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nextTalk contains content of a mature nature. Parental guidance is advised.
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Today, we’re talking with the founder and CEO of Protect Young Eyes, chris McKenna. Protect Young Eyes brings internet safety presentations to schools, churches and organizations, and they also offer a ton of other resources that we’re going to share and talk about today. Chris, welcome to the show.
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Oh, thank you so much. I am so glad to be having this conversation.
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Before we dive in to your organization and all the great things that you guys are doing over there, tell us a little bit about your background, your family, Yeah, sure, they’re a big part of stuff. Yeah, Andrea, my wife.
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We will be married 20 years in November and we’re a couple of CPAs who’ve gotten business college at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, and all of our family on both sides is here in Michigan. So we’ve been Michiganders from the very beginning, both of us. And then we have four children, my oldest, my daughter Lauren. She’s a freshman I can’t believe how high schooler now boys and I And then we have three boys all within 20 months.
So then we have a fourth grader, a third grader and a second grader, Cole, Blake and Grant. And Cole and Grant are twins. Cole was in fourth grade, Grant was in third grade and then, 20 surprising months later came Blake, my second grader. So yeah, it’s a bundle of fun, You’re busy.
0:01:57 – Speaker 4
What I love about this is people who are leading parenting organizations that are parenting like the real-time stuff, because it’s changed a little bit. We can’t call our parents and say, hey, how you gonna handle Snapchat over there? You know we’re figuring this out, so I love that you’re in it every night with your kids.
0:02:18 – Speaker 3
Yeah, yeah, i’m pretty open with parents and we do a lot of parent presentations. I look right at them and say you know, i don’t stand up here because I have all the answers. I stand up here because I am bumbling and stumbling, i am trying and failing and sometimes succeeding, just like every one of you. Now, i do believe that, as parents, there are some things that, if we do them persistently and consistently enough, it does tend to produce humans who learn how to use technology well. but they’re really, as you both know, there isn’t a prescription. If there was, we’d all write a book and retire, but there isn’t. what works for me is also always going to work for you, and that’s like you said, which makes it so complex and every day a slightly different animal to tackle.
0:03:02 – Speaker 1
Well, thinking about that, i’m sure I mean you said you’re both CPAs, you and your wife. So my curious question is where in the world and what in the world led you to start Protect Young Eyes? How did you start that journey?
0:03:15 – Speaker 4
Yeah, what’s your background there?
0:03:17 – Speaker 3
Yeah, this is never on any bucket list or five 10-year goal sheet, was this? This was never a part of it. So yeah, I mean kind of the progression to here. I was 12 years. I was a senior manager in business risk at Ernst Young, So I have a business mind. I love that side of things. It’s a fabulous job. From there, the Lord called me in the full-time ministry And so then I spent six full-time years in the local church doing both church finance, fund development, fundraising, and I also led junior high ministry, because those two things are so similar.
0:03:54 – Speaker 1
So similar Makes perfect sense. Right makes perfect sense.
0:03:59 – Speaker 3
I used to joke that my right brain gets to flex with the kids and then they get to get into spreadsheets with all the church finance stuff. I still got to keep that side of things And so it was great. I did that at a large church here in Grand Rapids for about six years and then for the past three years I’ve done marketing for Covenant Eyes. But what Protect Young Eyes came out of was about five years ago. I just started hearing from my parents in ministry a lot of the same questions over and over again about social media was starting to become a thing and kids carrying portable internet-ready devices started to become a thing. And as I was receiving these questions over and over again the same questions, because I had a consulting background I said, well, wait a minute, let’s put the answers in one place, and so that led to a closed Facebook group. Before, closed Facebook groups were really a big thing, which is what a lot of organizations do.
Now We’re like let’s just get about 100 of us together in this group and let’s talk about what we’re seeing. And so I started doing a lot of research. I put in a PDF document in that group and we just started having some conversations. Well, that led to a news organization here in West Michigan discovering this work, and it was right about the time that they were doing a big story about the Kick app, which we all know has a long history of predatory activity, and so they were doing a story on a young girl who had a really unfortunate encounter on Kick and then started highlighting our research.
This was back in 2015, so that parents could get connected to what to know about all these different new apps. And that is really what then led to the creation of a website in 2015, as it became harder and harder to keep a static PDF document updated. And then from there which at the time was just me, that’s over the years then it’s led to we have a team of presenters now that travel the country. The website is what we use as kind of our anchor for parents to use free. We want there to be no barriers between parents, problems and the best information for you know, trying to solve those problems because that’s what parents kept saying to me over and over again is I don’t know where to go and I don’t have time to find out. So we built the website in order to solve those two primary problems And so far it’s doing a pretty decent job for us.
0:06:22 – Speaker 4
What I love about this is your journey was happening about the same time as this nextTalk journey was happening in San Antonio, and I love how God has now brought us together because I feel like we we’re doing the same thing but in different lanes. Like y’all do so much great tech stuff like review of apps, and I feel like you guys have a good research team out there on the apps and putting out that information, where our focus is a lot. We do some of that minimal, but our focus is really on creating that conversation in surrounding it. So you know, the conversation around sex trafficking what does that look like with online strangers? so it transcends through all the different apps.
And that was you know, i just think it’s so cool that you were on this journey, compiling all this information while I was on this journey at the very same time and we didn’t know each other existed and God was showing me. You know Deuteronomy 6, 6 and 7, talk all the time about all the things And now we’re, because of National Center on Sexual Exploitation and our partnership there with Safeguard Alliance, we get to now partner and come together and bring our resources and reach more families. I just think it’s so cool to see God do that yeah, right, there’s a great positive use of technology right.
0:07:44 – Speaker 3
Where, uh, social media did? you’ll bring our organizations together in that way to the state guard alliance. So you’re right in it, truly.
You know, there are a number of us that are in different lanes, and that’s why i’m so thankful for conversations like these, so that we more clearly understand which each other’s lanes are, so that when parents come to us, we don’t have to be the masters of all things we can’t with our small organizations and we could say, oh, that’s not up, but look at what nextTalk has, a look at what protect your life has, you know, coming the other way and i think we can all be more efficient stewards of the little bit of resources you know that that we work in control of and came more effectively help more parents that way instead of being that no, all things, like you said well and, like you said at the beginning, we’re not experts.
0:08:34 – Speaker 4
We’re all trying to figure this out. We’re all trying to help the kids stay safe online. Uh, you know, teach them to use devices like we teach them to drive a car, and we’re we’re stumbling sometimes and we’re getting back up and we’re figuring out up that process together. So we have to, we have to bring our shared resources together and and, by the way, i recommend you guys all the time when anybody anywhere in the country where i go says i need somebody, a resource, like to research the apps. Unlike protect young eyes. They’re putting out some good stuff over there.
0:09:06 – Speaker 1
Yes, thank you for doing that in that same regard, someone who’s listening and they’re saying, okay, this is the first time i’ve heard of protect young eyes. What can they expect to find when they go to your website? what resources do you have?
0:09:18 – Speaker 3
it’s gonna be blog apps and devices right was a great first through across the top in the main menu, so it leaves with the blog and that’s where we do research. We’re gonna be diving the things. We’re gonna unpack ios thirteen, which just bill publicly launched in September, to talk about some of the new features in the ios thirteen and also point out some of the things that i was there came in fixed that we really hope it would, but it didn’t. When it comes to plugging some of the holes that are in springtime, or you know what is the people at war? there’s a big piano, my kids phone. What does that mean? should they have a bpm? so we try to, you know, both ask and then answer some of those questions by doing a lot of deep research there in the blog and then, as you know, reference me and you know the app section is.
You know we’re constantly every week scrubbing kate is my content special issues following certain process to scrub what’s out there with you. It’s trending who’s doing what and keeping that app section up to date, not everything. You know. Sometimes parents will say, well, i didn’t find this app. And you know we say no to some reviews because and we’ll comment more anecdotally on what we’ve seen, but we’re not going to do a formal review of every single app because it that there’s a point where too much information creates paralysis, impaired, and they don’t know what to do it. So we we really want to keep the list of apps that we’ve reviewed, the one that have certain attributes neither high-risk, high-traffic, high-impact on kids, and all the other one might. My point is, if your kids you want to put it on our list, then they shouldn’t be using it because of isn’t enough sort of history information about it to know whether or not your kid should be using it or not. To just stay away until you have other social credibility around it to know whether my kids be using it or not.
The other part, that is, devices, the control, whether it’s on uh and worried, or a kindle, a couple correct box or whatever, and we’ve actually started trying to use a different phrase that maybe we’ll get into a little bit here.
I think the word control is starting to get a really negative connotation around it because it creates this power struggle that brings creeps, power struggle that exist between parents and kids and at the end of the day, it’s a war that we will always lose his parents, and so we’ve started to put a little bit and use the phrase carrying control in the with a level of carrying control added age appropriate level that i want to have in the digital life of my kids that flexes younger, is going to be stronger. Filters all those going to be stronger trust in more accountability where i need that, hopefully let down, stumble and bubble their technology without me a little bit, but there’s a carrying guardrail better than set up to know when they really get off of the rail so that i can step in and in guide them back. So, but it is something to find on the website from the word terminology uh, things that we like to use describe how we view technology.
0:12:18 – Speaker 4
So i think you guys do a really good job of getting in there with the details of, like, the operating system updating. Those are things that we don’t do and i think that that is a really good niche for you guys in in providing that content.
0:12:29 – Speaker 1
It’s good, it’s good stuff and i i love you putting it on social media, because sometimes you don’t have time to go to the website, so it’s there and i i love that if you’re just now tuning in, this is nextTalk radio at two p m on a m six thirty the word nextTalk radio, sponsored in part by the packs financial group and listeners just like you. Everything we do it on profit to keep kids safe online is accomplished through your donations to support our organization. Go to nextTalk dot org and click on give.
0:13:05 – Speaker 2
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0:13:30 – Speaker 4
Investment Advisory Services offers through PAX Financial Group. We have Chris McKenna here. He is the CEO of Protect Young Eyes. He has previously done marketing for Covenant Eyes. He has youth pastor ministry. He’s an accountant. He’s got four kids.
0:13:51 – Speaker 1
I was going to say, most importantly, four kids at home. He’s walking through.
0:13:55 – Speaker 4
And a wife of 20 years. So, yeah, my husband and I just celebrated our 20th And that’s a big one. You got to do something, big Chris, like celebrate, you got to.
0:14:03 – Speaker 3
0:14:04 – Speaker 4
She’s expecting a big gift. I’m just telling you Thank you.
0:14:09 – Speaker 3
I need help there, okay.
0:14:12 – Speaker 4
So tell us Top three things you guys are working on right now over at Protect Young Eyes. What are you? You just shared some things that we would see on our website, but what are three big projects or goals or vision? Just let us know What are your top three priorities right now.
0:14:28 – Speaker 3
Yeah. So you know, as an organization, we are looking for more innovative ways at the local school level to create more lasting change as a result of us being there. So one of the things that’s brand new and you’re the first organization that I’ve been sharing this with publicly is that we are looking at ways in which we can activate local small groups of highly motivated moms, to be perfectly honest, who would become subject matter experts on certain topics that are dangerous enough to know how to help most of the parents at a school with most of their questions, so that Protect Young Eyes isn’t a call it a log jam where people are asking us to email another ways and they’re waiting two or two days maybe for us to respond and respond as fast as we can. But I think some of the most effective change could happen locally at a school, and I truly believe that there are parents out there who have the chops and the know-how to help most other parents with most of their questions. So we’re exploring different ways to mobilize little I’ll call them like little mini-deep squad, like groups of parents at schools to be that sort of tech resource there locally. So that’s one thing we’re working on.
One thing we’re working on, mandy, that you and I have been collaborating on, is we continue to work with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation very actively, like every week, there’s still even though we’re not talking about some of it publicly, almost every week there is something we’re doing to further certain initiatives in DC on different topics of protecting children more effectively, and one that’s most public is the fixed app ratings movement, which we participated in the hearing back in July, and there’s still momentum on that front. In other words, how do we create greater accountability, transparency and independence around the way that we apply apps and descriptions ratings to apps and the descriptions of those apps in both Google Play and the Apple App Store, because right now, it’s a horrendously broken process On the other side of that. Another spot that we’re really exploring more is how do we update some of the foundational laws that are now 20 to 25 years old, that are aimed at protecting children, but could not have conceived of the digital risks that exist in 2019 when they were enacted, whether it’s the Telecommunications Decency Act of 1996 or COPPA, which is from 1999, slash 2000,. They were well intended, but they were never written to exist around the digital risk that exists today, and so something has to change with laws like those, and so that’s another place we’re spending a lot of time And then, to be perfectly honest, maybe and Tim, we are constantly, in fact I have a one-hour meeting this afternoon with my presentation team.
There’s six of us now that do presentations around the country, and information changes so quickly around what digital trends are out there, and so, even though since September, our team is already done I don’t know, i think I just let that number 130 presentations around the country We’re already changing the presentation that we just redid in September for parents, and now we’re redoing parts of the weekend, and so we are just constantly updating what we’re saying to parents and how we’re saying it And, like I said, the team meeting this afternoon to go over October’s changes to our parent deck, and so that’s a consistent project that we’re always working on, that is, making sure that what we call parents is the best and the most recent.
0:18:13 – Speaker 4
I love that. I kind of want to go back to the fix app ratings because I think what you’re doing there, i mean I think it’s so important And again, i think that’s a niche that you guys have, that. That I’ve loved that we could partner with you guys, because we don’t have the resources, we don’t know how to affect legal action and y’all are doing that and y’all are trailblazing that. And I love that we’ve created a partnership where we can give you information about what we’re seeing and hearing and what kids are telling parents. And you know, i’m really passionate about this ad thing. I’ve sent you screenshots of ads popping up everywhere I present. I talk about it and I talk about your initiative and how we are able to send you things. And I actually have more screenshots that I need to send you, because I was recently in Dallas And right after I spoke and I talked about your fix app ratings campaign and I told them about the ad issue that we are really trying to push you guys to get rolled into, all this is, and and he sent me screenshots of another another app that it happened on And if you are a new listener to nextTalk, what we’re talking about is.
My son was playing a nine plus bunny app game that I had vetted and it was fine and no connection to strangers. Content was great. I allowed him to play it. He clicked where it said click here for more tokens and it took him to an ad in a 17 plus app And he saw two men naked in bed together with a girl standing over them talking about joining in for threesome, and so that is unacceptable in my opinion, because, as a parent, i did everything right. I vetted the game, i played it with him, i made sure it was in his age and the ads exposed him, and so I say that example everywhere I go, and the more that I talk about it, the more parents send me screenshots that it’s happening on other games.
So I have actually some screenshots that I need to send you but I want to say thank you because I know when that first started happening to me and other parents were reaching out to me sharing their information, i didn’t know who to get that to And our organization does not deal in this space, and so that is where I love the collaboration and I feel like real change can happen, because this is y’all’s lane and we can feed you what we have and you can incorporate it and it can help you Determine with the lawmakers. But thank you for trailblazing that.
0:20:38 – Speaker 3
You’re doing great work over there, thank you yeah, and the part of it I mean, every time I talk about that rating, the one example that I get to make that initiative tangible to parents and I say to them parents, did you know, at the ads, within your four or nine plus app, do not have to obey the age rating of that app. and they’re looking like, really like I know it’s ridiculous, it makes zero sense. and so, thank you, mandy, i know your examples are helpful and that is certainly one of the examples we give whenever we talk about the initiative.
0:21:05 – Speaker 4
so Yeah, well, you know we’re. we’re over here preaching about open communication and really teaching parents how to build this culture of conversation, and what happens is when we, when we see that shift and they actually become a nextTalk family and they actually start talking about stuff, then the kids start reporting things so we get access to all this information that four and five year olds are seeing, and I’m trying to find outlets on where I need to get that plugged into people to where real change can happen. And so when that partnership with you guys happened, it was just a beautiful thing because I was like this is wonderful, this is what I’ve been looking for, so that’s great.
0:21:41 – Speaker 1
And so, chris, you know I’m thinking about what you’re talking about with. You have six presenters now traveling the world And I’m sure there’s parents listening thinking well, what could I expect at one of these presentations? what is it that you cover? and you know, if people are interested in something like that, what would they be able to gain?
0:22:00 – Speaker 3
Sure, yeah, anybody can request more information about our talks just by simply clicking on the contact form. That’ll give you a simple form to fill out. In my shell, my assistant, who does all our logistics, would would organize that. So you know, we talk about different statistics and then digital trends that support, you know, some of those numbers. And those are the trends that are changing all the time, whether it’s related to the ubiquity of technology in other words, there’s no such thing as Tech free if you don’t talk to your kids about all the awkward things that nobody talked to you about when you were a kid, then either YouTube or their friend will You know. We used to say, just to show you how the trends change. You know that phrase used to say if you don’t talk to them, then Dr Google will. But all the statistical tell us now the kids don’t Google things anymore. That’s for old people. They YouTube things. It’s their largest search engine, it’s where they go, it’s the number one destination for kids, not Snapchat, it’s not Instagram, youtube. And so parents understand you to them. They’re not understanding the life of their teenager. So we point parents towards those places.
We have certain words that we use to characterize what we hope The digital relationship of trust looks like. So we talk a lot about putting deposits in the digital trust bank and there are certain words you have five words that they would hear us use around cold play around, carrying control, about conversation All these words that typically put the positive in your digital trust bank, because when something horrible happens, it’s only a matter of when it’s not if. We all use that phrase. Right, you gotta leave the ignorant to the land of if And embrace the when and say is there enough deposit in your digital trust bank for your kid to trust you when those horrible things happen? And so you couch a lot of the things. You know we have to talk about a lot of scary things. We’ve done some horrific but necessary research in social media platforms that maybe you know, you’ve seen, and that’s not to incite fear in Paris, because fear is where the enemy wants us, because that’s when we do nothing.
We want that to point towards action and we want that to point towards how can we take this knowledge of these horrible places and translate that into Action that create digital trust, because if my kid doesn’t trust me, will trust something or someone else, and that thing via a YouTube search or that someone else, maybe a friend, may not have the foundation of faith or morality that I want them to. I, as mom or dad or grandma, grandpa, guardian, need to be the first source for that when situation. So That’s just a snippet. Those are some of the things that they would hear, some of the free geology and some of the things that we believe in, but I think Can make parents feel very equipped and encouraged by the time they leave. Our talks awesome, and you do those at churches, organization, schools, anywhere that you’re called to. That’s right, yeah, anywhere that we’re called to.
Our speaking schedule with public, you know, anybody can see where we’re going to be or you know in a free weekly newsletter that anybody can get, either by selling out the form on the website or they can anytime text the word protect to the number 66866. And that comes out every Thursday at the mail and that always has at the bottom are speaking schedule for the next month. so a number of ways for parents to see, or some Facebook events Where we’re going to be, and typically they’re open to the public. school of love it when people from the community come in and check out what they’re doing.
0:25:17 – Speaker 1
so Chris, it’s been great to have you on the show. Great information, great resources that protect young eyes, dot com. You can find out more information about One of their presentations and anything else you might want to know. We appreciate your time in your partnership, chris.
0:25:30 – Speaker 3
Thank you so much.
0:25:32 – Speaker 2
Thanks, chris thanks for joining us on nextTalk radio with Mandy and Kim on AM 630 the word. You are not alone trying to figure out how to parent in this digital world. We are here with practical solutions to help you. Follow us on Facebook, instagram and Twitter. Find our video series and podcast at nextTalk dot org. Are you ready for the next time?
Transcribed by https://podium.page