship fund.
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And be sure to join us back tomorrow when we’re going to continue talking about the myths of teen dating and what parents can do to help their teen navigate these sometimes treacherous waters. Hope you can be there for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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