Parenting Your Children’s Media

Dear Dr. Bill,

I just learned that my 7-year-old son saw violent and sexually explicit cable movies at the home of one of his friends.  Could this have negative long-term effects?  Also, how can I prevent this from happening in the future?



Dear Dani,

Unfortunately this type of situation is becoming more and more common in today’s world.

Researchers have found a link between repeated exposure to violent media messages and aggressive behavior in children.  A regular diet of violent media or video games may also cause kids to be meaner and have less empathy for others.

Children who view pornographic images on cable or on the internet are given false and destructive messages about sex and relationships.  These messages can interfere with healthy marital intimacy later in life.

If your son was exposed to this type of material only once, he probably won’t suffer any negative long-term effects.  However, it is important to talk to him about this experience.  In a calm, non-judgmental way, ask him what he saw and how it made him feel.

You should also be teaching your son about making responsible choices.  Help him to understand that each decision he makes has consequences, and that there are times he will need to say “no” when offered things that may not be good for him.

Every parent should get to know the parents of their children’s friends and learn what their values are.  Find out what kind of media they allow their kids to watch and how closely they monitor their use of the Internet.

If they don’t share your values, don’t allow your kids to spend time at their home. Instead, invite those friends over to your house.  In addition to protecting your child, you’ll have a great opportunity to have a positive influence on those children!

Thanks for writing, Dani.

If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Did You Know the Music Your Teen Listens to Could be Dripping with BOOZE?


Did you know the music your teen listens to could be dripping with BOOZE?

Researchers from Boston University and Johns Hopkins’ have analyzed the lyrics from 720 hit songs from the past few years. Of those tunes, one out of four contained alcohol references, and some even called out brands by name.

Brand references were most frequent in hip-hop, rap and R&B, followed by country and pop music.  Rappers were more likely to name-drop tequila, cognac and vodka brands, while country crooners and pop stars were more likely to mention beer or whiskey.

Study co-author David Jernigan says “Given the heavy exposure of youth to popular music, these results suggest popular music may serve as a major source of promotion of alcohol use.”

On a different topic, an expert on youth culture says that parents shouldn’t be surprised by the recent outlandish performances at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, says “There was nothing at all surprising about the awards.  Not one thing.”

“If you’ve been watching culture for any length of time it should come as no surprise that what you saw is not only all around us, but it’s reflective of who we are. It is the soup that our kids swim in every day. It shapes their values, their attitudes, and their behaviors.”

Mueller cautions that we are reaping what we’ve sown and that our culture is not only on a step-by-step progression downward, but it’s quote “moving faster and faster as time passes.”

As we seek to guide our kids through the landmines of today’s youth culture, remember Paul’s words from Philippians chapter 4:  whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Are Digital Devices Contributing To The Rise In ADHD?

Could ADHD be linked to smartphones?

About 6 million children in the United States—or about one out of every 10—have been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.   Now, experts wonder whether the mobile devices we carry around might have something to do with that number.

According to a story on, research done by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that ADHD numbers began to surge just as smartphones hit the market.

And because kids engage with digital screens so much differently than they do with real-life activities, some experts believe all that screen time may negatively impact their ability to focus.

By the way, the amount of time people spend engaged in all forms of media has now risen to 11 hours, 52 minutes per day.  Clark Fredricksen, vice president of eMarketer says “It’s clear that time spent with media is still increasing as a result of multitasking.”

In other youth culture news, some disturbing new stats are out on dating violence. A nationwide survey on the issue was presented at a recent American Psychological Association conference.

The survey included more than 1,000 teens, and it found that 41% of girls and 37% of boys say they’ve been physically, emotionally or sexually abused on a date.

Here’s one surprising fact that reflects how our culture has been pushing girls to be more aggressive: more girls than boys said they had abused a dating partner.  35% of girls said they’d been abusive―compared to 29% of boys.

By the way, if your son or daughter has experienced this kind of abuse,  I’d encourage you to contact my friends at Focus on the Family.  They operate a free telephone counseling service and can refer your family to a licensed Christian therapist in your area.  The number is 1-800-A-FAMILY.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

A Mom Worries About Providing Her Son With Enough “Enrichment” Activities

Dear Dr. Bill,

I’m a stay-at-home Mom and my husband works hard to keep our family fed, housed and healthy. But we don’t have money for extra frills – like the latest toys or special activities that might engage the imagination of our 8-year-old son.  Brandon seems happy and normal – but I wonder how we can enlarge his world and make his childhood years more meaningful.  Do you have any suggestions?


Dear Janie,

Today’s parents are under a tremendous amount of pressure to buy the latest educational toys and video games for their kids, send them to expensive computer camps, and basically spend wads of cash making sure their kids aren’t deprived of everything our consumerist culture has to offer.

You should know that the most well-adjusted, happy kids aren’t those who are involved in a zillion different activities and own every electronic gizmo on the market.

The kids who thrive best are those who have committed, involved parents who spend time with them on a regular basis, take a real interest in their lives, and emphasize character over consumerism.  If you’re feeling guilty because you don’t have the money to buy Brandon everything our culture tells you he needs…don’t.

There are dozens of ways you can provide stimulating activities for your son that don’t cost much money.   A great place to start is your local library.

You can help Brandon to check out books and DVDs that will introduce him to new people and places.  Most libraries also have web access and many offer special after school learning enrichment programs.

You should also be taking advantage of public museums, science centers, and zoos in your area, most of which offer low cost or free kids’ programs.  This may involve a special weekend trip once in a while, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

Thanks for writing, Janie.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Facebook Users—Is Your Brain In The “Machine Zone?”

According to a story on, Facebook, Twitter and other social media users can spend hours scrolling through newsfeeds or flipping through friends’ pictures. And some experts believe that these users may fall into a mental state similar to those who play slot machines.

It’s called the “machine zone,” where the very repetition of the spinning disks soothes gamblers.

Atlantic columnist Alex Madrigal says “The machine zone is anti-social, and it’s characterized by a lack of human connection. You might be looking at people when you look through photos, but your interactions with their digital presences are mechanical, repetitive, and reinforced by computerized feedback.”

Here’s another interesting item on social networking.  As you may have heard, several studies have shown that Facebook can undermine people’s happiness because of the way it showcases other people’s idealized lives.

But some experts believe that Instagram—with it’s almost exclusive focus on pictures—may be even more damaging.

Cataline Toma, with the Communications Department at the University of Wisconsin says: “You spend so much time creating flattering, idealized images of yourself, sorting through hundreds of images for that one perfect picture, but you don’t necessarily grasp that everybody else is spending a lot of time doing the same thing,”

And Hanna Krasnova, of Humboldt University in Berlin, adds, “You get more explicit and implicit cues of people being happy, rich and successful from a photo than from a status update. A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority.”

As I’ve mentioned before, the Bible has a different perspective.  It reminds us that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

The New Face Of Heroin Use In The US

Heroin is illegal drug that is typically associated with desperate junkies on the street.  But according to a story on, the death of 31-year-old Glee star Cory Monteith from an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol is shining a new spotlight on the type of person who actually uses the drug.

Dr. Richard Clark, the director of toxicology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center says this:  “I deal with drug users every day.  The stereotypical user on the street?  That’s the past as far as heroin use in the U.S. is concerned.  Lots of people are using it these days—kids, teenagers, white-collar workers.”

In 2012, the government reported an 80% increase in first-time usage of herion use among teens.  Heroin is now cheaper and more plentiful than it’s ever been.

And as the government has begun to crack down on prescription drug abuse more forcefully, heroin has become an alternative.

On a more positive note, teens who are connected with their parents on social networks feel closer to them in real life. That’s according to a new study out of Brigham Young University.

Researchers found that half of teens have “friended” their parents online, with 20% saying they interact with them online every day.  BYU professor Sarah Coyne says “It’s bidirectional…as we have experiences in new media, it strengthens bonds that are already there.

Dr. Coyne cautions, “You don’t want these results to get overblown to say, ‘If you friend your kid on Facebook, you’re suddenly going to have a great relationship.’ It’s just one tool in an arsenal that parents have to connect with their teens.”

For more great tips on connecting with your teens, go to and click on “Parenting”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Shine Family Expert

AJ Michalka – All I’ve Ever Needed

From the new movie, Grace Unplugged hitting theaters October 4th!

Having just turned 18, Grace Trey aspires to more than just singing at her church, where the worship leader is her father—a former pop star. So, with the help of Mossy, her dad’s former manager, Grace records a cover version of her dad’s old Top-10 hit, runs off to Los Angeles, and begins to taste the kind of stardom she’s always dreamed about.

Yet with each rung of the ladder she climbs, Grace feels more and more pressure to compromise her values, further straining her relationship with her parents. Will everything she experiences lead her to reject her faith … or rediscover it?

Setting A Good Example When It Comes To Texting & Driving

Do you have teenage drivers at home?  If so, do you ask them to live by different rules than you do?

Telling your kid about the danger of texting and driving won’t do any good if you pick up your smartphone while cruising down the freeway.

Research shows that starting at about age 11 or 12, your child begins paying attention to your driving habits and noting consciously or subconsciously all the things you do.

According to research by Liberty Mutual Insurance, 91% of kids have seen their parents talking on a cellphone while driving,

88 percent have observed their parents speeding.  And 59 percent said their parents have sent text messages while driving!

If you’re part of that 59 percent, could I encourage you to prayerfully consider the message you are sending to your kids?

How do you like that photo of yourself on Facebook?  Would you believe more than FOUR OUT OF TEN women have enhanced pictures of themselves before posting them online?

Researchers say digital photos are making women more camera-shy than ever, with mounting pressures to look good when the images are shared on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Eight in ten women say having their photo taken and then uploaded on to a social network makes them more anxious about their looks than speaking in public, going on a first date or going to a job interview!

As you consider that story, remember these words from 1 Samuel 16:7: The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Shine Family Expert

An Update On The Epidemic Of “Cutting” In America & The Bottom Line On R-Rated Movies

New research shows that more and more people are harming themselves by way of cutting.  In fact, the number of girls and women seeking help for cutting has doubled in the last three years.

According to a story from Plugged, some wonder whether increased exposure in the media is making it worse. Clips of people committing acts of self-harm can easily be found on YouTube, and celebrities like Demi Lovato and Angelina Jolie have talked publicly about their struggles with cutting.

Often, these stars go public to help people. But Nancy Gordan, a therapist who specializes in these issues, says when people start talking about triggers and wanting to harm themselves, it can become contagious.

A self-professed cutter named Mary adds, “Subconsciously, every time you look at something, it’s a trigger that makes you want to do it more and more.”

Why does Hollywood continue to make R-rated movies when they tend to do so poorly at the box office?

According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, many Hollywood studios aren’t doing themselves any favors.

They keep making R-rated films when movies with any other rating generally make more money.

Last year, R-rated films averaged $16.8 million per film at the box office.

By contrast, PG-13 rated movies averaged $47.3 million and movies rated PG averaged $43 million.

Even the few G-rated films made last year made an average of $23 million per movie.

Even so, Hollywood continues to crank out R-rated movies—they produced 117 of them last year.  Do you suppose they might have—I don’t know—an agenda???

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Shine Family Expert

Is Using The Internet Changing Our Brains?

Is using the internet changing the way our brains work?

The website has published a chart full of statistics and quotes from various sources, summarizing what scientists have discovered about the ways the Internet seems to be shaping our minds.

During an average day, most people now spend about 8.5 hours engaged with screens and only 20 minutes reading the printed page.

And in the past 12 years, the average American’s attention span—for example, in a conversation–fell from twelve seconds to just eight.

For those who are considered Internet “addicts,” the brain areas responsible for speech, memory, motor control and the senses have decreased by 10% to 20%.

Similarly, brain scans of heavy Internet users showed “fundamentally altered prefrontal cortexes.”  Brain scans of web newbies using the internet just five hours in a week also demonstrated evidence of the brain beginning to reconfigure itself.

Yikes, I’d better get off the computer!

In other tech and culture news, girls are twice as likely to experience online bullying as boys.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 11% of teen boys and 22% of teen girls have been victims of “cyberbullying.”

That’s critical information, because the same study shows that teens bullied online are more than three times as likely to engage in suicide attempts than peers who aren’t bullied.  By the way, the highest rate of attempted suicide was among kids who were picked on both at school and online.

If your child is being bullied online, go to to find out how to stop it.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.

Shine Family Expert