Four Inescapable Realities about Youth Culture

Posted on: 08/29/11 3:54 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Yesterday I quickly chimed in with my late night thoughts after watching MTV’s 2011 VMAs and the new show that premiered after. (Wow! And I thought Jersey Shore was racy.) Today I wanted to give you even more about what the VMAs teach us about pop youth culture, along with a couple nice little resources to springboard discussion with your teenagers.

After David and I watched the show and discussed it, we both landed on four inescapable realities about youth culture spewing from this influential network. I posted our article, 4 Observations from the 2011 MTV VMA’s, about two hours ago now.

We tried to make it easy for you as a youth worker or a parent who wants to keep your thumb on the pulse of youth culture: you can read the 5 minute version of our article, or, if you have a few more minutes you can dive into as much research as you like, probably spending more than an hour, because we provided you with over 20 links in this article alone with research and resources. Click on any of the links and you can dive into more of the research (such as Pew Internet’s research about the religious makeup of our country, or the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics about the sexualization of our young girls).

You’ll also find some links that might help you kick off some discussion with your kids. For example, in our 3rd point about MTV’s promotion of “Coming Attractions,” we link a bunch of shows and commercials. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to jump on our article and click on our link for the Pac Sun commercial, “Dress Irresponsibly.” Personally, I’m going to show that video to my own teenaged daughters and ask them, “What do you think the message of this commercial is?” I might even ask a couple follow up questions. (“Do you think commercials like this subtly influence our culture?” “What does the Bible have to say about the topic?)

Or try clicking on our link for the Plan B “Here’s Emergency Contraception” commercial. Ask your kids, “How does the unexpected happen?” “Do we sometimes put ourselves in situations that set us up for failure?”

Enjoy the article:  4 Observations from the 2011 MTV VMA’s and What They Teach Us About Pop Culture

You can find a couple hundred articles just like this on our Youth Culture Window page.

MTV Sinks New Lows

Posted on: 08/28/11 11:05 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I just finished watching the MTV Video Music Awards (the VMAs) and collaborating with my buddy David about our annual Youth Culture Window article (now posted) we’re co-writing about the show. (Funny side note: I emailed him my portion of the article and it went straight to his junk box. An omen perhaps?)

Although the VMAs were indeed disappointing again this year (on so many levels), I think I was most disturbed by MTV’s brand new series immediately following the VMAs, a show aptly titled, I Just Want My Pants Back. More on that in a minute.

As I mentioned in my VMA blog last year, the VMAs show is typically the #1 watched cable event of the year, watched by well over 10 million people (not including downloads in the days to follow). Why watch it? This show sadly provides parents and youth workers an accurate glimpse of what our kids are absorbing daily from pop culture.

This year’s show began with Lady Gaga literally dressed up as her alter ego, a man named Joe. The foulmouthed Gaga (bleeped for the f-word four times in the first two minutes) started the show singing her hit song You and I, a song currently in the top 10 iTunes song and video charts. The show digressed, not only with racy performances and more foul language (including an over-the-top swear-fest from Lil Wayne that was truly ridiculous), but also commercials for new MTV shows that will be sure to lure in millions more teenage viewers, shows like the new I Want My Pants Back. I watched the first 5 minutes of the show and I can honestly say that this show is probably the lowest that MTV has ever stooped. Yes… even lower than the most watched cable show, Jersey Shore.

In the first two minutes of I Want My Pants Back, a college student picks up on a girl in a bar. He mentions the fact that he hasn’t had sex in a while. She asks him, “How long has it been?”

He says, “Six weeks.”

She makes a comment like, “Wow. Six weeks! You’re practically a virgin,” to which he responds something like, “Yeah, I’m kind of going through a dry spell right now.”

The couple then hooks up at his place, with scenes way too graphic for TV, but somehow now acceptable.

It would be nice if there weren’t a lot of young people exposed to this strong sexual content combined with blatant lies, but unfortunately, not only is MTV the most recognized network among young adults age 12 to 34, it’s also just a click away for the overwhelming majority of young people. According to Nielson’s recent Quarter 1, 2011 “Cross Platform Report,” 91 percent of US households have paid for TV subscriptions (like cable or Satellite) which includes MTV.

It’s only been a week since I said it, but I’ll say it again: if only parents knew what their kids were watching.

Check out our Youth Culture Window page and we’ll have our VMA article up today! (Now posted)

Shooting “Real Conversations”

Posted on: 08/26/11 3:30 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Wednesday I flew to Grand Rapids to film my new DVD sharing-your-faith curriculum with Zondervan, the one that I’ve been telling you about now titled, “Real Conversations.” We shot all day yesterday and all day today… just finished. I’m wiped out!

To be honest… it was a blast! The crew that shot it was made up with some of the same guys that have shot some of Rob Bell’s videos and Max Lucado’s material. They really knew their stuff and had a “collaborative” attitude. If you read behind the lines there, that means that they put up with my constant, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we tried this!!!”

Let me paint you a picture. For this one shot we were in this amazing old warehouse near downtown Grand Rapids. This place was so cool looking… it had all these broken windows and the paint was peeling off the columns. We shot on the 4th floor up these precarious stairs. It had this open abandoned feel. Well… I saw a wheelchair and thought, “What if shoot a shot that comes in through the broken window from the outside (first floor), then cheat a dissolve to a jimmy-rig dolly shot (the wheelchair) of the camera approaching me when I deliver my first line?” The guys just looked at me like, “Are you kidding me?”

10 minutes later one guy is pushing another guy in the wheelchair towards me! These guys were real troopers!

Another fun moment was filming a little scene I wrote between two girls where one girl was attempting to verbalize her faith to her friend. The young actresses we got were amazing. As you can imagine, it was a interesting challenge trying to accurately represent what two girls actually talk like. First, I had to use realistic language, but not bad language. That itself was a challenge. Then I had to balance what we wanted to teach, with what a teenager would really be able to articulate. We gave the girls some freedom to say the lines they way they would say them, tweaking a word or two at times. We shot it from three different angles with a bunch of cutaways… I was really pleased with what we got “in the can.” These girls had their lines memorized and were ready, so it gave us freedom to say, “try this” or “say it like this.” They were awesome. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

All that to say, I think I’m going to try to fall into a coma now until the alarm goes off and I have to fly to my next location tomorrow (Mississippi where I’m teaching a parenting workshop on Sunday.)

I can’t wait until this curriculum is released. (Still don’t know the date. Probably quite a while.)

Top Ten 70’s Slang Words That We Need to Bring Back!

Posted on: 08/23/11 7:59 PM | by Jonathan McKee

The other day after making record time on one of my road bike rides, I let out a celebratory, “Shazaam!”

People stared. (Those jive turkeys!)

Come on! Am I alone, or do we need to bring some of that smooth 70’s slang back. After all, last month I already suggested a list of current words/phrases that we should not use anymore! Perhaps we should fill that gap with 70’s terms. (Note my random picture of Abba! Are you feeling it?)

Maybe I’m just being nostalgic. I was born in 1970, so some would argue that I’m more privy to 80’s terms. But come on! Who wants to say “Grody to the max!” Or “Gag me!” The 80’s will always be a decade of really good music, but really bad slang and clothing. (White Crocket and Tubbs jacket with scrunched up sleeves, anyone?) If you want really good slang and music (I can’t really vouch for the clothing—I don’t want my brother to post a picture of me wearing a green leisure suit!) then 70’s is the place to look. Can you dig it?


Creep—The noun, not the verb. As in, “Hey you creep, get away from my Trans Am!”

Out of sight—if something is better than good, but not quite dy-no-mite, it might just be “out of sight!.” “Those new threads are out of site!”

Heavy—When something is so powerful or amazing that you just need to contemplate it for a moment, it’s “Heavy man!”

Sit on it—a great insult when someone is messing with you. “Sit on it, creep!”

Shucks—a term that any spaas might use when something goes wrong! “Awe shucks. Where is my Shaun Cassidy album?”

Crib—This term is deserving of a special nod because of its longevity. Even MTV (the creator and sustainer of pop-culture) had the show MTV Cribs running some 40-plus years after the term’s introduction to mainstream popularity!

Far out—much like it’s cousin, “heavy,” “far out “is a term that people say when something is really amazing. But “far out” implies more good. Basically, replace “cool” with “far out” and you’ll be fine.

Right on—we need more term like this to express agreement. “Right on, man!”

Bananas—if something is bewildering or perplexing, it’s bananas. In the same way, if someone is acting a little odd, they might be bananas. “Woah man, that jive turkey was acting bananas! Let’s book!”

Split—speaking of speedy exits, you gotta love the term “split.” “Hey man, mellow out or I’m going to split!”


Let’s blow this joint—yeah, junior high kids would just start laughing and nudging each other if you said this.

Ding Dong—maybe this word was just used in Christian circles by people who didn’t want to cuss. But this insult probably won’t carry any weight today, any more than other Hostess products (All though many rappers have been having some luck with the Ho-Ho)

Boob Tube—this term might just be more accurate now than in the 70’s.

Give me some skin—nope… just too weird now.

If you were alive during the 70’s, feel free to chime in with your favorites! (Sorry Gen Y, you cats just don’t know the difference between 70’s and 80’s.)

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They Don’t Know or Don’t Want to Know

Posted on: 08/22/11 10:56 AM | by Jonathan McKee

After dropping Alec off at college, Lori and I rolled into a hotel late Saturday night exhausted. We turned on the TV to see what was on and landed on MTV’s Jersey Shore.

Wow! It’s hard to believe that this is one of the most popular shows watched by young people today (as I’ve mentioned before).

I had only seen about 20 minutes of Jersey Shore, just to see what this reality show was that teens and tweens were so excited about. Lori had never seen any of it. We sat and watched about 7 minutes of it and were literally amazed that so many young people are actually allowed to watch it. I turned to Lori and said, “Either their parents don’t know what is actually on this show, or they don’t want to know.”

I see this phenomena in every parent workshop I teach, without exception. At the beginning of the workshop I simply ask parents if they feel like they are pretty aware of what their kids are watching. Most parents raise their hands. Then I spend about 45 minutes showing them snippets of the top shows, playing them excerpts of the top videos and songs… and parents’ jaws hit the floor. It happens every time. Parents walk up to me after the workshop and say, “I had no idea it was this bad!!!” (and that’s why I show it to parents)

If you’re a parent or youth worker and you’ve never taken a peek at Jersey Shore, I encourage you to watch just a couple minutes. You can watch entire episodes online– try a couple minutes right now. Here’s Season 4’s Episode #3, titled “Twinning.” (Take one guess what that’s about.) This show stoops so low even Abercrombie doesn’t approve.

In the 7 minutes that Lori and I watched of the episode, the Shore cast members went to a club where everyone was dancing like… well… how to put it into words… hmmmm… the way people dance today! (sex with clothes on). Then one of the guys picked up on a girl, brought her home, had sex with her (MTV actually shows part of the sex scene, but it was under a sheet, so it was “clean” by today’s standards- we’ve heard that before) and then Snookie started bad talking this girl in a jealous rant.

Lori and I were thinking about the morals we learned in that little 7 minute snippet. Basically, if you read any of those passages in the Bible that starts with the words “have nothing to do with” and then lists things like jealousy, gossip, adultery, sensuality… that pretty well describes it.

I just have one question: Why have parents given up?

When a show like Jersey Shore is one of the most popular shows in America watched by young people… there’s only one reason for that. Parents are allowing it.

We need to do two things:

1. Raise awareness about the kind of media content our kids are taking in. That is something I do at every parenting workshop, something I talk about in my videos to parents on our YouTube page and something I’ve written about in detail in my parenting book. Parents need to understand what kids are saturating in daily. Most parents “don’t know” or “don’t want to know.”

2. We need to equip parents to teach their kids lasting values. This weekend I’m teaching a parent workshop at a church in Mississippi; I’ll be spending this first half of the workshop “raising awareness,” and the second half equipping parents to build relationships with their kids and “teach them lasting values.” Parents need to be encouraged not to give up and just let their kids have free reign on all media. Even secular doctors are pleading with parents to set guidelines.

Are you aware what kind of content today’s young people watch? Watch the MTV VMA’s this Sunday night for one of the most eye-opening glimpses into youth culture each year (We’ll be chiming in with our article about the show Monday morning like we do every year).

Are you teaching lasting values to young people today? Feel free to use many of the resources I’ve linked in this blog (my parent workshops, my parenting book, our YouTube videos to parents).

Saying Goodbye

Posted on: 08/19/11 2:15 PM | by Jonathan McKee

The day is finally here… in one hour, we leave to take my son Alec over 300 miles away to begin his freshman year in college.

Alec is my oldest and this will be our first experience with one of our kids moving out. I can’t believe 18 years has past so quickly. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time. You’ve heard me mention it before, in this video, in my blog, etc. But today is the day!

We’ll drive down to Southern California tonight where we’ll stay with some amazing friends (my college room-mate Brian and his family), and then we’ll get up early tomorrow morning (Saturday) and drive the rest of the way, checking Alec into his dorm at 10AM. We’ll kiss him goodbye tomorrow night and head home.

I’m already preparing myself for the wealth of tears that are going to be flowing… in the seat next to me! Lori is going to be a wreck! I don’t know if I’ll actually cry. I’m so excited for Alec. The whole process is going to be pretty nice because Alec is actually excited about this new stage of life. He’s been looking forward to this for so long and he’s been talking about it all summer. Plus, the fact that he’s attending a nice Christian school where he’ll be studying Psychology, taking Bible classes… I’m just excited for him!

Enough said. I’m really proud of my little man!

Next time I write in this blog, I’ll have one away at college and I’ll be living in a house with three females! (Alec… help!!!!)


Posted on: 08/18/11 12:04 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Okay, I’m a big proponent of anything that helps adults initiate discussions with kids. I’m an even bigger fan of something that is mobile.

Let me introduce you to “Clips.”

Sure, I usually plug stuff to you that’s free. But this is $2.99. That’s close enough to free!

For those of you who love apps, you’ll love this. “Clips” is an app that helps you use scenes from a popular movie to kick off discussion. I’ll give you an example. I just watched Battle Los Angelos with my own kid last week. I looked on “Clips” to see if they had it- they did (you can search by Title, Topic, or Favorites). “Clips” offers a brief description, then provides you some quick q’s along with a few scripture suggestions.

“Clips” is in the beginning stages, so their list of movies definitely needs to grow. But I already saw movies like Toy Story 3, Tangled, The Dilemma, and The Blind Side on their list, to name just a few.

Definitely worth the $3.

Pre-Blessed Food

Posted on: 08/17/11 6:46 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s funny how this generation of young people actually will just sit around and watch You-Tube videos. My daughters will frequently just hang around the computer with their friends saying, “Oh wait, have you seen this one!” And then they click another video.

YouTube has created quite a few “celebrities” that are known… just for being funny YouTube video creators. One of these is a guy named Julian Smith. This guy, growing popular from his “Hot KoolAid” video, has become quite an internet sensation. My girls find him hilarious. And I gotta admit, he’s pretty funny (and has kept it clean as far as I have seen).

Here’s one of his videos that I’d actually show at youth group to kick off a talk on prayer. Funny stuff:

Side note: apparently he received a little negative feedback from some about this video. Here’s his personal response to that feedback– a little insight.

First Person Shooter Video Games

Posted on: 08/15/11 4:51 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Should parents oppose or embrace video games?

In a world where over 90% of young people “game” in one way or another (with 91% of tween boys and 93% of tween girls playing games online), how can parents keep up with which games are appropriate and which games aren’t? And how do parents decide how much game time is too much? Parents vary in their opinions. While some parents see video games as competing with grades or social time, other parents see video games as an opportunity to bond with their gaming kids. This Fast Company Magazine article goes as far as to say, “PlayStation is the New Playing Catch.”

Parents consistently ask me questions about discernment with video games, especially those “first person shooter” games. That’s one reason we just launched a brand new VIDEO GAME REVIEWS page on our parenting web site (We now have almost 200 game reviews up already).

Even with resources like this available, parents still seem to be curious of my personal “stand” on video games. For example, last month someone was reading articles on our website and asked me the following question using our new ASK THE SOURCE page:


I’d love to hear your thoughts on first person shooter video games.

My 14 year old son says everyone in his discipleship group plays them and even his d-group leaders talk positively about Black Ops and other M-rated games that they play… even during d-group sessions.

When I was 14 my parents took away my beer t-shirt and my Cheech and Chong album with pot stashed in the car door, and looking back, I’m glad they did.

But my son had a fit when I took away his Teen rated Goldeneye 007 first person shooter Wii game. I couldn’t believe it was rated T. Lots of research links violent video games to more aggressive behavior in teens. But more importantly than that, I look at verses like Psalm 11:5, Matt. 5:21, Gal. 5:22-23, and Phil. 4:8, and I can clearly see that playing a “game” for 12 hours a day during summer vacation where you are endlessly seeking to shoot people in the head is not what brings about a life of love, joy, and peace.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this! Thanks so much for all the help you give to us as parents out here.


I thought this was a really good question. I get asked this question so often, I thought it would be good to post my answer. Here’s just a snippet:


As for your question about video games–good question… and a common one.

We live in a “gaming” world now and parents are now faced with the responsibility of teaching our kids discernment about what games to play and what to avoid.

Let me first say, opinions on this subject will vary greatly. That’s why our new video game review page on will actually never say “let your kids play this” or “don’t let your kids play this one.” We’re just going to tell you the facts: a brief description, and then blurbs about “what parents should know about…” violence, language, sexual content, and spiritual content. Then the parent can make an informed decision.

We talk a little about the game industry in one of our recent Youth Culture Window articles, The Dominance of Video Games, giving parents specific advice on making informed decisions about purchasing video games and talking with our kids about making good media decisions.

As for me personally, it’s been a journey with my son. When he was younger, we stuck to Mario and Donkey Kong. But as he got into junior high, his desire for some of the shooting games like “Call of Duty” and “Halo” became more intense because all his friends played those games. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should give in to our kids every desire. If my son’s friends all watched the Hangover movies, it doesn’t mean that we should consider letting him watch it just because “everyone else is.” But there are certain times in our journey as a parent where we’ll need to address certain desires more than others. When my son was in junior high, he didn’t give a care about girls, but he longed to play first person shooter games!

To make matters more difficult, his junior high youth pastor played “Halo” with all the junior high boys at “Halo Night” events. I’m not saying that is a bad thing– but that did make my job as a parent more difficult because now, if I said, “Sorry Alec, you aren’t going to play this game.” …then I was really going to be the bad guy! After all, everyone, including his youth pastor, was playing this one!

So I did a little research on the subject. Here’s how I suggest parents research video games…


iTunes Reading

Posted on: 08/13/11 12:31 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s funny how many requests I received in the last year for my books in e-format. More and more people are reading ebooks on their iPads, nooks, kindle, etc. (My mom and dad just bought a nook for their trip to Greece)

My parenting book, Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent,  just (finally) hit iTunes in their iBookstore! I’m excited because a lot of people have requested it in that format.

Now I have 5 of my books in their bookstore!

For those of you who still like good old fashioned physical books (like me), just jump on our website’s RECOMMENDED BOOKS page, we have 8 of my books available there.