I’ve blogged about the subject countless times- the impact that sexualized media has on our kids, particularly our girls. And often I receive comments back, “Can’t we do something about this?”
Yes. Plenty. And most of it starts with what you can do in your own home. But some might also be interested in some national legislation that’s on the table.
The issue is this: today’s youth are bombarded with sexualized media content, and its consequences are unquestionable (Head up… I think today’s blog is going to break a record for the most hyperlinks. I’m going to bombard you with research and articles today). You see it every day in the top 10 songs at any given time, or from artist that know that sex sells, artist like Britney, Christina, and even Miley. Some researchers have actually labeled this phenomena, calling it “sexualization.” The American Psychological Association released a report titled, ‘The Sexualization of Girls,’ defining sexualization as “When a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.” According to their research, the consequences of sexualization are detailed as “negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality, and attitudes and beliefs.”
As parents and youth workers, we’ve seen these effects first hand. You have heard me talk about it, and hopefully even read the research firsthand. Even those not in contact with kids read the headlines and can’t avoid the fact that “1 in 4 teenager girls have an STD.”
Think about that for a second- especially those that think, “Oh, this is nothing new.” If you graduated in 1967- 1 in 32 teenagers had an STD. In 1983- 1 in 18 teenagers had an STD.
Today, it’s 1 in 4.
You’ve heard me rant about this numerous times and I always like to provide a “take-away,” something parents and youth workers can do about it (talking with your kids, watching media with your kids, establishing boundaries, etc.) This time I’m going to defer to Dr. Stephanie Smith from the APA website in her article, Raising Healthy Kids in a Sexualized Media World. Stephanie draws our attention to the impact of sexualization and links the national legislation on the table. I love her wrap up (here “take-away”) to parents– “tips for helping children manage what they see and hear and make healthy choices” (I want you to hear it from someone else for a change). Here they are in brief.
Check in on the shows your kids are watching; listen to the music they listen to; read the magazines they read.
Talk a Lot but Listen More
Instead of dominating the conversation talking about why you think something is right or wrong, let your kids take the lead. I am continually amazed at the insight and maturity many kids have about these topics – we just need to give them the opportunity to tell us!
Be the Teacher
You are still your child’s first and most important teacher and role model. Even if they don’t seem to be watching or listening to you – DON’T BE FOOLED – they are!
I encourage you to read her thoughts in entirety here.
Last week I received an email from a youth pastor asking an excellent question:
I’m currently a Youth Director (6 Yrs.) applying for a position as a Director of Youth Ministries in a church a few communities over from my present church. I’ve looked through your site and noticed that you have questions for a church to ask an applicant but don’t have any that the applicant should ask the church. What are some questions that you would ask a church during the interview process?
I immediate thought, “My dad could answer this question.”
My dad sits in a pretty unique situation. He was a youth pastor “back in the day” (he actually did a pretty cool podcast with Jim Burns and myself last fall talking about the changes in youth ministry over the decades), then served as a senior pastor, then went into private consulting training managers and recruiters, eventually starting the great free resource for volunteer managers and recruiters: www.VolunteerPower.com
I emailed him and said, “Dad… wanna take care of this one for me?”
Here’s just a snippet:
“Do you provide cell phones for the youth pastors?”
The interview had gone quite well until the applicant asked that question-it changed the whole tone of the interview, which went downhill from there. Too bad because for the first two hours we were all impressed. Then we asked him, “Do you have any questions for us?” and he pulled out a binder and began rattling them off from his list. I felt like we’d moved from interview to negotiation. I began to wonder when his agent was going to walk in the room and ask for a signing bonus.
When Jonathan asked me to write up the kind of questions that I believe a prospective youth pastor should ask in the interview process, I reflected on my 13 years in youth ministry, my decade as a senior pastor, my six years as a member of our church’s personnel committee, and my 20 years as a human resource consultant in private and public sectors. (Wow! I must really be old-that’s a year shy of half a century!) In addition to that, I’ve sat in on at least 50 interviews and witnessed the best and worst of them.
If you’re interviewing for a youth pastor position, I have four suggestions that will help you demonstrate your strengths, your experiences, and your affirmation that God’s directed you to be open for this position. And at the same time not feeling as though you’re being taken advantage of “in the name of ministry” (e.g., working 80 hours a week for part-time pay).
Suggestion One: Don’t Ask Questions-Seek Information
At the end of this article are more than 40 questions you want answered before accepting a youth ministry position.
The trick is getting this information without asking a list of questions.
How do you do that? One word…
Pretty cool stuff. Shout out to my pop!
Last week when I was speaking at a camp I went on a segue, fully admitting that I was “meddlin.'”
I challenged kids about what was on their iPods, predicting the objection of, “Oh, that stuff doesn’t bother me.” And quickly answered the objection.
The kids received it really well. Several of the counselors and I were joking about the difference between preaching and “meddlin.'” (Meddlin’ meaning, when you start touching on sore subjects, or areas of weekness.) When I got home, I had to laugh. I read this fun little illustration from my buddy Mike over at MikeysFunnies.com (a great free subscription by the way!)
Two elderly, excited Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher.
When this preacher condemned the sin of stealing, these two ladies cried out at the tops of their lungs, “AMEN, BROTHER!”
When the preacher condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, “PREACH IT, REVEREND!”
And when the preacher condemned the sin of lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON, BROTHER!
TELL IT LIKE IT IS…AMEN!”
But when the preacher condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet. One turned to the other and said,
“He’s quit preaching and now he’s meddlin’.”
A persistent gap exists between what teens need and what adults in this nation actually offer them. Best Buy has put up the money to fund the Search Institute’s study on that gap. The main finding? The call for positive adult influences.
Heard that before?
Many of you probably remember me telling the story (I tell it in my CONNECT book and my CONNECT workshop) about my friend Brandon coming up to me and asking me, “What is the most important thing we can be doing in youth ministry?”
The answer wasn’t great talks or awesome games… it was connecting with teenagers one-on-one. Nothing beats the influence of a positive adult role model loving kids and spending time with them. (And that’s what led me to write that book, CONNECT)
Ypulse.com just got a chance to connect with Tim Showalter-Loch, Senior Manager, Community Relations at Best Buy and Gene Roehlkepartain, Vice President at Search Institute, interviewing them about this second annual Teen Voice report. Just a snippet from Tim:
One of the most important findings in this year’s Teen Voice survey was that too many teens lack positive, sustained and meaningful relationships with adults beyond the family, such as teachers, mentors, grandparents, neighbors and other caring adults. In fact, we found that just 19 percent of 15-year-olds scored high on the index measuring adult-youth relationships, indicating that there is significant room for improvement when it comes to strengthening positive relationships between teens and adults.
You can find out more about this Teen Voice 2010 study here.
I just find in interesting that most people doing research about “what teens need” find the same thing: a need for positive adult role models.
It’s amazing how often parents just stand by and watch their kids lose their innocence.
This past weekend on my flight coming back from speaking in Nebraska two elementary-aged kids sat next to me. Their mom sat a couple rows behind and her kids ended up by me– a boy and girl, probably 3rd and 5th grade.
I introduced myself and joked a little about the drawings on the emergency card. They laughed and I asked them questions about flying, “Have you ever flown before?” “Do you like flying?” I wanted them to feel comfortable with me for the flight. After the takeoff, I helped them order their drinks and work the tray tables. They were really polite, sweet little kids.
Soon the little girl pulled down her seat tray, removed a stuffed monkey from her bag and placed him up on the tray, sitting comfortably with his legs crossed and staring back at her with his shiny black little eyes. The boy pulled out a toy dragon and placed it with care on his tray table.
I remember thinking, “How young. How innocent.”
About 30 minutes into the flight, they slid their backpacks from under the seat in front of them and pulled out some magazines. The little boy had a MAD Magazine, the little girl had the newest tween magazine, littered with pictures of Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Robert Pattinson and other teen idols.
It was heartbreaking watching this little girl, probably just 8-years-old, looking in awe at pictures of Miley and Kristen, reading little “did you know” facts about their celeb lifestyles. It was upsetting because I saw the innocence slowly being sucked away. Here’s a sweet little kid who probably just learned how to ride her bike. Her favorite companion is a stuffed monkey. And what does our society want to do with these little girls? Grow them up much too fast!
Which ‘Twilight‘ guy do you like better? Robert or Taylor? Here they are with their shirts off. Aren’t they dreamy? Here’s a rapper singing with Justin Beiber. Oooops, don’t download any of this rapper’s music– it’s explicit.
I felt like covering the monkey’s eyes. I’ll protect you Baboo!
After the kids tired of the magazines, they started playing with their toys. It was adorable. “Hey, let’s say that Baboo rides your dragon!” The kids made their toys fly, wrestle each other (the dragon seemed to always prevail against the monkey), and romp off to an assortment of imaginary worlds.
All of a sudden their mother came up to check on them. “Hey, use the earphones and listen to the music or watch the TV show.”
The kids stared back at their mother like, Do we have to?
Mom dug the headphones out of their seat pocket and showed them how to put them on. “Here, watch this show.”
I looked up to see what United was playing for “family” enjoyment. An episode of Two and a Half Men (I kid you not).
The kids reluctantly put on their headphones and stared up at the screen while their mother returned to her seat. After two minutes the kids grew restless. The boy leaned over to his sister, “Let’s play some more.”
The headphones disappeared, Charlie Sheen’s sex jokes were silenced, and within seconds Baboo and the dragon were back to wrestling once again.
If only we could freeze this moment of innocence.
Unfortunately, in just a blink of an eye, middle school will arrive, the monkey and the dragon will probably be shelved, and the iPods of these two cherubs will be full of that day’s Katy Perry, Christina Aguillera and Miley Cyrus. Mom won’t have to encourage TV watching anymore; TV will trump building forts, riding bikes and playing with toys. ABC and MTV will become their teachers, innocence will be totally lost… all under the watch of well-meaning parents.
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.’ (Ezekiel 33:6)
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)
Gallup just did the largest worldwide survey of it’s kind on the subject of happiness. For the first time, they have a global perspective on happiness and feeling good about oneself.
Yes, money does buy happiness, they conclude. Surprised? Well hold on, because their research led them to discover a difference between plain ol’ perceived “happiness” and what they call “feeling good.”
Although money also influenced emotions, the effect was much weaker. Both positive and negative emotions tended to be affected much more in relation to other psychological and social factors, such as feeling respected, having autonomy, strong social support and working at a fulfilling job.
This study found that most people were quick to relate “happiness” to how well off they were financially. This survey dug deeper to ask people about positive feelings like laughter and enjoyment.
I don’t want to rehash the whole article. I encourage you to read Washington Post’s entire summary of the study. Fascinating stuff.
I think the conclusions testify to the fact that some temporary thrills (money & “stuff”) are indeed “thrills.” But they eventually live up to their name, “temporary.” In the end, people are looking for something so much more. Something that lasts.
Hmmmmm… if that isn’t a Gospel message waiting to be preached… I don’t know what is. (more on that in the comments below)
Yesterday I flew to Nebraska where I’m speaking all week. When I landed, I did my normal routine, picking up my rental car. At the Omaha airport, they had a good deal on Mini Coopers- cheaper than almost any other car. The guy at the counter just clarified, “You drive a stick, right?”
“Sure. I learned on a stick.” My 1976 VW Bug. (Wow… that’s a leap through time)
Anyway… I pop in this Mini and… WOW! This thing was slick! It was white with black stripes, accelerated quickly, and cornered like it was on rails (here’s a picture of it where I parked it in the York, Nebraska Wal Mart parking lot).
Many of you might remember my experience a couple months ago with a Smart Car I rented. I’ll be nice. The thing was a piece of junk! It rode rough on the freeway, it shook like a vibrating bed (wow… that’s another memory from when I was a kid! We used to stay in these cheap motels! “Mom, can I please have a quarter!!!”), and it changed three lanes when the wind blew. It was like driving an enclosed skateboard.
The Mini was smooth and quick! It has 6 gears and a little button next to the shifter that says “SPORT,” which seems to change the way it shifts. In all honesty, I have no clue what that button does. But yes… I am a man… so I hit the button and tried shifting through the gears like a NASCAR driver. That Mini has some guts.
Okay… this is funny. So I’m shifting and playing around with the thing and I pass a Nebraska policeman going the other way. He flips a u-turn and pulls me over. I’m thinking, “Oh great. My first ticket in literally over 10 years!” The guy was really nice. He says that I was going 10 over, but he’d let me off with a warning.
How cool is that!!
There’s gotta be an illustration of God’s grace in there somewhere.
I wanna Mini now! (Is that an illustration of coveting???)
This week a guest author wrote our Youth Culture Window article. She’s a friend of mine who is a counselor- her name is Lisa Charlebois. Lisa co-wrote an interesting book titled, “You Might Be a Narcissist If…” The book helps you identify Narcissism in ourselves and others. Fascinating stuff.
Narcissist—[one who displays an] inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
Kate is becoming more and more concerned about her son, Chris, a high school freshman.
Since 2nd grade Chris has been friends with Zack. Kate has always liked Zack, but some things are beginning to bother her.
She observes Chris giving in constantly to what Zack wants to do and agreeing with Zack on most issues, as well as with what Zack deems as important. She’s starting to wonder if Chris has developed a habit of denying his real feelings and opinions when Zack is around. She also notices Zack frequently belittling Chris in ways that disturb her.
Kate knows she’s had to get used to the fact that bonding is different for boys than girls, and that boys often find it hysterical to call each other names. Still she’s uneasy. In the past she figured Zack was good for Chris because he was more outgoing than her son; she even admired that Zack was viewed as popular—yet chose to spend much of his time with Chris over the years.
Now Kate’s beginning to wonder if that was such a good thing…
I’ll make it simple. The first 10 people to read the full article and comment to this blog… I’ll send you a free copy of her book. (Don’t leave your address in the comment– just your email. I’ll email you for your address if you’re the first 10.)
Last week, after speaking about youth culture at my home church, a parent came up and asked me about today’s popular video games. He said something I’ve heard hundreds of times. “My son loves video games and I just don’t know which ones are okay and which ones aren’t!”
I’m right there with ya! My son Alec loves video games and we’ve had numerous discussions about video games- which are appropriate and which aren’t.
My quick two cents: Read & Rent!
First… Read about the games. This past week our Youth Culture Window page actually featured an article titled, MOVE OVER MARIO that provided some great insight about today’s popular games and how to help our kids make discerning media decisions. You’ll find some great advice and links in that article. You’ll also find that we’ve written about games in past articles- articles about “screens” in general and even specific games. Always take the time to do a little investigating when little Johnny asks you if he can go to Billy’s house and play a game he says is clean… a game called Grand Theft Auto. 🙂
NEW NOTE: As Adam pointed out in the comments below– my friend Al Menconi has a great website that includes many video game reviews… a great resource for parents: www.AlMenconi.com
Then, if what you read about the game seems okay, then Rent it before buying it. Most Blockbuster Video stores rent all the current games for the major game consoles. And it’s better for you or your kid to spend less than $10 on a game than $60 only to find out, you wouldn’t have allowed the game in the first place.
That’s my two cents!