Another Sexting-related Bullying Suicide

Posted on: 11/29/09 9:36 PM | by Jonathan McKee

David, my director of content development for just emailed me a sad article about an incident only 15 miles from his house in Tampa, FL.

Many of you have heard horror stories about sexting- I’ve blogged about them before. It usually goes like this: girl sends boyfriend nude photo. Girlfriend and boyfriend eventually break up. Boyfriend passes around nude photo. Girlfriend is shamed and reacts… sometimes in suicide.

That’s similar to Hope’s story, as told here by the St. Petersburg Times:

At the end of the school year at Beth Shields Middle School, the taunting got so bad that Hope Witsell’s friends surrounded her between classes. They escorted her down hallways like human shields, fending off insults such as “whore” and “slut.” A few days before, Hope had forwarded a nude photo of herself to a boy she liked — a practice widely known as “sexting.” The image found its way to other students, who forwarded it to their friends. Soon the nude photo was circulating through cell phones at Shields Middle and Lennard High School, according to multiple students at both schools. “Tons of people talk about me behind my back and I hate it because they call me a whore!” Hope wrote in her journal. “And I can’t be a whore i’m too inexperienced. So secretly TONS of people hate me … ” School authorities learned of the nude photo around the end of the school year and suspended Hope for the first week of eighth-grade, which started in August. About two weeks after she returned to school, a counselor observed cuts on Hope’s legs and had her sign a “no-harm” contract, in which Hope agreed to tell an adult if she felt inclined to hurt herself, her family says. The next day, Hope hanged herself in her bedroom. She was 13.

So sad.

Pray for Hope’s family.

And keep talking with our kids about these kinds of issues (we’ve outlined some ways to do this in this article and even provided discussion outlines for you like the one here).

A Book Alec Enjoyed

Posted on: 11/26/09 2:27 PM | by Jonathan McKee

My son is a pretty good reader; he also likes video games, and Anime… that’s why I thought he might enjoy Mark Olmos’ new book, Age of the Fallen.

Age of the Fallen is a piece of Christian fiction about Japanese teenagers who fight against enemies from an unseen world, demons who are pushing desperate and confused teens to suicide every day. The book’s characters are real and believable. I could see something like this becoming a graphic novel.

When I read the first few chapters and saw the Japanese themes, the video games, etc…. I thought, “Alec (my 16 year old) would love this!” I gave it to him and he devoured it. Here’s his comments:

As a Christian have you ever wondered about the unseen spiritual war that goes on around you every day? What would you do if you could actually see into the spiritual realm and physically fight against fallen angels with spiritual swords of truth? For the main characters in Mark Olmos’s book, Age of the Fallen, this is an every-day reality.

The setting takes place in modern day Japan, where a group of young Christian teens live and fight against the temptations and challenges of everyday life. From the minute you begin reading till you turn the last page; the novel is creative and shocking. The author gives you an entertaining plot and at the same time describes the intense reality of spiritual warfare with masterful clarity. 

After reading this novel you will not only be very entertained, but you will perceive the world around you differently. And the next time you are tempted to do something bad you might consider that it’s not just a random thought that pops into your head, but a demon whispering in your ear.    

If this is your cup of tea, I encourage you to check it out yourself and post a comment.

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Will Adam Lambert’s Antics Wake Up Parents?

Posted on: 11/24/09 1:38 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It seemed like just another typical American Music Awards. Rihanna revealed…too much, Jay Z rapped about how great he is, Shakira did her little hip thing with a mic stand (I think I saw the mic stand smoking a cigarette just moments later), Gaga… well… was Gaga. But then, to top the night off, Adam gave one of the most graphically sexual performances I have ever seen on network TV.

I’m not talking about one incident…it was throughout the whole performance. Lambert grabbed one of his dancers head and simulated oral sex, he kissed a male band member in true ‘Britney-Madonna’ fashion, dragged dancers on a leash, and even flipped off the audience. Apparently West coast audiences didn’t get to see some of the antics. (You can read more details here if you’re interested)

It seems that artists are testing the waters and seeing just how far they can push the envelope. That’s what the rest of the entertainment industry is doing (Hey! Normal sex isn’t even selling big anymore, let’s try threesomes!)

The thing that has me scratching my head is, “Why are people so shocked?” Don’t get me wrong… I’m glad that people are raising the questions as to if this is appropriate to show on TV. I’m just laughing that people have no problem with everything else we allow on TV.

Is this really that surprising?

Lambert wasn’t shy about retorting to some of the criticism, calling it a double standard since women performers have been “pushing the envelope” for decades.

Some people are definitely upset, with almost every media outlet chiming in about the incident. USA TODAY is taking a poll: entertainment, or over the top?

I definitely think it’s over the top. But so was Shakira… so were about 20 moments during the last MTV VMA’s, so is every episode of CBS’s Two and a Half Men.


Maybe this will wake up some of the parents around the world as to what we are teaching this young generation.

My Two Cents After Seeing Twilight’s New Moon

Posted on: 11/22/09 6:50 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Twilight’s sequel The New Moon proved to not only be THE pop culture phenomenon of the year, but the biggest opening weekend of the year, grossing 72.7 million on it’s opening day alone (beating out Dark Knight), and raking in 140 million for the weekend so far (it’s Sunday as I write this).

Todd (our movie review guy), David (our director of content development) and I went to see the movie together on Saturday while attending the YS National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta (yes… we cut the convention to see a movie!) … and as you can see from this pic… we were not ashamed to boldly represent!

So what did I think?

It’s soooooo hard to approach this film unbiased. Twilight fans are so emotionally invested in the characters of the saga that they are borderline obsessive. Combine that with what we already knew going into the film about the “self-destructive” messages present in the story… it’s hard to know how objective I can be. But here goes!

Bella really needs to get a life!

Wow… it’s really hard to watch this girl. Yes, I know that girls feel emotions. Yes, I know that it’s difficult when someone breaks up with you. But Bella’s emotions are on steroids. The film offers several scenes where we see Bella anguishing over her loss… my wife didn’t make that much noise having my children!

Her self-destructive behavior was probably even more-so than we predicted in our Youth Culture Window article we wrote about the film last week. I’m surprised she didn’t just pull up her sleeves and start cutting away.

Here’s some of her lines I jotted down during the film:

  “You’re my only reason to stay alive.”

  “My pain was my only reminder that he was real.”

  “I’m not a car that you can fix up. I’m never gonna run right.”

When Bella took off with a stranger on the back of a motorcycle (with no helmet), her friend said, “You’re insane! Suicidal!’ Bella simply replied. “That was such a rush.”

Her self-destructive behavior gets worse as the film continues.

At the end Edward wants to commit suicide too. He says, “I couldn’t live in a world where you don’t exist.”

Yes, we saw similar attitudes from Romeo and Juliet. But New Moon preaches it in a language that young girls understand fluently. I encourage you to watch the film and see this for yourself.

Add to that the fact that Bella gets in a love triangle between Jacob and Edward, allowing herself to be so emotionally tied to each, that it’s unfair to both guys. The film doesn’t seem to present any problem with this kind of two-timing behavior. It’s hard to imagine what young people are learning about love and relationships from films like this.

In addition, Bella and Edward discuss the possibility of losing their soul when becoming a vampire. Bella quickly dismisses the reality, finally resolving that it’s a sacrifice she’s willing to take. Again… no big deal… according to the film makers.


Bottom Line: Bella is a terrible role model. As entertaining as the film was at times… Bella was a turd in the custard.

Parents, I don’t recommend you letting your tweens or teens watch this without you. I’ll be so bold to say, SKIP IT. The film is completely clean and deemed “okay” by many. Don’t let the lack of sex or language fool you. The negative imitatable behavior from this film is at an all time high.

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Twilight’s ‘Emo’ New Moon

Posted on: 11/18/09 12:53 PM | by Jonathan McKee

If you have been anywhere around tween girls in the last few days, you’ve probably heard the news… Twilight’s sequal, New Moon, is coming to theatres this Friday.

This is probably THE most anticipated film of the year by teenagers. The buzz for this film is huge. Even if kids aren’t Twilight fans, they are going to be hearing nothing but Twilight for a few weeks. Some kids will just go to see it to see what all the buzz is about.

The question many of you might have is- what message will this film be communicating to our kids?

David and I just wrote a Youth Culture Window article answering that very question, an article that specifically addresses some of the self-destructive messages the film conveys. Here’s just a snippet of that article:

 Twilight Goes ‘Emo’
Bella’s Self-destructive Dependence on Edward

There’s a New Moon rising this Friday night in theaters… and your kids won’t miss it. The question is what will this new film in the Twilight Saga communicate to our kids?

The first film was labeled “harmless” by many, despite its numerous subtle messages. (Hey girls, wouldn’t it be romantic if your boyfriend snuck into your room in the middle of the night and made-out with you on your bed?) Harmless?

However, in the second film, Bella seems to take an emotionally-charged turn that’s self-destructive in nature. Whew! It’s a good thing we don’t live in a world where millions of young girls have low self-esteem and engage in self-destructive behaviors because of it.

(Awkward pause)

So… what will this New Moon look like?

The New Moon is FULL
The Quileute Tribe. The Volturi. Shape-shifters. Many adults may not yet know what these fictional agents have in common, but without a doubt, they’ll combine for the biggest event in youth culture this week.

For months, millions of teenagers have been counting down the days to this coming Friday night, November 20th, when New Moon, the second film in the Twilight Saga, is released in theaters around the world.

Youth media and marketing have capitalized on the “pop culture phenomenon” and have taken every opportunity to promote the new film in as many different venues as possible. Tons of websites have been created around the plot and cast (like TheTwilightSaga, TwilightersAnonymous and NewMoonMovie). MTV has highlighted exclusive previews of the upcoming film at both of their awards shows earlier this year and bloggers have been following the cast and speculating about the movie for weeks. When New Moon’s soundtrack was recently released, it easily climbed to #1 on the album charts. Further, The Twilight Saga has even caused other TV networks to offer their own version of vampire stories given the success of this franchise. And of course, vampire merchandise has generated incredibly high sales in several retail stores…


The article goes on to talk in greater detail about Bella’s emotional self-destructive behaviors.

Let me be clear. I don’t think this film is bad- it’s probably going to be fairly clean. I just think that parents should ‘co-view” this one with their kids so they can talk about what they saw.

After all, Twilight fans are a different breed… they’re like little “emo-trekies!” If you want an idea of the mentality of the typical Twilight fan, just read some of the comments by teenagers in this blog article I wrote earlier this year (scroll down a little bit and read the responses from kids). YIKES! Scary stuff.

Violent Soccer Women

Posted on: 11/17/09 9:26 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay… I was traveling in LA two weekends ago and saw this on CNN in the airport. I meant to blog about it last week, but there was just too much to blog about. But I gotta show you this.

If you haven’t seen it by now, this footage exploded on the internet. It’s a womens soccer game between BYU and New Mexico. UNM player Elizabeth Lambert got out of control!

Take a peek: (watch it from the beginning through 1:40)

Oh Snap!

For those of you that aren’t soccer players… let me assure you, soccer is a rough sport. But these were cheap shots.

My youngest daughter plays in a select soccer league, and last weekend (I was traveling again… sniff, sniff), my wife told me that my little Ashley threw a couple stiff-arms. She was next to a player twice her size and was getting shoved… Ashley’s arm instinctively came up (she knows better- body contact is okay when going for the ball. But pushing with your arm can get you a yellow card).

As a huge soccer fan, I regularly see a ton of this in the Premier League. But this footage of Lambert was across the line. I found this additional report from across the pond pretty interesting, discussing some of the after-effects of it all.


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Connecting With Kids Free Training

Posted on: 11/16/09 11:23 AM | by Jonathan McKee

This weekend I’m going to show youth leaders how to train their own adult leaders to connect with students… and I’m going to do this training using the exact same free ppt that we’re giving away on our website (we’re giving away a free ppt training to anyone who pre-orders my new book, CONNECT, from our web site.) I’m doing this at the Youth Specialties National Youth Worker’s Convention in Atlanta.

For those youth workers who haven’t been to this CONNECT workshop and can’t attend in Atlanta… no worries. You can still get the training. I provide the entire training exercise in my new book in chapter 14, and the free ppt we are giving away corresponds exactly with that training.

I’m really excited about this CONNECT seminar at the convention this weekend—it’s a fun workshop. After teaching everyone about the six types of kids we’ll encounter, I hand each adult leader a pile of sticky-notes and have them write the names of the kids they want to connect with, one name per sticky note. Then I have each person come place the sticky note on my “Six Types of Students” chart on the wall. This “spiritual inventory” exercise is always eye-opening and lays the groundwork for spiritual growth in ministries. I’m looking forward to the workshop! Fun stuff!

The timing of the workshop is a little bizarre in relation to the corresponding book release. Allow me to vent for a quick moment: I’m teaching this workshop this coming Sunday. Literally, as I teach this seminar, my CONNECT books will be being printed (by Zondervan/Youth Specialties) and will probably be shipped to me just days after we get back from this Youth Specialties event. I don’t want to criticize my publisher now… but I’m not sure they were thinking too clearly on this one. They could have printed the books one week earlier and had it available at the event… an event that historically brings out about 5,000 youth workers.

Regardless… I’ll be getting the books in just a couple weeks now, so those of you that pre-order them will be seeing them early December (a month earlier than you’ll get them anywhere else) in addition to the free Powerpoint training we are giving away.

I always enjoy teaching at the National Youth Workers Convention. This year I’ll be teaching two workshops:

Hope to see some of you there!

Media Use

Posted on: 11/12/09 2:43 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Wow… too many articles to blog about. So I’ll just highlight a bunch of interesting media research from The Nielsen Company. Hold on… this is going to be a rapid fire blog with links and stats.

TV VIEWING: The Nielsen Company came out with a recent report on TV viewing in America. Despite rumors that TV watching is going down, TV continues to rise with the 2008-09 at an all time high.

Here’s a peek at 91 til now:


And here’s the entire article.

And a quick glimpse at Monthly Time that each age group (from kindergarten through retirement) spends in front of the TV. Can you believe it… 12-17 year olds average roughly 26 hours a week. Wow.


Also see: TV Viewing Among Kids at an Eight-Year High,

MOBILE PHONES: In a recent Nielsen report on Social Media I found tons of interesting facts, but this the most intriguing- the age that children own their first phone. Apparently the age just keeps getting younger. In the first quarter of 2009, the AVERAGE age was 9.7 years old!

Here’s a glimpse at mobile ownership by age:


Notice that 76% of phone users get their cell phone at 12-year-old (NOTE: This table isn’t saying that 76% of 12-year-olds have a cell phone. According to a Pew Internet report, that number is 51%). I can attest to that. My 12-year-old daughter does NOT have one and she reminds me of that every day! (“Dad, all my friends have one!” I’ll have to correct her now. “Correction, only 51% of your friends have one!)   🙂

Here’s the entire social media article.

ONLINE SEARCH: And just to show that Google still “owns”


Here’s the report.

Why Teenagers Grow Up Slowly

Posted on: 11/10/09 10:41 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Why are teenagers growing up so slowly? It’s not that hard to figure out. Just compare the responsibilities of your great grampa to kids today.

100 years ago: Help dad with the farm…. or Mom, sister and the rest of you won’t have any food.

Today: “Mom… I want the new iPhone! All my friends have it!”


For years I’ve been reading about the increasing length of Adolescence and theories as to why. Last week, Newsweek highlighted a new book by Dr. Joe Allen titled, Escaping the Endless Adolescence (more on that in a minute). I loved the article, especially the timing of it- the same week as our most recent podcast, Episode #30, a conversation between Walt Mueller and I about today’s youth culture. In this podcast, Walt describes the crucial time of parenting adolescents as “the space between” (The title of his book on the subject).

Here’s his logic:

We all know that when our kids are young- we think for them.

We all know that someday- our kids will have to think for themselves.

How do we get them from “us thinking for them” to “thinking for themselves?”

Hence, the space between, when we think with them. (Simple, but profound, huh?)

In this podcast (free on iTunes), Walt and I have a great time talking about what this actually looks like day to day for parents who are raising teenagers. Fun stuff.

Back to the Newsweek article. It basically argues that teenagers are growing up slower because our society is not giving them opportunities to think and act for themselves… so we think for them, protecting them from “real life.”

Here’s just a snippet:

Allen has concluded that our urge to protect teenagers from real life – because we don’t think they’re ready yet – has tragically backfired. By insulating them from adult-like work, adult social relationships, and adult consequences, we have only delayed their development. We have made it harder for them to grow up. Maybe even made it impossible to grow up on time.

Basically, we long ago decided that teens ought to be in school, not in the labor force. Education was their future. But the structure of schools is endlessly repetitive. “From a Martian’s perspective, high schools look virtually the same as sixth grade,” said Allen. “There’s no recognition, in the structure of school, that these are very different people with different capabilities.” Strapped to desks for 13+ years, school becomes both incredibly monotonous, artificial, and cookie-cutter.

As Allen writes, “We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their competencies. And then we’re surprised they have some difficulty establishing a sense of their own individuality.”

And we wonder why it’s taking so long for them to mature…

Fascinating stuff.

(ht to Adam for highlighting the article in the YS Update)

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Cover Design

Posted on: 11/9/09 1:59 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week I shared with you a little about my new book CONNECT, a book that I think will be a great tool helping anyone who is connecting with today’s teenagers (many of you have already pre-ordered it- you’ll get it early December).

Today in the mail I received some glossy prints of my full cover design– the people at Zondervan did a great job with this one! The back cover looks great (I’ve seen the front for a while now). They added some of the endorsements from guys who’ve read the book and are plugging it: Dan Kimball, Walt Mueller, Jim Burns, Dare 2 Share’s Greg Stier and Young Life’s Dan Jessup. Check it out:


I also like how they added the “six types of kids” that we need to connect with to the back cover. Good stuff.

On the front- I’m excited that they kept my little “chain link” icon that I’ve been using for my CONNECT seminar for the past few years. They incorporated it nicely into the front cover design. Those of you who saw the cover before might also notice a small change on the front. They added Dr. Dave Rahn’s quote on the front– great quote.

Click here to get our special deal on this book. We’ve got the lowest price, we’re shipping it early December (everyone else is in January), and we’re giving away a free ppt. training that corresponds with the book- one that you youth workers can use to train your leaders how to connect with students.