Straight Talk to Teens by Jason Carr 

Bro. Jason Carr, tell us a little about yourself and your ministry.

I have been privileged to spend the last 20 years of my life with my wife, Brenda. We are blessed with two wonderful children, Brooklyn (14) and Boston (10). I am a licensed minister with UPCI and a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I am the Family Pastor in my local church. I have been working with youth and families for over 20 years. I currently operate a counseling practice in Redlands, California.  I specialize in working with teens, couples and families.

Many feel our teens are in grave danger today. Is this your opinion as well?

The danger for our teens is very real and uncomfortably close. Technological advancements have made tremendous inroads into our lives and the effects are both positive and negative. Some of the negatives I deal with on a weekly basis as a therapist working with Apostolic teens are: sexting, unmonitored social networking, on-line relationships and pornography. If an individual gets caught up in this behavior at an early age, there is tremendous potential to struggle with it throughout their lifetime.

Some feel teens are maturing earlier for a variety of reasons. How early should parents and youth leaders begin talking to teens about sensitive topics, like sexuality? Why is this important?

Sociologists report the stage of adolescence in America is from 11 to 25 years of age. The actual physical maturity process occurs earlier, but the emotional maturity age remains the same, so what we have is emotionally immature adolescents in a more mature body. This can create high levels of adolescent confusion and premature sexual feelings. Adolescents are inundated with sexual content when they enter junior high school; for this reason I recommend parents and youth leaders address the issue of sexuality as early as 11 years old. However, each parent needs to stay actively involved in his or her child’s life to make the right decision.

What effects are cell phones and the Internet having on our teens’ development and morals?  What suggestions do you have for parents in these areas?

Cell phones and Internet only have as much influence as parents allow them to have. The more unmonitored access adolescents have to these devices, the more morally degrading the influence. Filters are a great tool to help keep our kids and teens from viewing inappropriate material.  However, a filter is not going to stop everything. One of the best tools for teaching personal responsibility is accountability software like Covenant Eyes. Accountability software does not stop someone from viewing inappropriate web pages on the Internet, but it will send an e-mail report detailing what sites were visited on the Internet to someone like a parent or pastor, who can hold them accountable for their actions. The individual learns to be personally responsible for their future choices and also learns a valuable lesson in self-regulation.

At what age should parents consider getting a cell phone for their teen? Should the cell phone have Internet access?

Parents should get their child a cell phone when they need it, NOT when they want it! Research clearly shows the cell phone is quickly replacing the computer as the number one method by which adolescents view inappropriate and pornographic material. One goal of parents is to raise children to become spiritually, emotionally and physically healthy adults who make wise decisions. Young teens absolutely should not have Internet-capable phones, but as they mature and prove themselves capable of greater responsibility, I believe it becomes an option. If the only teaching method we use to train our children is the word “no,” they never learn to self-regulate their flesh. We have all heard stories of kids who turn 18 and go absolutely wild because they were never allowed freedom or trained to use wisdom in life.

What kind of controls and guidelines do you recommend for computers in the home?

All computer screens should be positioned in such a way they can immediately be seen by anyone who enters the room. This creates accountability for computer use for all members of the home. All computers, tablets and smart phones should have both blocking and accountability software installed on them. Absolutely no cell phones, tablets or video games in the bedroom.  This type of behavior allows for secrecy, which is the breeding ground for temptation. The bedroom should be a technology-free zone. Furthermore, I recommend parents place limitations on the amount of time a child spends with technology. Research on child and adolescent development has shown numerous correlations between the amount of interaction with technology and problems like ADD, ADHD and social skill dysfunctions.

What effect is pornography having on our teen boys? Teen girls? Is this a serious problem that pastors, youth leaders and parents should be concerned about? Why?

The effect of pornographic use is huge and could possibly be lifelong. The therapeutic world is being inundated with both young men and women who are incapable of having a normal relationship with another person because they have conditioned their brain to respond sexually and emotionally to pixels of naked people on a 20-inch computer screen. A secular neuroscientist stated, “People who think they can view naked pictures and it not create a problem is neurological ignorance. Research has shown the male brain is unable to differentiate a digital video on a computer screen from a real life sexual encounter.”

Sexual perversion is exploding – perverted morals and sexual norms. How blunt do we need to be with teens today?

We need to be very honest and transparent. Apostolic parents have told their kids half-truths regarding sexuality, and the world has stepped up to fill in gaps we felt too uncomfortable to talk about. The problem is more widespread than most believers are willing to accept. The spiritual reality is if we, the church and parents, don’t take a proactive stance with this issue, our children will be conformed to present world philosophies and behaviors that are highly morally disturbing and destructive.

Parents and pastors sometimes feel we should not talk about certain topics – especially sexual topics – for fear it introduces these topics to innocent youth. Your thoughts on this?

I think that question is best answered by another question. Who do you want to introduce your child to the topic of sexuality? The Internet, other teens, the entertainment world, or someone with a Biblical perspective of the topic? By not addressing these issues properly, we are setting our children up for disaster and possibly marital failure. We have a tremendous responsibility and a God-given mandate to teach our children about proper sexuality. The integrity, purity and future of our youth is worth far more than the uneasy feeling or embarrassment some may get from discussing the topic with our youth.

How do we teach our youth about sexuality in a godly and moral way?

The church leadership should choose how they want to discuss the topic, either as a special event or in a series of classes, and determine if they want everyone together or separated by gender.  Parents need to be present with their teen due to the nature of the topic. There is a large amount of research available on this topic that supports Biblical truths and counters the lies society is pushing at our teens.

Tell us about your DVD and workbook set. What’s in it, how to order, cost, etc. Do you teach seminars to youth?

The DVD series is titled “Biblical Straight Talk for Teens and Parent.” It is a four-part DVD series that address the following topics: Puberty, Technology and Adolescent Sexuality. All material is presented in a professional manner, yet at the same time making the information Biblical and Apostolic. Each of the four DVDs is approximately 45 minutes in length, and a workbook is available for the teenager. I have had pastors show the series in their mid-week youth class or in a weekend series. The DVD series is available at Pentecostal Publishing House and at www.turnpointcounseling.com for $45, the workbooks are $7. I also teach seminars to youth on a regular basis.

Jason Carr  jcarr@turnpointcounseling.com   (909) 206-2141

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