Youth Culture Today with Walt Mueller

Walt Mueller


Youth Culture Today is a 60-second daily radio spot from CPYU and Walt Mueller, now available as a podcast. It provides a quick glance into the world of teenagers and today's youth culture for parents, youth workers and others who care about kids and want to help them navigate adolescence in ways that bring glory to God.

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1330 episodes

Teens and Sports Gambling

Not a day goes by when I don’t hear or see one advertisement for an online sports gambling platform. With the Major League Baseball season gearing up your local broadcasts will mention not only what’s happening on the field, but the odds on a host of things occurring in the game along with an invitation to put money on anything and everything. Add to this the promotions and bonuses for signing up, and it’s no surprise that our kids are drawn into online sports gambling through the apps. And, while there are age restrictions, there’s nothing stopping kids from lying about their age and getting involved. Parents surveyed regarding their concerns about the risks of online betting for teens ages fourteen to eighteen put debt, gambling addiction, a ruined credit score, and drug and alcohol abuse at the top of their list. Teach your kids that God has promised to provide for our needs. He doesn’t instruct us to gamble to get it. Rather, we are to work to meet our needs and to bring glory to Him.

Apr 02
Kids and Hearing Damage

Several years ago I began to notice ringing in my ears. Known as Tinnitus, I would describe my experience as sounding like someone is blowing a never-ending high-pitched whistle in my ears. My issues come, I think, from listening to loud music earlier in my life. My concern for today’s children and teens has been fueled by a recent article in the BMJ Public Health Journal. A review of available evidence is showing that video gamers may be risking irreversible hearing loss and persistent ringing and buzzing in their ears due to exposing themselves to unsafe sound levels as they play their games. Wearing gaming headphones increases the risks. Research points to the fact that anything over eighty-five decibels can lead to hearing damage. Some video game sound levels can reach bursts of one hundred nineteen decibels, which is as loud as a bulldozer or motorbike. Parents, teach your kids to steward their bodies and hearing to God’s glory by turning down the volume.

Apr 01
Words of Wisdom 5

All this week I’ve been passing on some great words of wisdom from one of my heroes of the faith. Dr. John Stott was a theologian whose writings have shaped the way I think about faith, life, and family. In his wonderful book, the Contemporary Christian, Stott describes who we have been called to be as the church of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, in an effort to protect our kids from the influence of the world, we fail to teach them what it means to truly follow Jesus. Stott writes, “the church is a people who have been both called out of the world to worship God and sent back into the world to witness and serve. These are, in fact, two of the classical marks of the church. According to the first, the church is holy, called out to belong to God and to worship him. According to the second, the church is apostolic, sent out into the world on it’s mission.” Parents, each of us is both called and sent. The same holds true for our kids. Are you modeling what it means to live in, but not of, the world?

Mar 29
Words of Wisdom 4

All this week I’m passing on some great words of wisdom from one of my heroes of the faith. Dr. John Stott was a theologian whose writings have shaped the way I think about faith, life, and family. In his wonderful book, the Contemporary Christian, Stott writes about the need to listen carefully to the voices in our culture that express the deep, deep brokenness that exists. As one who studies youth culture, I can tell you that we hear those voices everywhere in the world of our young. Stott writes, “Unless we listen attentively to the voices of secular society, struggle to understand them, and feel with people in their frustration, anger, bewilderment and despair, weeping with those who weep, we will lack authenticity as the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. Instead, we will run the risk of answering questions nobody is asking, scratching where nobody is itching, supplying goods for which there is no demand. In other words, of being totally irrelevant.” Parents, let’s listen and listen intently.

Mar 28
Words of Wisdom 3

All this week I’m passing on some great words of wisdom from one of my heroes of the faith. Dr. John Stott was a theologian whose writings have shaped the way I think about faith, life, and family. In his wonderful book, the Contemporary Christian, Stott reminds us of the need to listen, something I know I far too often overlook in my family relationships. Stott writes, “One of the most important, and much neglected ingredients of Christian discipleship is the cultivation of a listening ear. Bad listeners do not make good disciples. The apostle James was clear about this. His strictures on the tongue as a restless evil, full of deadly poison are well known, but he has no compatible criticism of the ear. He urges us not to talk too much, but seems to suggest that we can never listen too much when he says, ‘everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.’” 

Mar 27
Words of Wisdom 2

All this week I’m passing on some great words of wisdom from one of my heroes of the faith. Dr. John Stott was a theologian whose writings have shaped the way I think about faith, life, and family. In his wonderful book, the Contemporary Christian, Stott reminds us that because we are human beings created by God, we have been made with an insatiable thirst for God. This holds true for our kids. . . even those who don’t seem like they care about spiritual things. Stott writes, “All human beings are aware of an ultimate personal reality, whom we seek, and in relation to whom alone we know we will find our human fulfillment. Even when we are running away from God, instinctively we know that we have no other resting-place, no other home. Without him we are lost, like waifs and strays. Our greatest claim to nobility is our created capacity to know God, to be in personal relationship with him, and to love him and to worship him.” Parents, your teens, do indeed, long for God.

Mar 26
Words of Wisdom 1

All this week I want to take time to pass on some great words of wisdom from one of my heroes of the faith. Dr. John Stott was a theologian whose writings have shaped the way I think about faith, life, and family. In his wonderful book, the Contemporary Christian, Stott challenges us to listen carefully to both God’s Word, and to the world. He writes, “We listen to the Word with humble reverence, anxious to understand it, and resolved to believe and obey what we come to understand. We listen to the world with critical alertness, anxious to understand it too, and resolved not necessarily to believe and obey it, but to sympathize with it and to seek grace to discover how the gospel relates to it.” Stott’s directive is especially helpful and necessary for those of us who want to share the Good News of the Gospel with the emerging generations. Like foreign missionaries, we need to know both God’s Word and the culture of our mission field. What are you doing to listen carefully to both?

Mar 25
Kids, Fentanyl, and Overdose Deaths

Ever since teenage drug abuse ramped up in the nineteen sixties, schools, mental health professionals, the government, and parents have all been working to stem the tide of abuse and addiction. One of the greatest concerns has been the very real risk of death from drug overdose. I’m guessing that all of us have been touched by overdose death, perhaps in our families or circle of friends. Sadly, the latest research tells us that drug overdose deaths among teens more than doubled between twenty nineteen and twenty twenty, and this, in spite of the fact that there was also a decline in teen drug use. We also know that Fentanyl is now involved in at least seventy five percent of teen overdose deaths. With drug suppliers now mixing fentanyl in with other drugs, we need to exercise greater diligence in warning our kids about drug abuse. Pray that your teens would have a heart bent on following God, and that He would spare them from the scourge of illicit drugs. 

Mar 22
The Freckle Craze

When my son was about seven years old, we went to see the Orioles play at the Camden Yards stadium. Our seats were next to the opening where the cameraman tasked with putting shots of fans up on the big video scoreboard was seated. Three times during the game he put the camera on my son’s face, projecting him up on the scoreboard for all to see. During the last time, which was rather extended, my son eventually turned to me and said, ‘I hate my freckles.’ They were bigger than life up on that screen. I had loads of freckles when I was a kid, and so did my wife. He was destined to have them. In today’s image-obsessed world, freckles are now a thing, so much so that there’s a new trend where people are getting semi-permanent freckle tattoos, with hundreds of millions of views of tiktok videos promoting the trend. This is one more reminder of our need to counter the culture’s emphasis on our outer image, with a keen sense of God’s desire for us to focus on developing our inward character.

Mar 21
Kids and Serving Others

Both Luke chapter six and Matthew chapter seven record the words Jesus spoke which are now commonly referred to as The Golden Rule. “So in everything,” Jesus said, “do to others what you would have them tdo to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.” I recently read a hand-written letter that my grandfather wrote to my mother upon her birth, ninety-years ago in 1934, expressing his deep hope that she would grow up to follow Christ and love others. He mentioned the Golden rule. In a day and age where our kids are encouraged to look out for number one and use others to their own advantage, we need to encourage our kids to engage consistently in service to others. New research even tells us that teens who volunteer in service to others not only benefit those others, but experience improvements in their own health and well-being, including the mitigation of feelings of isolation and loneliness that are epidemic today. Following God’s commands lead to our human freedom and flourishing.

Mar 20
Social Media - What Sites Do Teens Love?

The folks at the Pew Research Center have released new data that helps us understand how and where our teens are spending their social media time. The top most-visited and popular social media site among teens is YouTube, which comes as no surprise. More than nine out of ten teens say that they engage with YouTube, with seventy-one percent of all teens saying that they engage with YouTube on a daily basis. Sixteen percent say they are on YouTube almost constantly, thirty-eight percent are on it several times and day, and seventeen percent about once a day. The next three most popular social media sites are tiktok, snapchat, and Instagram. Parents, it’s no surprise that our kids are being shaped more and more by the life-lessons, perspectives, and worldview messages they encounter on social media. We need to not only limit their time, but help them learn to discern truth from error. Provide borders and boundaries for social media use, and encourage other activities.

Mar 19
The Downsides of Screen Reading

In the past, you’ve heard me mention the results of initial research regarding the difference between reading text on a printed page, versus reading text on a screen. Researchers found that there is a fundamental difference between the two, as eye scans show that those who read on the printed page read line by line, and those who read on a screen tend to skip over text while looking for keywords. A new study looked at screen and print reading differences among children ages ten to twelve, that three year period which is most critical in reading development. This is the time when students shift from learning to read, to reading to learn. The initial findings indicate a greater depth of processing when reading from the printed page. Deeper comprehension and deeper learning occur. Since more and more kids are reading off screens, this could indicate the declines in text comprehension skills of thirteen year olds. Parents, don’t throw out the books. And most of all, keep your kids reading printed Bibles. 

Mar 18
Faithful Self Examination

As he closes out his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes this: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” Paul’s desire for the Corinthians is the desire we should have for ourselves, that we are constantly working to be sure that we are staying on course as we progress in our growth in the Christian faith. I recently read this great suggestion from Donald T. Williams. He writes, “Whenever I am tempted to think that my sanctification is progressing rather well, I ask myself the following questions. Do I yet obey Jesus the way he deserves to be obeyed? Do I yet trust Jesus the way he deserves to be trusted? Do I yet love Jesus the way he deserves to be loved?” As Christian parents, we need to constantly be looking into the mirror as our lives are illuminated under the truths of God’s Word. These questions are so helpful, and they are questions we must teach our kids to ask of themselves for the rest of their lives. 

Mar 15
Telling Kids the Truth about Sex and Gender

I recently read a Touchstone Magazine interview with Princeton University professor Dr. Robert George, where he warns Christians about buying into the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity. He says that these categories are modern inventions. He goes on to say that it has very bad consequences if we enable Christians who experience same-sex desire or gender dysphoria, which as a matter of feeling is a reality”, that it actually is reality. He says that we should never ridicule those who struggle as they do deserve our care. He writes, “They need to be told the truth. And it’s not telling them the truth to say that, ‘well, your gender identity is female while your sex is male.” The ninth commandment tells us that we shall not bear false witness, or lie, to our neighbor. Parents, this couldn’t be more important for us to embrace as we interact with our children in a world of gender confusion. Tell them the truth about who God made them to be.

Mar 14
Phones and Aloneness

The law of cause and effect is a universal law which states that for every single action in the universe, a reaction is produced no matter what. I’ve seen the principle of cause and effect active in my own life in so many ways. For example, when I eat more, I gain weight. And conversely, when I eat less and exercise more, I lose weight. As we approach the twenty-year mark since the advent of smartphones, we’re learning more about cause and effect as it relates to technology. New research from the dcdx marketing firm reports that seventy three percent of young people ages fifteen to seventeen report sometimes or always feeling alone. This rise parallels a rise in the amount of screentime. It’s not a stretch to conclude that more time spent with screens means less time with people, thereby leading to loneliness. The triune God has made us for relationships, first and foremost with him, and then with family and friends. Help your kids disconnect in order to reconnect with others.

Mar 13
Kids and Weight Loss Products

For our kids, especially our girls, there is an ever-present pressure  causing them stress and anxiety that is undermining their mental and physical health. The pressure I’m talking about is the pressure they feel to conform their body shape and weight to appearance standards that value thinness as the passport to acceptance. Because this pressure is so strong during adolescence, our teens are vulnerable to not only feeling the pressure, but trying to answer the pressure by enlisting the dangerous practice of using weight-loss products. Over six percent of American teens report using a weight-loss product in the last thirty days, with instances that are higher among girls. Researchers say there’s a correlation between the use of these products in girls with low self-esteem, parental influence to lose weight, self-body dissatisfaction, and peer groups that value thinness. Parents, buffer the pressure by helping your kids value the development of their insides, rather than their outsides.

Mar 12
Parents and Saying No

Why do so many parents tiptoe gingerly around their children in today’s world? More and more parents are afraid to step up, take the reins, and assume their God-given position of authority. Instead, parents have become like butlers, available to wait on and serve their kids’ every desire and whim. Fearing rejection, we sometimes go against our better judgment and God’s design to say yes when we should be saying no. God established the family with a pecking order. Those who are older and wiser are charged with the duty of raising, nurturing, and protecting those who are young and not-so- wise. In other words, parents are to parent their children. Dad, mom: you have a God-given responsibility to love your teenager, to guide them through life, to protect them from harm, and to provide for their well-being. This means that there are times when you will have to teach your kids God’s will and way by saying no. Parent your teenagers to the glory of God!

Mar 11
Adolescent Drinking and Brain Damage

Besides warning our kids about the spiritual and legal issues related to underage drinking, we must also warn them about the damage that underage drinking does to their still not-fully-formed brains. In today’s world, more and more kids are engaging in binge drinking. That is, consuming five or more drinks in a period of two hours. Researchers have now found conclusive evidence that drinking during adolescence can lead to structural damages in the brain that can easily result in memory and cognitive deficits that can persist into adulthood. In other words, drinking as a child or teen can effect the brain even if the person stops drinking as they go through life. Parents, talk to your kids about the dangers of drinking, and encourage them to be good stewards who care for their God-given bodies. Warn them about the dangers of exposure to high doses of alcohol during their adolescent years. What they choose to do now can and will affect them for the rest of their lives.

Mar 08
Puberty Earlier and Earlier

As a dad, I remember the concern I felt as my daughters started to enter puberty and transform according to God’s good design, from little girls into women. I knew that with the shift through adolescence they would face new pressures in a world that puts a premium on body image, sexuality, and appearance. We worked hard to prepare them, buffer them, and guide them through this stage, all the while endeavoring to lead them more deeply into a relationship with Jesus Christ. According to the latest research, those of you raising girls need to be on high alert at earlier ages, as the new data shows that puberty is starting earlier, with girls developing breasts as young as age six or seven. While not all the reasons are known, researchers have seen links with childhood obesity, exposure to environmental chemicals, and stress. While it might make you uncomfortable, we need to be having conversations about Godly sexuality and body image at younger and younger ages.

Mar 07
The Stanley Quencher Craze

Depending on how old you are, you remember the specific have-to-have-it faddish items that you needed if you desired to fit in with your peers. For those who are baby-boomers, it was yo’s-yo’s, clackers, mini-skirts and bell-bottomed jeans. There’s a new fad for today’s kids that’s rather pricey and a bit surprising. It comes from the one-hundred and ten year old Stanley company that has long been known to make steel lunch boxes and vacume bottles favored by construction workers. Today’s fad among children and teens is the Stanley Quencher water bottle, that goes for forty-five dollars. I’ve seen elementary aged kids carrying them around, a boon for Stanley whose sales rose from seventy-three million in 2019, to seven-hundred-and-fifty-million in 2023. While fads like these are not ethically or morally wrong, they can reveal the idols of our children’s hearts if they believe that having a certain thing is the passport to happiness and acceptance. Teach your kids to love the Lord above all else.  

Mar 06
What Parents Need to Know about the Porn Industry

Kristen Jenson at wrote an article entitled, Today’s Porn Industry: Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know. Parents, as you engage in continued conversations with your kids about the dangers and sinful nature of this horribly broken and addicting expression of God’s good gift of sexuality, keep in mind these warnings from Jenson. First, the porn industry is complicit with the sex trafficking of minors, rape, and pedophilia. Porn has become synonymous with sex crimes. Second, the pornography industry makes hard-core pornography available for free. If it doesn’t find your kids, your kids will find it. Third, pornography normalizes incest, racism, and violence to women. Fourth, the porn industry is a mainstream big corporate business. Yes, computer scientists, lawyers accountants, and HR execs are all a part of the scheme. And finally, the porn industry is doing all they can to deny the truth, to disinform, and to defame their critics. Parents, protect your kids from pornography.

Mar 05
Sephora Tweens

We’re now hearing about what’s been labeled the “Sephora tween” that’s sweeping through the pre-teen population. Thanks to social media and our kids presence as both creators and consumers of things like TikTok videos, pre-teen girls who experts say have never heard their parents say “no” are heading to make-up and skincare Sephora stores to purchase high end products, and even sample them in the store, many times opening sealed product and making a mess. Some kids are not only using the products, but they are making videos to post on social media, all in the hope of gaining followers and becoming influencers. Not surprisingly, some of this can be traced back very recently to videos posted by the nine and eleven year old daughters of Kim Kardashian and Kourtney Kardashian. There’s plenty to warrant concern in this trend. Let’s add to that the fact that many of these products are not safe for a child’s skin. Parents, the culture promotes worldliness. Let’s lead our kids into Godliness.

Mar 04
The Authority Dilemma

In today’s world, our kids are being taught that true freedom consists of being able to step out from under any kind of external authority, and to live only under the authority of one’s self. They are to rule over themselves, constructing their own identities, beliefs, and behaviors based on how they feel at any given time. This way of living is not an option for our Christian kids. Consider these words of Jesus from John eight: “If you abide in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” If we are going to be faithful follows of Jesus Christ, we must abide and live in the truths of God’s word. Dr. John White has said, “True freedom does not consist in doing what I want to do but in doing what I was designed to do.” Parents, teach your children and teens that full and complete human flourishing come only when we find our identity in who we’ve been made to be and we live according to God’s will and way for our lives.

Mar 01
The Shifting Tide on Trans Ideology

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are aware of how the transgender ideology has been sweeping through the medical, educational, and legislative communities. This has created a growing sense, especially among our kids, that assuming a gender identity other than your birth gender is not only an option to explore, but an admirable thing to pursue. Salvo magazine reports that the trend may be taking a turn in the right direction, citing bioethicist Wesley J. Smith’s list of four signals that the tide might be turning against the cult-like push for trans-positivity. Smith says that first, European countries are back-pedaling on policies that allow medical transitioning for kids. Second, detransitioners are now speaking up to tell their horrific stories. Third, some are now suing those who influenced and helped their transition. And fourth, states are passing laws to protect minors from predatory medical practices. Let’s educate our kids on God’s design and his good gift of gender.

Feb 29
Social Media Advice from a Teen

Our friends at Tim Elmore’s Growing Leaders organization recently chatted with a group of students between eighth grade and twelfth grade about their attitudes and practices regarding social media and screen time. It seems that many of the students interviewed realize that too much social media and screentime is harmful. One senior girl said this: “I was just on a trip with a group of friends, and a group of us girls sat down to make a list of the pros and cons of social media. The only pros we could think of were communication and how it helps you connect with people who you haven’t even met yet. It’s pretty convenient, but the cons way outweighed it so much. We mainly talked about how it was  a waste of time and how easy it was to compare yourself to other people.” Those are some great insights. Parents, why not sit down with your kids and have them draw up a list of the pros and cons related to social media and screentime. Help them see the benefits of peeling back.

Feb 28
Media's Powerful Influence

I remember being in Sunday School as a child and singing a catchy little song about wisdom, discernment, and influences that has stuck with me until this day. Perhaps you remember the same song, which issued warnings like be careful little eyes what you see, and be careful little ears what you hear. That song oftentimes comes to mind when I think about the influence that mass media and social media has on us and our kids. What we watch and what we listen to communicates beliefs about life that shape and even misshape our worldviews. And for our impressionable kids, the power to shape and misshape is especially strong. Parents, consider these true words from Robert McTeigue: Mass consumer culture is more than a vendor. The range of its dynamics is greater than simply facilitating the transfer of wealth from consumer to merchant. Mass culture is a principal venue for propaganda, seduction, illusion, and addiction.” Parents, teach your kids to think Christianly about media.

Feb 27
300 Year Old Parenting Wisdom

The great eighteenth century preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon way back in August of 1740 that included some words to parents, educators, and the church which ring just as true today as when he spoke them almost three hundred years ago. Edwards said this: “Children ought to love the Lord Jesus Christ above all things in the world.” Jesus said the same thing this way Mark 12:30: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Whether we are children or adults, love for God is the very thing for which we have been made. As you consider this, realize that the culture is educating your kids twenty-four seven to love and serve themselves above all else. Parents, take stock of how your example and words speak loudly to your kids about what’s most important in your life. Are you modeling the compelling lifestyle of Christian discipleship and loving Christ above all else?

Feb 26
Blocking Dangerous Follower Requests

One of the most dangerous aspects of today’s social media is exposure. Social media is a place where our kids be constantly exposed, among other things, to dangerous ideas, addictive immoral content, and dangerous people. It’s not a matter of if, but when. And once it finds them, kids who are unprepared to respond according to guidelines you’ve communicated, they very easily could wind up looking for that same content that they never asked to see in the first place. One way this happens is with followers. It seems like each and every day, I run across notifications of new Instagram followers along with notifications of their “likes” of my photos and stories. It only takes a second to realize that many of these people are depicted in sexualized photos. They are fishing for followers, and who knows what else. Parents, teach your kids to guard their hearts and minds by blocking these requests when they get them. As the Scriptures say, we should put no unclean thing before our eyes. 

Feb 23
Sexualized Music and Sexting

Back when I was a teenager, there was a growing movement in the church to steer kids away from popular music that referenced things like drugs, sex, and violence. Many parents and youth workers were criticized for monitoring what their kids were listening to, as some believed that music lyrics were benign in influence. But research began to show that their concerns were justified, as what we listen to does influence our beliefs and behaviors. A new study measuring the associations between listening to sexual music lyrics and the influence on adolescent behavior has found that boys are more likely to participate in sexting in the future when exposed to sexual music lyrics. Parents, we need to be gatekeepers for the minds and hearts of our kids. Psalm one-hundred-one three says, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.” We need to teach our kids to have that same resolve. Our entertainment time should be, like all other times, about pursuing that which is good, true, right, and honorable.

Feb 22
Living Christianly in Today's World

What should we be teaching our kids about what it means to live as a Christian in today’s world? Can they just live as they please, following the course of this world while believing if they raised their hand or walked forward during a church service or youth group meeting that they are going to heaven? The reality is that those who are committed to Christ are also committed to following Christ in this world. The Christian faith not only speaks to what happens after death, but it speaks to all of life before death. When we pray the Lord’s prayer we pray that God’s Kingdom will come, and that God’s will will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. As I once heard the late Tom Skinner say, “Our function is to be the live model of what is happening in Heaven. That is, we are to reflect the value system of the new order of things.” Skinner was reminding us that Jesus calls His follower to be the light of the world. Are you teaching your kids to follow Jesus and not themselves?

Feb 21