Why Are Teenagers Really Having Less Sex?

Posted on: 10/31/11 11:25 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Last week I wrote a “Youth Culture Window” article on a subject I would earmark as very important, Are Teenagers Really Having Less Sex? And How to Continue This Trend. The interesting part of this whole study is the fact that no one knows why teenagers are having less sex. What’s your theory?

Here’s the situation. If you read the article– and I encourage you to take 5 minutes and do so– you’ll see that sexual activity has gone down from the late 1980’s to 2002ish. Since then… no statistically significant change (a fact overlooked by most the headlines). So the question I asked the CDC, the “National Campaign,” and Pam Stenzel’s ministry is this:

In a country where media is growing more gratuitously sexual and porn is ubiquitous, why are less teenagers having sex?

Then I asked this follow-up question:

And at the same time that sex is decreasing, why do STD’s seem to be either growing, or at least more apparant?

I posted my two cents and the opinions of the experts I interviewed in the artcicle. I’d love you to give the article a quick read and then chime in with your two cents- what you’ve observed- using the articles comments feature.

Your thoughts?

Top 10 Scary Movies I’d Actually Show Teenagers- PART II

Posted on: 10/28/11 10:54 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Yesterday I kicked off the first 5 of my Top 10 List of films that I’d actually feel comfortable showing my teenagers. Yesterday I gave you the first five; today you get five more.

I don’t know what the fascination is with scary films, but they really intrigue this generation. As a kid I really liked scary stories. Scary movies… even better. I remember watching Jaws when I was about 10 and I couldn’t sleep for several nights. My parents vowed to never let me watch scary films again… so I watched them at my friends’ houses!

This generation seems no different. When the top grossing film of the weekend last weekend was Paranormal Activity 3… that tells us something.

So if young people are going to watch scary, it would be nice to at least have some clean options. Here’s the remaining 5 from my Top 10 list.

The Next 5 Scary Movies I’d Actually Show Teenagers

(WARNING: Again, as I mentioned yesterday, please don’t just read the titles below, rent the film and show it at youth group. You will be fired! There are several of these that I would not show at youth group- but I would co-watch with certain teenagers. So read my description and my linked review carefully, then view the film yourself, using your discernment.)

Devil—(Directed by John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle). I’ll start my list off with a dooooozie. Yes, the title of this film is “Devil.” Does that mean it’s inappropriate to watch? Good question. The film opens with the scripture verse, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8” When I first heard about this film, I thought, “No way.” Personally, I don’t like films about demon possession, mediums, etc… because it’s very real! (I shared a little about my view on this here). But after a few friends told me about the film, and once I discovered that it was written by M. Night Shyamalan, I decided to take a peek… and I’m glad I did. The film has little to do with the paranormal, instead it’s more of an Agatha Christie-esque “And Then There Were None” where people are being murdered one at a time and it’s up to you to figure out who is doing it. The writing is amazing, the acting is brilliant, and the film delivers some great jumps. Spooky, thought provoking, and it will keep you on the edge of your chair the whole film!

I Am Legend—(Directed by Francis Lawrence) This is the one “Zombie-esque” film that will actually make it onto this list (although 28-Days Later is an amazing film, but just a little too intense for me to actually recommend for teenagers). Will Smith proves his amazing acting ability in this film, evidencing that he is much more than your proverbial action star. Humankind is almost entirely wiped out, and New York City is seemingly empty except for the zoo animals that run about. But then the sun sets… and it’s a whole different story. Amazing film, clean, suspenseful… and it will even put a lump in your throat a few times.

Psycho—(Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) An amazing film by the master of suspense. The film is tame by today’s standards, but still has some pretty mature themes. This is not a film I’d show to youth group, but one I’d watch with my own teenagers. This 1960 film probably needs no explanation, but if you haven’t seen it in a while, I think you’ll find the dialogue pleasantly surprising and captivating. This film is so much more than the “acclaimed” shower scene, a great mystery overall.

Book of Eli—(Directed by the Hughs brothers) Okay, I admit, this film would not typically be thought of as a scary film, but I’m including it on my list because of its frightening premise. Nothing is scarier than a post-apocalyptic survival situation, and that’s exactly the world that Eli lives in. In this R-rated film you’ll see swords chopping off limbs and some intense survival fight scenes (including an implied rape). Scary stuff… a scary world indeed. In the midst of this world is a man named Eli who is carrying the last copy of the Bible across the country to safety. Some great discussion scenes, including the one where the Eli’s nemesis Carnegie talks about the great power of the Bible, and the scene where Eli finally concludes, “All the years I’ve been carrying it and reading it every day…I got so caught up with keeping it safe I forgot to live by what I learned from it..” (We provided a piece of curriculum with small group questions and scripture using that scene).

The Sixth Sense—(directed by M. Night Shyamalan) This spooky little piece is the film that put M. Night Shyamalan on the map. This film is very creepy—not for those easily frightened. It does raise questions about the dead and where they go after they die. Some people might think that this film deals too much with paranormal activity. If you think that’s a slippery slope, then you shouldn’t watch this. But the film is very well made, very clean, and is made by a director who always seems to be looking for spiritual answers.

What about you? Any films you’d include in this list? Any films that you might have shown teenagers… and regretted it?

Top 10 Scary Movies I’d Actually Show Teenagers

Posted on: 10/27/11 9:34 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Tis the season to be… scary?

First, let me come right out and admit that I’m not against dressing up on the 31st of this month, collecting candy and bobbing for apples. If you’re offended by this stuff, I’m sorry (I’ll try not to eat from my bowl full of Snickers bars in front of you).

Yes, there are a few frustrating things about this holiday, probably the biggest being the incredible shrinking size of young girls’ costumes (as a dad of two teenage daughters that really bugs me). It’s also intriguing to see the curiosity young people have toward things paranormal. But those elements aside, I still think that young people, families and youth ministries can have good clean fun on Halloween. For me personally… I love popping some popcorn and sitting down to a fun, scary movie.

The question is, are there any quality scary movies that don’t include gratuitous shots of naked teenagers getting slashed up at a slumber party? In other words… any appropriate scary movies that we can actually show to teenagers?

Top 5 Scary Movies I’d Actually Show Teenagers
(I’ll list the next 5 tomorrow)

(WARNING: Please don’t just read the titles below, rent the film and show it at youth group. You will be fired! There are several of these that I would not show at youth group- but I would co-watch with certain teenagers. So read my description and my linked review carefully, then view the film yourself, using your discernment.)

Signs— (directed by M. Night Shyamalan) This is one of my favorite films overall, so it’s a cinch to nab a spot on my top 10 scary list. This movie, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix is about a small farming family that wakes up to discover 500 foot crop circles in their backyard. After these crop circles begin appearing all over the globe, the world soon fears invasion from another world. Don’t let the premise mislead you, the film is anything but corny. In fact, it’s quite deep, with some scenes that will springboard some fantastic discussion. We actually provide an entire curriculum with small group discussion questions and a Bible passage on our web site.

Jaws—(directed by Stephen Spielberg)  Another of my film favorites. I always find it funny to see the expression on someone’s face when I tell them it’s one of my favorites. I can tell when it’s someone who either hasn’t seen it, or hasn’t seen it in a couple decades and remembers that phony looking mechanical shark from Universal Studios and the sequels, which pale by comparison. Do not be fooled, the first film is amazing, hardly showing the shark at all. Spielberg probably scared more people with this film than almost any film in history. I think of the film every time I get in the ocean. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you should turn out the lights, turn up the volume so you can hear John Williams Oscar-winning score, and be ready to be pleasantly intrigued. The best scene is without a doubt Quint’s story about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. I still show that scene to illustrate good storytelling in my 10-Minute Talks workshop. I like to show this film to teenagers on what I call a “Dive-in Movie Night” where they all watch the film… in a pool!

The Exorcism of Emily Rose—(directed by Scott Derickson) I debated including this on my list simply because, I wouldn’t show this to all teenagers. So give me a moment to plead my case. First, this is a film directed by a Christian filmmaker who loves to use his films to provoke discussion (Here’s my interview with him about the film). The film is really about a court case that eventually argues, does God exist? The premise, based on a true story, uses the scary events of an exorcism gone wrong to stimulate questions about the afterlife. I wouldn’t show this film to my daughters because it would be too frightening. The film is terrifying. But for those parents and youth workers whose kids are the type that frequent movies like the current Paranormal Activity 3 that just raked in $54 million at the box office last weekend, this film would be perfect. It’s clean, it’s grounded in truth, and asks all the right questions.

Super 8—(directed by JJ Abrams) Maybe it’s because I’m 41-years-old and I remember watching films like Goonies and E.T. in the theatres as a young boy, maybe it’s just because I like good film making… but Super 8 delivered a great story, lovable characters and plenty of jumps in this nostalgic film about a group of friends in 1979 who witness a catastrophic train crash and begin to notice inexplicable events in their small town. Great film, totally clean (except for the language that was pretty realistic for the kids of that time), only PG-13 for the sci-fi action and violence.

Ghost and the Darkness—(directed by Stephen Hopkins) This film (which has nothing to do with ghosts) is based on the chilling true story of two lions in Africa that killed 130 people in a nine month period. In the spirit of Jaws, and Alien, the director cleverly chose to not show the lions for much of the film, instead, just the horror of surprise and the fear of what lurks in the dark. Val Kilmer, Michael Douglas, Tom Wilkinson… not too shabby. This 1996 film delivers all around! (Completely appropriate for teenagers. I’d show this film to youth group kids with no hesitation.)

5 More Tomorrow

What about you? Any scary films you like to show your teenagers? Any films you showed…and then regretted?

A Movie That Provokes Conversation

Posted on: 10/25/11 11:51 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Young people love media. Thus… I love using media as a springboard to conversations about real life issues. Sadly, the grab-bag of appropriate media isn’t very full these days.

Remember the good ol’ days when the good guys on movies and TV actually had “character”? (Okay… I just added that picture for nostalgia… and now that I’m really looking at the picture I’m laughing because the family is watching a bunch of birds. Do those birds have character?) Today, a movie is released on DVD/Blu-ray that is not only fun and entertaining… but it also provokes conversation about “character.” (I even wrote some questions for you to use. More on that in a minute)

Most the media that our kids are absorbing is pretty disturbing. Last weekend the number one movie at the box office was Paranormal Activity, a film about two young girls who befriend an invisible entity. The number one music video downloaded in the last week was Britney Spears’ Criminal (with, count em’, two sex scenes) and the number one song was Sexy and I Know It, only to be passed by Rihanna’s song, We Found Love (whose corresponding racy video just jumped to the number one spot today on iTunes). Sigh.

In the midst of all this distressing media, a morally inspiring story arises out of the dungheap. I’m talking about the film, Captain America. You don’t have to be a comic book geek to like this film. The film has action, humor and heart. It’s a film you won’t regret watching with the whole family (some elements might be a little frightening for really young children), and it’s a film that will springboard great conversations.

I think the element I liked the best was the relationship between the professor and the young man who becomes Captain America. The professor was much more interested in “character” than “physique.” They have several discussions about this truth, discussions that could have flowed right out of scripture.

I wrote some fun discussion questions for you on our review of the film on our MOVIE REVIEWS & QUICK Q’s page. Use those to dialogue with your kids about what you see.

What are you waiting for… grab some popcorn, head to the video store and rent it tonight!  (I sound like an infomercial. Funny… I’m not promo-ing the film for anyone… I’m just excited when films actually show what good ol’ values look like.)

The Hottest Topics- The Top Dozen

Posted on: 10/23/11 7:01 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I always find it interesting to watch what topics interest you, my blog readers. Sometimes I’ll post a blog and I’ll watch the traffic trickle. Other times I’ll post something, obviously a hot topic… and traffic explodes. Such was the case last week with my blog titled, “Dad, Can I Go to the Homecoming Dance?” That blog drew over 10 times my normal traffic.

Here’s a dozen of my blogs that drew a surprisingly large audience in the last year or so:

Dad, Can I Go to the Homecoming Dance?

Should Ashley Download Pumped Up Kicks?

When Sports Becomes God

Pleading Ignorant

They Don’t Know or Don’t Want to Know

Yelling Works… Temporarily

An Inside Look at Bullying

Sexy Little Girls

Are You a “Parent”… or a “Friend”?

Ashley’s Attitude

I’m Too Sexy for my… Costume?

and one of my personal favorites…

“Just Let Em’ Watch TV!”

What about you? What was your favorite topic I hit so far?

What topic do you wish I would address?

What Does the CDC Report Actually Say?

Posted on: 10/20/11 3:29 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I’m just going to think out loud here a little bit about this Youth Culture Window article I’m working on for next week. The topic? This new Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Survey of Family Growth report that claims… uh… what does it claim?

If you’ve picked up the paper in the last week or read any youth ministry or parenting blog, then you’d probably tell me, “Oh, it claims that sexual activity is down and contraception is up.”

That’s what the headlines say. But what does the actual report say?

I know… who has time to read the actual report? Right? Can’t we just trust The Washington Times and everyone else who is chiming in about this?

I’ve talked with you before in detail about being careful to avoid misinformation, instead, reading the actual numbers. Let me give you a sneak peak at what this brand new CDC report actually summarizes: (and I quote)

“Levels of sexual experience and contraceptive use have not changed significantly from 2002.”

I’m going to give you a homework assignment. (I’m sure you’ll do it.) I want you to look at two reports in the next four days before my Youth Culture Window article comes out. Don’t read any headlines, or blogs… but read this actual data:

1. The CDC does a national Youth Risk Behavior survey every two years tracking risk behaviors that teenagers engage in. Take a moment and look at this two page summary from the CDC that shows how those behaviors have changed from 1991 to 2009. Fascinating stuff (and a lot of good news).

2. Now take a look at the new new CDC National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) report that just came out and read their conclusions/summary. And if you really want to see something interesting, read the section in the “Introduction” about where they collected the pre-2002 data for males. Intriguing stuff.

If you do read that… then look at this chart on that NSFG report:

Just look at that chart for a second and let me ask you: Do any two columns stick out as akwardly/drastically different than the rest of the chart?  Now let me ask you. Would you find it peculiar, or is it just a coincidence, that the male 1988 and 1995 columns (the only two outrageously different columns) were the only two columns collected by a totally different survey, asking different kids?


Don’t worry. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I think that sexual activity is down… but two important facts:

1. I don’t think it’s new news.

2. I’m a little skeptical of the 1988 and 1995 male columns above.

Next week in the article I’ll share how both the CDC and myself don’t note any change with statistical significance since 2002. Better yet, I’m going to provide you with what myself and others (Melissa Nesdahl who speaks and writes with Pam Stenzel, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy ) theorize about:

1. Why the decline in teen sexual activity? (Because that is good news worth repeating)

2. How can we continue to help teens succeed?

More on this next week on our Youth Culture Window page.

Dad, Can I Go to the Homecoming Dance?

Posted on: 10/18/11 4:12 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I have two daughters. And in the last month each of them asked me the same question. “Dad, can I go to the homecoming dance?”

To one of them I answered, “Yes,” and to the other one I answered, “No.”

(WARNING: The following blog might offend some of you. The subject matter I’m talking about is pretty vile, and I’ve chosen to go ahead and just say it like it is. If you’re offended… GOOD. You should be. Because this is the crude reality most of our kids are facing right now, and parents need to open their eyes to it.)

This is always a difficult situation for Christian parents today. Sure, most parents don’t even think twice about giving permission to a homecoming dance. It’s an automatic, “Yes.” I mean… let’s be honest. The world would probably label me a religious wacko for even considering not letting my daughter participate in this American right of passage—the homecoming dance.

Allow me to retort. 98% of the world has no idea what their daughters are doing at a homecoming dance.

I’ve observed it first hand, and I’ve asked kids around the country. The report is always the same. Parents have no idea what’s going on in the darkened gymnasiums of school dances.

This past weekend when I was in New York doing my Parenting the Texting Generation seminar, it was homecoming weekend for the high school students at the church I spoke at. Parents kept asking me, “Should I have let my kids go to the homecoming dance?” I asked them, “Have you ever offered to chaperone one of those dances?” Apparently in this particular Buffalo district they don’t allow parents. Only faculty. Hmmmmm.

A New York PTA mom drew glances from everyone at the last meeting when she spoke out against the homecoming dance. Someone had mentioned some concerns, and this particular mom, whose husband was a teacher and had chaperoned multiple dances, voiced, “Well you should be concerned. If parents of this school saw what was happening at the school dances, they wouldn’t let their kids attend!”

“Is this true?” Everyone bellowed?

I talked with a high school senior who went to a Grand Island, NY Homecoming dance last Saturday night. I told him, “I have just one question. How many of the guys were actually facing their dates, instead of grinding them from behind?”

He laughed and quickly replied, “I see you’ve been to one of these dances.” Then he thought for a second. “I think about 10 percent of the room was dancing actually facing each other.”

I clarified. “So you’re saying that 90 percent of the guys were crotch-to-butt with their dates?”

“Yeah.” He chuckled. “If you were facing your date, you were in the small minority.”

I won’t rehash the entire article, “In the Dark,” the Youth Culture Window article I wrote last year after chaperoning a local high school dance (many of you read about that experience in my parenting book), but here are a few of the sobering discoveries I observed first hand that my readers across the country have assured me is true in their community:

  1. The majority of girls don’t even stand face-to-face with their dates; they just “back it up” to the guy groping them from behind. I’ve been continuing to ask people across the country what percentage of the room is face to face. The answers have been anywhere from 10% to 50%. Always the minority.
  2. The music is anything but clean. Yes, the DJ played the “clean versions,” but you’ll discover these songs to be anything but clean. This year (from my conversations with kids so far) those “clean songs” being played are songs like Sexy and I Know It, and Last Friday Night, songs void of curse words, but packing a message that will make you wish the song just said “shit.” (Wow… I can’t believe I just typed that.)
  3. Girls’ dresses are getting shorter and becoming more revealing overall. At the dance I chaperoned, my wife and I literally had to keep asking girls to pull the bottoms of the dresses down, because as soon as their dress would hike up an inch or two, you could see their underwear. Often, the guys’ hands were on the girls’ thighs helping hike up the dresses.

So when17-year-old Trevor asked me permission to take my daughter Alyssa to Homecoming this year, I had to stop and think. Part of me thought, “What dad would pimp out his daughter to a place where this kind of activity was happening?” But the other part of me remembers Alyssa’s experience last year when I allowed her to go for the first time. She observed all that I detailed above, but she and five other church friends hung out together all evening for dinner and dancing on the outskirts of the dance floor in their own group. For her the evening was a fun Cinderella moment of dressing up and having fun with good friends.

So what are we as parents to do when our kids ask us the question, “Dad, can I go to Homecoming?”

Four Variables to Consider

1. Who’s your kid going to be hanging out with for the evening?
This is by far the most important question to ask. Not just their date, but who else will be in their group? For me, I see this dance as a pretty racy atmosphere. I hate it, to be quite honest. It’s a rite of passage that has evolved into “Mardi Gras” in school gymnasiums across the country. But if my daughter can go there surrounded by a circle of good Christian friends, then I’d consider letting her have her Cinderella moment in the safety of good company.

And realize that when I say “Christian” friends, many might think, I’ve heard that before. But I’m not just using the term Christian as that proverbial American label. I realize many who use that term, don’t look like Christ. But I mean, “Christ following friends.” Trevor is a student leader at our church from a family that is some of our best friends. Our families have gone on trips together… we know Trevor! Trevor’s favorite movie is Toy Story. He’s probably going on two mission trips this year. He’s a nice kid with a heart for Christ (he’s way better than I was when I was his age). The other couples they are going with are sharp kids as well. I couldn’t choose better friends for Alyssa. The group will be safe.

Last year at the dance they went to, Alyssa told me that about 75% of the room was doing that “grinding” thing. She said that one guy even came up to Natalie, one of her friends in their group, and grinded up behind her. Natalie turned around giving him a hard look, and the guy backed off with a look like, “What’s your problem!” I told Alyssa that if a guy pressed any body part against her, to be sure and knee him really hard in said body part.

2. Has your kid been demonstrating the wisdom and Biblical discernment that warrants your trust in this kind of atmosphere?
Are they ready to go into this situation that is going to be over-sexualized and, for many of our teenagers, distractingly tempting?

If you have a son that wants to go to one of these dances, ask yourself, “Is Zach ready to be in an atmosphere where cleavage is abundant, legs go all the way up, raunchy music is playing, and where he is in the minority if his body isn’t pressed up against his date with his hands on her thighs all night?”

That’s a lot to consider as a parent.

And I promise you, our girls don’t realize how tempting this situation is for guys. Most girls have no idea how sexually driven males are. Dads need to do a better job talking with their daughters about the way guys think.

Parents need to help kids not set themselves up for failure. Perhaps we need to start providing a night of dinner and ballroom dancing for our kids instead? How about swing dancing? How about anything where our kids aren’t encouraged to dry-hump to rap music all night! (There I go again.)

3. What is your daughter going to be wearing?
I say daughter, because parents of boys don’t have to worry in this area. Parents of boys, instead, have to worry about what their sons’ date will be wearing, something we have little control of, other than making a good choice with variable #1 above.

Parents of girls, I implore you. Please don’t sell out. These are our daughters!

I am constantly amazed at the dresses that parents let their daughters leave the house in. Do they not know? Or are they simply doing the Billy Ray Cyrus, “It’s what people her age do.”

Sadly, parents will have a difficult time finding dresses for our daughters that don’t make them look like streetwalkers. I’m not exaggerating. I shop with my girls all the time. It’s hard to find dresses that actually cover them up. Today, I’m happy to settle for a dress that covers halfway down the thigh, instead of the many dresses that barely cover up undies.

Personally, I want to dress up my daughters like a nun. Trevor can see her face all night; what else does he need to see!

4. Where are they going afterwards?
Funny… I can’t believe I even need to write this point. But parents continue to astonish me. I hear of Christian parents that get their kids and their friends a hotel room so, “They wouldn’t be out on the town with all the drunk drivers?” Yes, they’ll be safe from drunk drivers, but do you know what happens when a bunch of kids get into a hotel room?

I’m also surprised when Christian parents bypass my advice in variable #1 above and allow their kids to hang out with unbelievers all night. I don’t want to rehash this point, but on a night like this where temptations are abundant, don’t surround your kids with predators.

I can hear it now. “But Chris and Jordon are great kids. Sure, they don’t go to church, but they are really nice and come from nice families.”

I’ve seen it a million times. Chris and Jordon might be nice kids. They might not have got drunk, “went streaking in the park, skinny dipping in the dark, then had a ménage a trios…” but I assure you they are going to be listening to a song about all of those things while they’re rounding the bases with your daughter.

It’s this simple: the world has different values. Don’t expect the world to uphold Christian principles. Tell your kids to be home at midnight. If they want to spend the night somewhere (red flag), make sure it’s with a family who not only upholds your same Christian principles, but that it’s a place where the parents aren’t asleep at midnight while their Christian kids are playing strip poker in the spa listening to Lil Wayne. (Do you think I just made that up?)

At the beginning of this blog I told you that I told one of my daughters, “No.” Ashley wasn’t even asked yet; she was just putting out feelers as to if she could go with a bunch of friends from her cross-country team. Good kids, nice parents. It was actually a consideration. But even though Ashley is showing really good wisdom and discernment (variable #2 above), she wasn’t going to have a group of solid Christian friends surrounding her for the evening (variable #1).

Sorry… not my 14-year-old.

It’s not easy saying no, but hey… it’s not easy being a parent. It’s a constant balance of, “Am I too lenient or too strict?” On Homecoming night… float toward the latter.


Setting the Bar

Posted on: 10/16/11 10:05 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Am I being too strict?

Am I being too lenient?

Both those questions came within minutes of each other after my Parenting the Texting Generation workshop this weekend in New York. Today’s parents seem to struggle finding a balance between being to hard and too soft on their kids. Most parents know that they need to “set the bar” somewhere, but the world’s bar is barely above sea level… and that’s making our job as parents very difficult today.

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to tell your 16-year-old girl she can’t go to the homecoming dance when every other girl from church (including the homeschooled kid) is going. On the other hand, how do you send your little girl to a dance where you know about 80% of the girls in the room aren’t even face-to-face with their dates… they’re “backing it up” to the guy groping them from behind while listening to the “clean version” of Sexy and I Know It.

How should parents go about setting biblical standards without pushing their kids over the edge?

In my conversations with parents tonight I found myself saying the same advice again and again, so I thought it might be good to put some of these broad principles in print.

Here’s a few principles parents should remember when setting guidelines:

  1. Relationship first. All the rest of the principles below are assuming that you’re already hanging out with your kids, listening to your kids, and engaging in activities with your kids that catalyst conversation. If your daughter likes yogurt, do “fro-yo” runs once a week with her and just listen to her heart. If your son likes french fries and pancakes (at the same time), frequent your local greasy spoon and listen to him as you both load up with senseless carbs. The “where” isn’t important. Just connect with your kids regularly so they feel loved, noticed and heard. That being said…
  2. Parents are in charge– teens aren’t (despite what the Disney Channel tells us). Yes, this generation seems to declare entitlement even more than past generations, but in most cases, parents still pay the cell phone bills, provide food and shelter (I listed those in order of priority for teenagers today)… so feel free to take away cell phones, cars, and revoke other privileges if your teenager doesn’t obey. Let me say it even more clear: a cell phone is a privilege, not a right. If your son or daughter is violating your trust, take away their cell phone. They’d prefer that you deny them water.
  3. Always clearly communicate your standards and the resulting punishment that you’ll enforce if said standards aren’t met. Sound simple? It should be; but sadly, most parents don’t do this. Just lay it out. Tell Jordon, “If you download another song without permission, I’ll take away your iPod and computer privileges for a month.” Or, “If you text after bedtime, you lose your phone for a month.”
  4. Take the time to follow up with the standards you set. If you say, “no cell phones after bedtime,” (a good standard) jump online to your cell phone provider’s web site randomly and check to see that no texts were sent during that time. If you tell your kids that you can read their Facebook account at any time (another good standard), then log on randomly and read through their posts, messages and various friends’ pages. You can learn a lot. Don’t set a standard if you don’t plan on following up with it.
  5. Follow thru with your clearly communicated punishment “with love.” It’s actually possible to enforce punishment without yelling. This is the same kid that you spend time with regularly (see #1 above). Don’t let their violation of rules stifle your time together. They should clearly see that nothing they do could separate them from your love and desire to listen to them.

These are just a few broad strokes to consider. They’ve helped me; they might help you.

I spend an entire chapter of my book, Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent talking about discipline and follow-through.

Teenagers Looking for Ministry?

Posted on: 10/13/11 10:10 AM | by Jonathan McKee

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the front row of a church waiting to speak, and after hearing a few announcements about the numerous ministries the church was actively doing in the community I turned to the pastor sitting next to me and said, “Wow, this church is really making a ‘hands-on’ impact in the community.”

The pastor pointed up on stage and said, “See that bass player? He’s a doctor and has three residents. Every month he takes his residents with him and they go to a homeless area of our city and just start helping people one at a time. No facility, no clinic… he just walks up to a homeless person, introduces himself as a doctor who would like to help and then asks if he can check their ears, their feet, etc. Often he’ll find an infection of some sort and he’ll send one of his residents right then to go fill a prescription and bring it back to the person within the hour.”

The whole church is involved in ministries like this, and the teenagers notice.

What do the teenagers in your community see from the church? Are they learning to serve and love the community like Christ himself demonstrated? Or do they only see that from Lady Gaga?

You see, this young generation is a very “cause” oriented generation. They are looking for ways to make a difference. The question is… who do they see really making an impact? Earlier this year I shared with you how Lady Gaga was named the #1 key influencer to young people, known for compassion, raising millions for Japan and being a spokesperson for numerous causes. Since then, Forbes even named her #1 most powerful celebrity women, beating out Oprah.

Do your teenagers see more compassion and service out of Gaga than the church? Are believer seeking to get their hands dirty and serve like Christ modeled?

Are you creating opportunities for ministry by teenagers?

This Friday my church opens up its gym to anyone needy in the community—something they call “Second Fridays.” It’s this simple. They feed a meal to anyone who is hungry.

Every second Friday hundreds show up for these “Second Friday” meals. Justin, a 17-year-old in my church shows up every week to serve food and just hang out with the needy people there. “I just love hanging out with them.” Justin told me. “They’re real people with real stories. I can talk with them for hours.”

Justin’s first taste of this ministry was years ago, going with his family and serving back in the kitchen. As Justin became a steady and dedicated volunteer, he began to get to know some of the needy people that returned each month. Now Justin’s job is to interact with the people.

Second Fridays opens the doors to tons of other ministry opportunities. They church gives away coats and clothing, they also have people there that provide haircuts and other needs.

Are you developing Justins in your church?

What are some of the ways people in your church serve and love others?

(Jonathan talks more about creating opportunities for teenagers to do ministry in his powerful book, MINISTRY BY TEENAGERS)

They Like It… so Let Them Do It!

Posted on: 10/11/11 12:16 PM | by Jonathan McKee

In the last few weeks we’ve had a lot of dialogue in this blog about the media teenagers are regularly digesting, anything from mainstream racy music videos to top songs with questionable content. It’s been interesting to see some of the comments in these discussions. Some are of the opinion that parents should simply let kids do what they want.

Sadly, I think that opinion might be a little more popular than we realize.

Last month if you popped on Yahoo’s front page, you might have seen an article titled, “My Toddler has a TV in his Room and I’m Not Sorry.” In this dogmatic article, the author asserts her reasoning from the getgo:

I make no apology for the fact that my toddler has a TV in his room for one very simple reason:

Kids love TV and parents love that kids love TV.

I mean, I know I do.

Well… there you have it. Case closed. I mean, after all, kids love TV and so do we.

I can’t wait until her toddler grows into a teenager. Teenagers love sex, and so do we. So they should have it in their room, right? (believe me, some believe that they should) And some teenagers love inhalants. So we should probably let them sniff these wonderfully addictive drugs, right?

Okay, maybe I’m pushing the envelope. But can I just please ask for a little more reasoning than “They like it!”

What do the experts say?

Interestingly enough, most the experts do chime in on the subject of media in bedrooms. For example: last year the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a study titled, “Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media.” This report recommended that parents “keep their children’s bedroom free of TVs and internet connections.”

The Kaiser Foundation did some sobering research on the subject as well in their M2 report last year. Here’s just a snippet of our article summarizing the findings from that report:

Part of the reason kids are watching more television these days is also due to the fact that 71% of them have a TV in their bedroom (and 49% of them have cable or satellite access there, too). KFF’s study clearly showed that kids who have TVs in their bedrooms watched an hour more of programming each day than kids who did not have a TV in their rooms.

The effects of extended TV watching are well-documented: it plays a role in kids starting sex earlier. In fact, multiple studies have observed this disturbing trend.

But, according to KFF’s report, less than half of kids’ parents (46%) have rules about what sort of television content they can watch. And a mere 28% of kids’ parents have rules about how much time can be spent watching TV.

It’s pretty clear– parents who actually create media guidelines for their kids are in the minority. Sadly… many parents would rather not know what their kids are watching. Out of sight, out of mind.

So who do you believe? Mrs. I Love TV… or a large group of respected pediatricians that are concerned with the choices young people are making today?

The AAP report mentioned above has some positive news for parents who choose to listen:

  • Teenagers whose parents control their TV-viewing habits are less sexually experienced
  • Adolescents whose parents limit their TV-viewing are less likely to engage in early sex.

(I go into greater detail in my blog about that report.)

So what about you? What media guidelines do you think should be put into place in homes today?