A Glimpse Into What Teens Watch

Posted on: 08/3/10 5:37 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Three times a year… yes, only three times a year, I tell you to set your DVRs to record an award show watched by teens. One of those is coming next Monday night on Fox: The Teen Choice Awards.

I always tell parents to put their kids to bed and turn on The Teen Choice Awards. This show is always a revealing look into our youth culture, giving adults a peek at many of the teen idols their kids listen to, watch and talk about. It’s healthy for adults to be in “the know” about these things.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking you to start listening to Katy Perry every day or watching Jersey Shore. This one glimpse will tell you plenty. Take last year for instance– Miley’s little pole dance, and Britney’s “Ultimate Choice” award. Click here for my entire synopsis of that event.

This year I wouldn’t expect much less with Katy Perry as a host and performing. We all saw what her performance brought at the MTV Video Music Awards.

So set your DVRS to Fox on Monday night.

The Sexualization of Young Girls

Posted on: 07/28/10 10:37 AM | by Jonathan McKee

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.

Bottom line: Kids are saturating themselves in sexualized media, they don’t understand the consequences, and they’re paying for it big time. All this while parents watch from the sidelines.

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.

Stay Engaged
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.

“Just Let Em’ Watch TV!”

Posted on: 07/19/10 4:31 PM | by Jonathan McKee

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!

Here little girl… look at this celeb named Miley. Or this one named Britney. Sorry, we can’t show you pics of Lindsey right now… she’s fresh out of rehab and back in jail.

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)

You Might Be a Narcissist If…

Posted on: 07/11/10 9:59 PM | by Jonathan McKee

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.

I have 10 copies of the book I’ll give away. See below. But first check out a glimpse of her article:

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.)


Reviewing the New Twilight Film

Posted on: 07/1/10 2:46 PM | by Jonathan McKee

I went to a movie with my wife on Tuesday night– date night. As we arrived to the movie theatre just before 8PM, we saw a long stream of females lined up along the walls of the theatres… Twilight fans, all waiting for the midnight showing of Twilight’s newest film, Eclipse.

On the way to our theatre (we were going to see The A-Team), we walked passed literally hundreds of these fans sitting in roped off areas, in eager anticipation of the film over four hours away. Not a male in sight! Mostly teenagers, some tweens, and about one in 5 seemed to be moms. Interesting group. I’ve never seen more Twilight t-shirts, tattoos, posters, and yes, even shrines! (Several groups had commandeered a bench and set up a shrine-of-sorts to Patrick and Taylor. Wow. Even Star Wars fans were saying, “These people are freaking weird!”)

A few days ago in my blog discussing the content we can expect in the next few Twilight films, I promised you a review of this new film from our movie reviewer Todd Pearage. Todd (my hero) braved the crowds of Twilight women on opening day to bring you our official review of the film.

Here’s just a snippet of that review:

The biggest problem I have with the movie continues to be the characters and the choices they make. Edward is so “in love” (aka obsessed) with Bella that he seems unable to make any rational decision outside of their relationship. Likewise, Jacob, who is still in love with Bella, refuses to accept the reality that she will never feel that same way towards him even though she has told him many times.  Then there is Bella.  She is willing to sacrifice everything, including her family, her dreams and even her soul, to be with Edward (i.e. become a vampire). It’s the same old thing that we saw in the second film, New Moon (Jonathan and I talked in great detail about these elements in our 2009 annual movie review podcast).

He goes on to say:

Jonathan and I have been discussing this since the first Twilight film. Realistically nothing has changed. I think Jonathan and David’s Youth Culture Window article, “I’m in Love with a Vampire summed up our feelings about the movie then, and ring true for the entire series still. The characters are far from role models. As parents and youth leaders we need to be equipped and ready to discuss these issues with our students.

Todd said it well. Let’s keep dialoguing with our kids about these issues we see popping up in youth culture.

In addition, here’s a great free resource that one of my blog readers Amy linked a few days ago– a great discussion guide you can use with the film.

California Gurls Hottest Song in 17 Years

Posted on: 06/28/10 4:11 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Katy Perry’s #1 song California Gurls just broke a 17-year record for the most plays in one week.

So what is this song about and how do we talk to our kids about its message? Glad you asked.

If you haven’t heard Katy Perry’s song California Gurls featuring Snoop Dog, then maybe you haven’t been outside your house. 🙂 Because if you’ve walked into a Wal Mart, a Target, a Best Buy, or taken your kids to swim practice… anywhere where they’re playing secular music… then you’ve heard the song.

Billboard reports:

A week after reaching the chart’s summit, Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” featuring Snoop Dogg, rewrites the mark for most weekly plays in the 17-year history of Billboard’s Pop Songs radio airplay chart.

“California Gurls” logged 11,816 plays among the survey’s 132 panelists, an average of 90 plays per station, in the chart’s tracking week of June 21-27, according to Nielsen BDS. The song passes the 11,224 plays tallied by previous record-holder Ke$ha’s “TiK ToK” on the chart dated Feb. 6, 2010.

What is this song about? Watch the music video (with her lying naked face down in a cloud) and you’ll easily discover what Katy Perry’s intention is– I talked about that a little in this blog last week. But one of our ministry’s writers Dave Urbanski goes a little deeper with a brand new piece of curriculum he wrote using this catchy little song to jumpstart a discussion about where we get fulfillment. In this discussion piece, Dave provokes teenagers to ask the sincere question: To what extent have we considered the message this very, very catchy and supremely popular tune is communicating?

I encourage you to take a peek at that free resource for a great discussion, including scripture and discussion questions.

TV isn’t Dead, but Growing

Posted on: 06/18/10 2:21 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Time Warner Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes claims, “TV is not only not dead, but it’s one of the fastest growing businesses. Ratings, time spent and viewership are all up.”

Two weekends ago I taught my Connect Workshop to a group of youth leaders from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. In that workshop I started with a youth culture quiz. Two weeks prior I started my parent seminar with the same quiz. In both those groups… they almost all missed this question:

What activity is more popular with teenagers age 12-17?

A. Watching TV

B. Internet Use

Everyone always guesses B.

The answer is A… by a landslide.

The results are clear across the board- all agree that TV dominates the media time of young people (and adults too, actually). Kaiser reports that 8-18 year olds average 4 hours and 29 minutes of television programming each and every day (an increase of 40 minutes per day since the last report 5 years ago). And Nielson reports about 3 hours and 46 minutes daily on traditional TV alone (not internet TV, mobile TV, no DVRs, etc.). for 12-17-year-olds.

Time-Warner’s Jeff Bewkes says “Digital is good for TV,” in this report from Nielson this week, contrary to conjecture that internet or mobile devices are slowly replacing TV.

The sad fact is… TV content is just getting worse and worse. As I shared last week in my article about the sexually charged MTV Movie Awards, MTV has put themselves in a bind. Each year they try to trump the previous year, and the easiest way to do that is to push the limits even further. It’s difficult to even imagine the show 10 years from today.”

Who Wants to Be Skanky?

Posted on: 05/16/10 9:20 PM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s like a new game show. “Who Wants to the Be the Most Skanky!” And the winner… Christina Aguilera, by a landslide with her new #1 video, Not Myself Tonight.

The competition for trampiness has been tight lately.

And that’s just in the last week. How do you top that?

Well… leave it to Christina; and I guess her plan worked, because this weekend her insanely sexualized Not Myself Tonight video hit the #1 spot for downloaded videos on iTunes.

Sex sells…. indeed.

Here’s a glimpse of the lyrics of this song:

I’m dancing a lot and I’m taking shots
and I’m feeling fine I’m kissing all the boys and the girls
Someone call the doctor cause I lost my mind…

Cause I’m doing things that I normally won’t do
The old me is gone, I feel brand new
And if you don’t like it, f*** you

(how interesting that she quoted II Corinthians 5:17)   🙂

I thought about showing you a screenshot from the video… but in all honesty, it was hard to find one that I felt like I could even post. If she’s not half naked, then she’s licking the tongue of another girl or being groped by her male dancers. This shot is about the cleanest glimpse I can give you.

Isn’t it comforting to see that our kids can just click the “preview” button and see all this?

Billy Ray says, “It’s what people her age do.”

Posted on: 05/14/10 11:28 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Hey parents… don’t worry if your 16-year-old girls are literally “grinding” with men on the dance floor, “It’s what people her age do.”

Whew! That’s a relief. And I thought I should be worried! It’s so nice to know that this is just normal.

With Miley, the news just gets worse and worse. May 12th, TMZ posted this video footage of Miley grinding on the dance floor last summer with the director of her most recent film, The Last Song. Wow! And I thought her new music video was bad! Miley never ceases to shock me.

Sadly, if you’ve ever been to a school dance, you see this all the time. But it’s still hard to watch the camera close up on Miley’s posterior as her director literally grinds his crotch against her. When you watch it, you can’t help but ask, Is this really what parents think they should just let “people her age do?”

This week my Youth Culture Window article focuses on many of Miley’s recent decisions, especially her brand new racy music video. This new “grinding” video just confirms what was said in that article. But the sad fact is her father’s response to this video of her grinding. “It’s what people her age do.”

The timing of Billy’s statement is hilarious. I’m in the airport right now heading to NJ to teach a parenting workshop to help parents raise their kids with Biblical values in this highly sexualized culture. I’m going to assure them, “You’re the parent. You don’t have to sell out to this!” You bet we’ll be talking about this incident.


TV Viewing Delays Development

Posted on: 05/11/10 12:21 PM | by Jonathan McKee

TV watching has been quite the buzz lately, especially since both Nielson and Kaiser have recently confirmed that TV watching is by far the largest consumed media across all age groups.

Now a Canadian study has found that too much television for young children is bad for your child’s health and brain development. (Surprise, surprise!) This isn’t the first study we’ve seen talking about how too much media could hurt kids’ health.

It’s funny… at the last parent workshop I taught, I asked the parents attending which entertainment media source the average kid spent the most time in front of. Most parents voted “internet” or “music.” It’s a common misconception. Believe it or not, TV still reigns (you can look at my blog about Nielson’s results here or our article about Kaiser’s study here). Even with the increase in online downloading of shows, normal “traditional” TV watching wins.

So it’s no surprise when this Canadian study discovered not only that kids were watching too much TV, but it affected their social skills, math skills and even their heath!

Here’s a snippet about the study from the Montreal Gazette:

The parents of 1,314 children were asked how much time their little ones spent in front of the box at 29 months and again at 58 months. When the children were 10, researchers used academic records, interviews with Grade 4 teachers and body mass index measurements, weighted against factors such as temperament, family makeup and how far their mother went in school to tease out a portrait of how TV watching as a toddler shaped a child’s ability to focus, process complex information and think logically.

“We found every additional hour of TV exposure among toddlers corresponded to a future decrease in classroom engagement and success at math, increased victimization by classmates . . . a more sedentary lifestyle, higher consumption of junk food and, ultimately, higher body mass index,”

That’s a no-brainer.

Hey… I’ve got an idea: monitor your kids’ TV watching! (Brilliant, huh?)