social media

Is Privacy Worth Worrying About?

This morning I had to add my debit card number into Facebook Messenger in order to receive some money someone sent me.

And just for a minute I thought, “Do I really want to give my debit card number to Facebook? I mean they just had yet another data breach of nearly 267,000,000 American users personal data?”

No, I don’t want to do that. Facebook has proven over and over again that they can’t be trusted with personal information.

social media

Parents, Look Out for Curious Cat

Here we go again. Another app lying to users. 

There is yet another anonymous question asking/confession social media app floating around the internet claiming they’ve solved the bullying (and suicides) that plague older confessional apps like, this one borrows it’s name from the ever-popular cat movement online: Curious Cat.

social media

Sexting and the Attack on the American Teenager

This is what I call “The Slow News Day” story

Make no bones about it, stories like this raise eyebrows and get people talking. When USA Today ran this piece last week it was run and rerun over and over again at newspapers around the country.

It is a well-articulated story.

It seems so… true.

But Most of This Story is Fabricated

social media

Social Media Rule #1 – Everything posted online is public

Social Media Rule #1: Everything posted online is public
This Christmas picture shared on Facebook went viral, much to the embarrassment of the Zuckerberg family. (You know, that guy Mark who founded Facebook…)

Social Media Rule #1: Everything posted online is public

It seems that even Mark Zuckerberg’s older sister, Randi, has become a victim of Facebook’s totalitarian privacy settings. Forbes “30 under 30? media honoree Callie Schweitzer tweeted the above photo of the Zuckerberg family, writing “@randizuckerberg demonstrates her family’s response to Poke #GAH.”

Zuckerberg responded, saying, “Not sure where you got this photo. I posted it only to friends on FB. You reposting it on Twitter is way uncool.”

Quote from, December 26th 2012

I enjoyed the irony that the man who created Facebook got bit by Facebook on Christmas day.

Books parenting social media The Youth Cartel

A secret deal on my book

My new book, co-authored with Marko, comes out next week.

I’m very excited about it for two specific reasons.

  1. Parents of teenagers really need this book. The days of fighting or banning or trying to wall off kids from social media is over. Parents need to know how to help their child live a life that will increasingly be lived online. This book does that really well. It’s short, easy to understand, and very practical.
  2. I’m proud of how this turned out. Marko and I worked really hard on making a book that’ll last a few years. We focused on helping parents understand social media while avoiding all of the pitfalls of your typical Christian book about media– there’s nothing here that is alarmist. We aren’t trying to scare parents, we are providing tested principles that have worked for years, work today, and will work for years to come. Trust me, that wasn’t easy.

Here’s the Official Description

With each passing day, teenagers’ lives become increasingly intertwined with social media. How can you as a parent stay informed and involved in healthy ways? How can you help your son or daughter make wise decisions and remain safe online?

A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media will equip you to have meaningful conversations with your teenager about the best, wisest ways to get connected while staying safe.

Your guides for this journey are Mark Oestreicher and Adam McLane, who draw from their own wells of experience as parents and youth workers. They’ll help you chart a course toward discovering and practicing wise family online activity.

My Secret Deal

I would love for you to get this book in the hands of all the parents in your ministry. Like the other books in this series, this would be great to use as the content of a parent meeting. In fact, the book is based on a short seminar I’ve done for parents of teenagers in a bunch of churches.

You can pre-order it on our site right now for $6.99.

If you buy 10 or more copies, you’ll automatically get free shipping on your entire order. (media mail, US addresses only) Check this out. Add whatever else you want to that same order, as long as you order 10 or more copies of the book, you’re getting free shipping.

If you buy 20 or more copies, I’ll still pick up the tab for shipping on your order, and I’ll start tossing goodies in the box.

This secret deal expires on December 15th.

p.s. If you don’t automatically get free shipping, apply coupon code SECRET62

social media

Notifications are of the Devil

The Internet Loop

Do you catch yourself in a compulsive loop sometimes? For me? Right now it starts with email. Then I go to Twitter, then Facebook, then Instagram, then If things are particularly interesting I’ll go around the loop 2 or 3 times in a row.

This is what psychologist John Grohol calls FOMO Addiction. (Fear of missing out.)

Like the old-school Crackberry addict, we’re now all in the grip of “FOMO addiction” * — the fear of missing out on something or someone more interesting, exciting or better than what we’re currently doing.


Web developers depend on exploiting this phenomenon. Since most social media sites are fueled by ad revenue– in turn depending upon millions and millions of pageviews where they can display millions and millions of ads per day, engineers use lots of psychology to get you to add their web application to your loop. Each time you go from site-to-site on your addictive loop you see new ads on your Gmail, Facebook timeline, sponsored tweets, etc.

For the engineers, getting into your loop is like offering free crack to a crackhead unlimited, all day and all night.

They have you.

But they want more.

Notifications Supersede the Loop

Texting gave rise to a disturbing trend for these same engineers. While desktop users have continued, even increasing their addictions; smartphones delivered a brand new way to fuel the loop even more.

At the same they noticed that texting guaranteed an interruption of the loop. Receiving a text, unlike receiving a phone call, would cause a person to almost immediately type a response. Various studies show that something like 98% of text messages are read by the recipient within 15 minutes and the response rate for texting, particularly amongst teenagers– the most influential demographic for spending, is nearly 100%. (related source)

Compare that to an email marketing message, where 20% open rate and 5% response rate are considered excellent, and you can see why web engineers knew they needed to build their own loop interrupters to supersede your loop with their content.

click to view full-sized version

That’s how the notification was born. If your phone beeps or buzzes in your pocket you are almost guaranteed to check it. Likewise, if something pops up on your screen or even if a number in your peripheral vision ticks up from 22 to 23, you will check it.

Your wife could be in labor. Your house could be on fire. You might be driving through white knuckling snow with your kids in the back seat. You might be having sex. If you get a notification the neurology of that moment is against you. You will check it. 

Why? Dopamine. Recent studies show that the same neurotransmitter that fuels many other chemical addictions also is released when you get a notification from a text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, etc.

A notification causes you a tiny bit of pleasure… and the drive for that impulsive pleasure will augment your loop and interrupt whatever you are doing.

In my new book, A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media, we explore the this more and its impact on teenagers.

But, for now, let’s talk about what you need to do.

Notifications are of the Devil

When I say that notifications are of the devil I’m only kidding a little bit. If you think about it, web engineers are exploiting a very similar neurological response to many other life-endangering addictions.

Doing drugs gives you a big hit of “dope.” Meanwhile checking hundreds of notifications per day is lots and lots of tiny hits of “dope.” You decide if that’s the devils handiwork. I tend to think it is.

Notifications may be ruining your quality of life (and perhaps your safety). 

So turn them off. All of them. Notifications on your phone, your laptop, your tablet, your email… turn them all off. (Here’s a Google search to get you started) You don’t need any of them.

Next, make it so your phone never vibrates. Think about it, if you are having lunch with a co-worker or are in a meeting, or are watching a movie. Do you really need to check that text message? Nope. And if you turn off all visual, audio, and vibrating notifications you can simply ignore all of that.

Web developers, in an attempt to get you to view the next ad, are driving you crazy. Literally, they are fueling an addiction that is stressing the relationships in your life simply so they can make more money.

So make the choice.

Reclaim your life.

Turn off all notifications.

Do it now.

P.S. Like this post? Want to be a better parent of a teenager in a social media infused world? Pre-order my book, A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media.

The Youth Cartel youth ministry

FREE RESOURCE: YouTube You Can Use

Each week I produce a free resource called, YouTube You Can Use. The concept is simple. I take a viral video from YouTube and write a small discussion starter and/or devotional based on the content.

Currently, more than 1100 people around the world receive it each Monday. They use in their youth groups, in small groups, and as sermon illustrations. I’ve even heard from a number of parents who use it as a family devotional.

You can subscribe to the email list here and get it in your inbox each Monday. Also, the full archives, currently 56 of them, are available on our website. (free registration required)

Below is the latest edition.

Books social media youth ministry

How to talk to parents about parenting

Over the past year or so I’ve had the opportunity to lead an hour-long seminars for parents. In fact, earlier this year partnered with Simply Youth Ministry & Marko to turn the content of my seminar into a book that comes out in a few weeks, A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media.

For me, this has meant going to churches and presenting content without knowing a thing about the context of the church. Sure, I can figure out some things just by driving around or overhearing small talk in the foyer.

social media

Social Media is Linked to Depression

Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology have linked depressive symptoms in college students to their internet usage. It’s a small study, only 216 participants over 1 month, but the correlation quantifies what other researches have hypothesized. This is the first of its kind that overlaid subjects actual internet usage and diagnostic testing. Participants were college students on a closed network. So once they agreed to participate the researchers gained access to their real time usage via the schools network.

In short, the more time subjects spent checking social media sites like Facebook, chatting online, and shopping– especially late at night, the more depressive symptoms were measured.

In this paper, we report our findings on a month long experiment conducted at Missouri University of Science and Technology on associating depressive symptoms among college students with their Internet usage using real Internet data collected in an unobtrusive and privacy preserving manner over the campus network. In our study, 216 undergraduates were surveyed for depressive symptoms using the CES-D scale. We then collected their on-campus Internet usage characterized via Cisco NetFlow data. Subsequent analysis revealed that several Internet usage features like average packets per flow, peer-to-peer (octets, packets and duration), chat octets, mail (packets and duration), ftp duration, and remote file octets exhibit a statistically significant correlation with depressive symptoms. Additionally, Mann-Whitney U-tests revealed that average packets per flow, remote file octets, chat (octets, packets and duration) and flow duration entropy have a statistically significant difference in the mean values across groups with and without depressive symptoms. 


This fits into the advice I share in my seminar, (and forthcoming book co-authored with Marko) A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media, that parents need to focus less on WHAT their kids are looking at and more on WHERE and WHEN they are using the internet.

ht to Mashable and Huffington Post UK

Photo credit: Ars Electronica via Flickr (Creative Commons)
The Youth Cartel

A Parent’s Guide to Social Media

Last week, I put together a sweet little seminar for parent’s called, A Parent’s Guide to Social Media.

It’s an hour-long training session aimed at removing the fear about what their teenagers might be doing online and back-filling it with the latest research, then helps to build a theological framework for raising kids in a digital world.

Part of the challenge of putting together something like this is that the data behind it will change all the time. (New research comes out from the big players quarterly while lots of additional one-off research is published all the time by universities and the marketing world.)

That’s why teaching parents principles is more important than merely looking at trends. They need to know what to do today. But they also need to know what’s going to work with the next thing that comes out.

Long story short, I’ve now down this seminar with two groups of parents and it’s gone pretty well. If you’re interested in having me come to your church or event to present this stuff, just let me know.