Why Do Kids Feel So Entitled?

Most people agree that there has never been a generation quite like this current one of teenagers and young adults. More than ever this generation is more in touch with individualism, which is just a nice way of saying they are extremely self-centered.  Sociologists have deemed this group of young people the Me-Generation describing them as confident, assertive, entitled and narcissistic.

Over the last one hundred years there has been subtle shifts in the widely held philosophy of parents to raising their children. Simply put each generation has had a different approach to raising their children based on what they wanted for their children thus determining how they reared them. These descriptions are sweeping generalizations that I believe are indicative of the shifts in our society and culture.

WWI, WWII, and Depression Era (1900-1940s)

This generation didn’t have much growing up. Survival of the family unit depended on everyone playing their part. Discipline was very authoritative and you didn’t question it. It is also important to note that the adolescent stage of human development had just begun to be recognized by sociologists and was considered to last approximately 18 months from the age of 14 and a half to sixteen. With the industrial age in high gear this generation ended up being able to do more than just survive they began to succeed.

Civil Rights And Free Love Era (1950s to 1970s)

The previous generation was expected to listen to and respect those in authority without questioning it and play their role in order to survive. They survived World Wars a depression and had come out on the other side successful. The American Dream took flight as more and more people were becoming the first person in their family to attend and graduate from college. Instead of parenting with unquestioned authority they wanted their children to learn to make good choices that would lead to them being successful by emphasizing the consequences good and bad that came with choices made. They were able to provide for their kids more than just the necessities of life that their parents often struggled to provide. Now they wanted to give their kids the things they never had.

Excess Era (1980s to 1990s)

This generation of parents had gotten things and opportunities that their parents never had. They also had questioned the prevailing standards of the day in the Civil Rights Movement, and the prevailing wisdom and morality with the Free Love Movement. They felt limited and constrained by society that had all kinds of expectations on them. This is the first generation that started to do and try things in that were once not thought wise or prudent in the name of self-discovery. Nothing was held back. They raised their kids in a similar fashion where few things were held back and the self was emphasized. They wanted their kids to have everything they didn’t have or had to fight to get.

Post-Modern Era (2000s to Present)

This generation of parents had gotten everything and they still weren’t happy. They had more opportunities and more things than their parents or grandparents, and they still weren’t fulfilled and satisfied. Authority had gone from being absolute, to being questioned, to being relative. They just wanted their kids to be happy. Right and wrong are no longer about what was best for the survival of the community and family unit. Right and wrong were no longer about what the consequences of the choices that were made. Right and wrong were now about what made you as an individual happy, and didn’t offend or harm others in the process. Self discovery has never been an issue with this generation as they have an innate sense of self that enables them to be a little more direct about what they do and do not like, and will or will not do.

Summary

Long story short in a hundred years we have gone from a parenting style that was dominated by absolute unquestioned authority, where survival was of the utmost, to a parenting style that can be characterized by parents trying to make sure their kid(s) happy. A better life a hundred years ago was largely about being hard working, dependable, and responsible. The better life narrative today is about living life to the fullest moment by moment, which is characterized by the slogan YOLO, you only live once.  A hundred years ago, even thirty years ago young adults knew they would have to work hard to get ahead and be successful. Even the way products were marketed played heavily on the “you deserve this because you’ve worked hard and become successful” line of thought. Today marketers just tell us you deserve whatever it is without telling you why.  And yet the pressure on kids to perform and excel at everything is higher than ever, because elements of hard work, achievement, and success have still been passed along from generation to generation. Or could it be that the happiness of the parents is now wrapped up in the achievements and exploits of their children. Therefore not only do parents want their kids to be happy but also their own happiness is contingent on the happiness and achievements of their children.

When I talked about this in the past it has been with my team of small group leaders in order to think through how we relate to students as adult mentors in Christian living, and yet assert our authority at the same time so they don’t walk all over us. Some kids respect our authority better than others. Some of us had an easier time asserting our authority than others when kids acted out of line. My guess has been that how we were raised and how they are being raised has a lot to do with it.

More recently I have used it as a way of explaining to parents why I suspect that kids seem to be more entitled than ever. There is a number of books on the subject and many of them talk about the transitions and shifts over the last one hundred years in how kids are being reared, and what has been the active objective of parents; survival, have more, have everything, or happiness. Of course we can’t overlook the role of marketing and advertising and how they sell products. Today more often than not we are told that we deserve these things even though they never tell us why or what we did to deserve it. Maybe that is because the American Dream is less about success and achievement today and more about the pursuit of happiness. Just a hunch.

Food For Thought: Trending Amongst Young Girls… Running & Track Shorts

“In the ten plus years I’ve worked at the food kitchen the groups who come with girls the most inappropriately dressed are white girls with church groups.” That is what two men, independent of one another, told me at the food kitchen in Baltimore last week during our mission trip. I was informed that most food kitchens in the city wouldn’t have even allowed our girls to come in and serve dressed in the attire they were wearing. The attire in question was their shorts. This conversation was had after I was asked to go and discretely get two of our ladies away from a gentleman, though appearing harmless in his wheel-chair, was a registered sex offender. “They are here to serve and should not be displaying that much skin”.

Sure enough, the next day our group of students who were about to leave for the soup kitchen was an all girl group. Every single one of the girls had on a pair of the running shorts. I instructed them to go upstairs and put on a longer pair of shorts or pants due to the feedback I was given yesterday. I received a little push back when I suggested that if they didn’t have a longer pair of shorts they could borrow some from the guys. That is when I told them the rest of what the men who work at the shelter told me, “They need to realize that for many of the men who are coming in here off the street their response and what is going through their head would be no different than if we were to walk those girls through a prison wearing those shorts.” I got no further argument and they immediately went upstairs and changed into something a little more appropriate.

I’m not about to start cracking down on the girls for wearing the running shorts (unless I noticed they’ve rolled up the waistband to make them even shorter). This got me to thinking. Take what I’m going to say, and do with it what you will. Consider it food for thought.

  1. When these girls are home they aren’t in environments where they are going to be around a lot of men, and boys whose response to them is going to be similar to walking them through a men’s correctional facility or prison. However, when considering how rampant pornography has become amongst adult men and adolescent boys the chasm is probably not that wide.
  2. That being said, and as mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t think that women should be made to feel totally responsible for making sure that the men they come across maintain a pure thought life. We don’t want to send a message to young women that if a man makes unwanted sexual advances or worse that they somehow asked for it.
  3. I definitely think that there is a time and a place for short track or running shorts, but all the time? However, the track shorts are longer than many of the shorts that are featured in retail stores with about an inch of fabric beneath the crotch inseam.
  4. Though longer than shorts yoga pants worn with a shirt that doesn’t cover up the rear end is displaying… a lot. One men’s magazine had a little blurb a few months ago about how great it has been for men, but don’t tell the women cause it will “ruin it for the rest of us.”
  5. Shorts of a modest length and still flattering are available without having to special order them or go to great lengths to find them.

We could go back and forth all day about modesty. Having spent a good number of years in retail I am all for women looking good and feeling confident. The difficulty is do you ignore people’s perception of you, fair or not, in the name of looking cute and being “in style”? The best example I can give from my own life was the decision I made to cut my hair and no longer sport corn rows going into my last year of college; knowing that I was going to be interviewing for jobs, and wanted to look professional. I didn’t think it was fair (still don’t) that in many circles, in particular those I would be applying for jobs, where cornrows would likely be viewed as a negative. However, getting a good job out of college was more important to me than keeping my hair-style, nor was my identity wrapped up in it. Granted I wonder if I would have made the same decision if I had known that I was going to be balding in a few short years afterwards.

Should Girls Be Held Responsible For Boys Lusting?: And Other Thoughts on Modesty (2nd Edition)

Yesterday evening I got into a discussion with some of my female volunteers about modesty. Of course whenever there is a discussion about modesty as it pertains to teenagers its usually a conversation about the way girls dress and how boys respond to the female figure. This particular discussion came up because some of the girls had understood our policy against the girls wearing two pieces to trips and retreats as being primarily an issue of not wanting them to cause the boys to have lustful thoughts. For clarification sake I’ve maintained this particular part of our dress code in the youth ministry as being a modesty issue. It begins and ends with modesty. With that in mind here are some thoughts when it comes to the issue of modesty.

Leggings Show More Than Just Your Legs
Could someone please explain to me why we make such a big deal about short shorts and skirts on girls, but then no one seems to have a problem with all the women, particularly adult women, walking around in the very trendy tight pants? I’m not talking about skinny jeans, even though that is a modesty issue when it comes to boys (we’ll get to that in a second). I’m talking about the leggings with nothing over the top, or tshirt at best. Short shorts and skirts often do a better job of covering up and concealing the exact form of a woman’s posterior than leggings do. If you don’t think it’s an issue see if you can name one popular song in the past thirty years obsessing over a woman’s breasts, the part we make the biggest deal about, before I can name four that obsess about the female glute; Thong Song, Baby Got Back, Bootylicious, and My Humps (two of those songs and the two most recent featured female performers)

She Was Asking For It?
I’ve heard it communicated other places as being also a concern of the girls not causing the boys to stumble. Some of my female volunteers were ready to take issue with this if it was part of our concern or at least what was communicated to the young girls as the reason. I for one think there is some validity to their concern which was expressed as such, “Many girls walk away with the message that if a guy makes unwanted sexual advances or even rapes a girl it is her fault. By the way she was dressed she was asking for it.” The truth of the matter is there are plenty of women who dress appropriately and modestly who are subjected to unwanted sexual advances and sexual assualt. It’s as if to say this happened to you because you’re just that kind of person, and is that the message we really want to send to young girls?

I Am The Master of My Domain
We need to make sure boys learn and are equipped to take responsibility of their thought life. They are not helpless victims of spaghetti strapped, low v-necked cleveage bearing, leggings wearing women. Boys are going to have to learn how to train their minds to dwell on the good, the beauty, and the redemptive of God’s good world in spite of all the messages and images that seek to exploit their developing sexual virility. The tension is that the female form is naturally beautiful. A line is crossed when a female form is viewed and coveted solely for sexual pleasure and a way for a guy to justify his manhood. Training young men not to lust needs to go way beyond telling them not to lust, and think of something else. We need to teach them the proper way to think of bodies, as a temple unto the Lord designed for making God’s presence known in creation, uniquely designed to work the ground and care for all the creatures of the earth.

What Comes To Mind First
Adolescent girls need to be encouraged to take responsibility of dressing modestly in a way that doesn’t teach them to be ashamed of their body nor think of their body as solely being a catalyst to sinful lust and covetedness in others. Modesty needs to be conveyed to young women as a way of ensuring that when people think of them their body isn’t the first thing they think of. That has been the motivation behind the few instances of me asking girls in my Student Ministry to not use the pictures of themself in a bikini as their profile picture on social media sites. The reality is that young women are going to have to rely more heavily on their own creativity than what’s offered on the rack to dress fashionably modest.
In the same vain the boys need to be encouraged to practice modesty as low-rise skinny jeans have subjected many of us to the male version of cleavage (Yuck!). I hate to say it but meggings aren’t far behind. That’s male leggings for the fashion illiterate. Tank tops have made a huge comeback in young men’s fashion, and that are cut to make special emphasis on their upper body and shoulders which most girls find appealing. Boys should be held to similar standards of modesty as they too are guilty of drawing attention to their bodies in a way that their body is the first thing you think of when you think of them.

Girls Lust Too!
Many years ago while shopping with a friend I made some comment that basically amounted to boys lust but girls don’t have that problem. The friend who was with me quickly turned to me and told me, “You are so wrong. We girls lust too. Maybe not in the same way but what do you think it is we’re looking at in our girlie teen magazines? I see a guy with nice broad muscular shoulders and I imagine myself being held in his arms. Not sex just held but I’m still lusting.”
In the last couple of years we’ve seen women of all ages flock to Channing Tatum movies, including and especially the movie Magic Mike. The Team Jacob and Team Edward debate wasn’t purely a matchup of the abstract qualities of fictional characters. I’m sure there are women who watch CSI: Los Angeles and find themselves transfixed by LL Cool J’s lips the way veteran female hip-hop/rap fans have for nearly three decades.
Personally I have watched from my perch of Middle School Youth Pastor observe for ten years now the  behavior and development of adolescents. One of the consistent themes I’ve observed is that it is ALWAYS the girls who start noticing the boys first. They are the first ones to awaken, for lack of a better phrase, and leave the phase of cuddies behind. Which makes total sense when you consider that they reach puberty sooner. So let’s be careful to not make lust a one sided issue and remember that girls lust too. Differently sure but that doesn’t mean that their imagination isn’t sparked by what they see. So boys and girls need to be taught to be mindful of how they present themselves, but not to the point of being made totally responsible for the response of the opposite sex. All kids need to be taught and trained to be masters of their mind and that they are not and don’t have to be helpless victims to the thoughts and emotions which are sparked by what they see.

Does This Generation of Teens Have it Harder Than Predecessors?: A Different Take

It has frequently been said that this generation of young American teenage Christians has it tougher than any other generation before them. Between technology redefining what is considered the public arena, thus shrinking what is truly private, the pressure to perform in school, liberal media with more graphic content on TV, music and movies, there are many who have expressed deep concern of what will become of the present generation of teenage Christians. Earlier and earlier teenagers are being exposed and have access to the morally bankrupt aspects, pornography and drugs to name a few, of our culture and society than ever before.

Those of you who follow my blog know by now that I’m not into stirring the pot of fear (I don’t think it accomplishes much of anything productive or constructive). Allow me to offer you a slightly different take on what all the societal and cultural changes in America means for Christian teenagers.

Many of the same factors that make for culture being difficult for current generation also means that this generation has the greatest potential for creating and cultivating good things.

In his book Culture Making Andy Crouch describes how Christian cultural engagement in the United States has typically been relegated to one of four responses; condemn culture, critique culture, copy culture, or consume culture. The main point of his book is to encourage Christians to understand our cultural mandate from God to create and cultivate. The first two tasks that God gives Adam prior to the Fall, is to name the animals (create), and to work and keep the garden (cultivate). The focal point of the glimpse we get of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation is of a city filled with “the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev. 21.26). After which it says that nothing unclean will enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false. Unfortunately a disproportionate amount of teaching and guidance to churched teens is to avoid the unclean, detestable and false over and above aspiring to create and cultivate the glory and honor of the nations.

The advancements in technology in the last twenty years alone have yielded a tremendous amount of creative power into most households in America. If you have a smartphone you have more computing power in the palm of your hand than all of NASA had in 1969 when they launched a man to the moon and back. Just a few days ago I saw a news feature on a 13-year-old girl who attempted to send a Hello Kitty doll into space and back using a high-altitude balloon.

Teenagers can now create and conduct their own music and songs using programs like Garageband. They can create and publish short films and movies on Vimeo and YouTube. There are numerous programs for graphic design. They can take and edit professional quality photographs. They can write and publish poetry, prose, and books. Teenagers have greater access to the rest of the world and it’s problems, and they are being given more opportunities to be a part of the solution. And they still have all of the traditional age-old opportunities to create and cultivate, like drawing, painting, building, and gardening.

It would be a shame if a whole generation of Christian teenagers ended up being behind the curve of everyone else because this generation of parents and youth workers were too busy trying to keep them safe instead of encouraging them to create. Imagine all the good and beautiful things they could produce if we spent more time encouraging and participating in their creative endeavors? We should be encouraging them to create and cultivate things that will one day be considered amongst the glory and honor of the nations. The dangers and pitfalls our culture offers to teenagers are not to be overlooked. However, neither is the plethora of creative opportunities it offers them, the likes of which no generation before them has ever seen.

Form & Function: Helping Kids Understand How to Dress Properly

Image

Last night at a parent’s seminar I hosted on culture one of the parents asked a question about how to help teenagers make wise and appropriate decisions about clothing. Although I feel I my answer at the time was adequate, on the way home I thought of a better answer. While this may not be an answer a teenager could fully grasp I do believe that it is a good filter for parents to affirm using their parental authority to simply say, “you’re not going out of the house dressed like that”, until they are mature enough to make wardrobe choices without parental guidance. Moreover, I think it’s more constructive than simply saying to your son, “because you look like a clown or a thug,” or to your daughter, “you look like a tramp.”

Form & Function

            The form and function of our body should work in harmony with the form and function of our clothing. The form of bodies comes in all different shapes and sizes. The form of an article of clothing should compliment the form of the body. This principle is why I eventually stopped wearing baggy saggy jeans. It became annoying to be routinely adjusting my jeans, and keep from tearing up the hem of my pant legs under my shoes. It is also the same reason why I haven’t jumped aboard the current trend of wearing slim or skinny jeans. I’m not a big fella by any means but I’ve got a strong and built set of upper leg muscles. Not to mention that… well… let’s just say that skinny and slim jeans do not favor those of us that have a little junk in the trunk. Skinny jeans were made for skinny people and there are way too many people I’ve seen, who are by no means skinny wearing low-rise skinny jeans. That would be the form and function of bodies and clothes in chaos with one another.

I bring up low-rise skinny jeans because we should be advising our young boys about it with the same zeal as we do young ladies in regards to their bust line. Some cleavage is okay, and some cleavage is always wrong! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the humor in that play on words).

Occasion

This one is not that difficult on the surface. Clothing should also work in harmony with the occasion that we are dressing for. I wore a kilt for the majority of my wedding day which people are always enamored by. The reality is that I married a Scottish woman, in Scotland, and that of the 30 plus men and boys in attendance you would have been oddly out off place if you weren’t in a kilt. In full regalia a kilt is very formal and appropriate for fancy events and special occasions.

When I take my eighth graders on their eighth grade trip to the amusement park Cedar Point, I always advise them to wear shorts with pockets. I don’t particularly understand young teen boys obsession with wearing basketball and soccer shorts everywhere, but stuffing their money in their sock (and then accusing someone of stealing it when their money goes missing) or expecting me to carry their wallet around when they’re four years away from adult independence is just not going to fly on my watch.

Meaning

Last night one of the examples I gave of culture in the Bible, more specifically of culture gone bad is, “The Tower of Babel” story. One of the reasons why it was culture gone bad is because the people who were building it were doing so to define themselves, “let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11.4). As image bearers of the living God and blessed to have dominion and authority over the earth, we should never allow for a piece of the earth, whether it be a tower or a piece of clothing, to have dominion and authority over us. We define the clothing not the other way around.

Conclusion

At the end of the day I go back to what I said last night. Ultimately parents need to be unafraid to exercise their responsibility of stewardship over their children and say no when they see that their children, while under their roof, can’t exercise good judgment on what to wear. You can expect them as in many things to test the boundaries, but don’t be discouraged, be consistent. Be willing to have a conversation from time to time on these matters, as long as the purpose of the conversation is one of understanding, not negotiation. And if they don’t understand then just tell them, “Because I said so.”

Three Lessons from Giglio and the Inaugural Prayer

Middle of last week it was announced that Louie Giglio, founder of Passion City Church and the global Passion movement had been invited to give the benediction at the Inauguration Ceremony next week. The current White House Administration has been very impressed with Giglio’s efforts in recent years to help bring an end to modern slavery across the globe. It only took two days for those who took issue with a sermon he preached 15 to 20 years ago, that had been archived online to raise a big enough stink that, depending on how you take it, Giglio decided to withdraw from delivering the benediction or was asked to step down by the Inaugural Committee. The sermon from 15 to 20 years ago that started this controversy was on homosexuality where amongst other things he said that homosexuality is sin.

Since then the blogosphere has been littered with commentary on what unfolded by countless in the Christian community. Some of them are suggesting that Giglio was bullied, that his first amendment rights were violated, or that he should have taken a stand and done the prayer anyway. Many have forecasted that this spells trouble for Christians in a country that is growing less and less Christian.

While this is yet more Christian commentary, and albeit a little bit behind everyone else, here are some thoughts I had about the situation. More specifically, since this is a blog for parents of teenagers and those who work with teenagers, youth workers, pastors and volunteers, what can our young people take from this?

  1. Nothing is Private in Public: The climate and general attitude towards homosexuality in America has changed significantly in the last 15 to 20 years, thus it may seem a little unfair that Giglio is getting raked over the coals for something he said well over a decade ago. To say it’s not fair is not the point because the reality is he said it, it was recorded, and it can be found. Young people need to be sobered, not scared, by the reality that anything they say and do that makes it’s way onto the internet is not private. More importantly it is accessible. They need to be mindful of what they post on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, and strongly consider, “is this something that could come back to bite me later?” Crying that it’s not fair is not going to get you anywhere because that is the reality.
  2. Stand Up or Sit Down?: I’ll be honest. Initially I wished that Giglio had gone ahead and done the benediction anyway. But upon further reflection, conversation with a friend and looking back over his statement I can’t help but wonder, “Could it be that Giglio stepped down in an effort to obey Romans 12.17-18?” Romans 12.17-18 instructs us, under the heading of Marks of the True Christian in the ESV, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Nowadays young Christians and Christians in general are being encouraged to take a stand. That these controversial issues, like abortion and sanctity of marriage, are the tasks that we as Christians are called to take a stand for if we are really about the gospel. However, take a look at the second part of Giglio’s statement, “Due to a message of mine that surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda a focal point of the inauguration. Clearly speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.” Did you catch that last part? Giglio is saying that ultimately the gospel has is and always will be about making ‘much of Jesus Christ’. What a great example of wisdom, discernment and self-control to seek peace with all as far as it depended on him, that Giglio has given us and to the millions of young Christians he ministers to nationally. We need to help teenagers learn wisdom and the ability to discern when is the time to stand up and when is the time to keep calm.
  3. The Plank in Our Eye: Recently the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reported that 80% of unmarried evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 had engaged in sex. Likewise the National Association of Evangelicals, using a stricter definition of “evangelical” reported that 44% of 18 to 29 year olds had sex outside of marriage. It’s pretty clear in scripture that God does not endorse sex outside of marriage in the same manner that it does not endorse same sex sexual relations in or out of marriage. Based upon the research of those two organizations it might be time for the church to start directing more of our attention towards heterosexuals within the body of Christ, encouraging them to live rightly ordered sexual lives as opposed to outsiders? This needs to start with parents and youth workers continuing to call young people to live sexual lives in accordance with the Creator’s design out of reverence and love for God and being consumed with the love of God for them, rather than fear of God’s wrath for getting it wrong. People outside the church have access to the Bible and can see what it says. How can we expect them to take us seriously about our standards if we don’t appear to take them seriously by our own actions?

Conclusion: At the end of the day I think we have three tangible ways we need to encourage young people to be mindful of their witness. What are they putting out in public even if they believe it to be private? As far is it depends on you are you living at peace with everyone including and especially those outside of the body of Christ? Are you living a life that is rightly ordered driven by the knowledge of and love for the God you claim?

This is Your Brain on Porn: What Parents Need to Know and Do

Your Brain on Drugs

For anyone around during the late 80s you will remember the big anti-narcotics campaign launched by the Partnership for a Drug Free America in 1987, in no small part due to their very visual illustration. For those of you too young to remember those public service announcements let me just say that I don’t think I’d be going out on a limb if I were to say that they were a very effective piece of advertising. Partnership for a Drug Free America had as two of their central goals to educate people to the harmful consequences of drug use and to get parents talking to their kids about the dangers of drugs.

I think it’s safe to say that there won’t be a Partnership for a Porn Free America anytime soon. The pornography industry is too big, and too many other industries have their hands in the pocket of what has grown into a multi-million dollar industry annually. However, the message needs to start getting out. Porn is bad for your brain. This message needs to start getting out because the folks behind the wheel are busy trying to build their customer base by making pornography seem “fun” and “normal”, and unfortunately they’re really good at what they do.

Over the summer at Challenge, the Christian youth conference we attend, one of the speakers on the main stage was Craig Gross of XXX-Church, a ministry that specializes in porn awareness, prevention, and addiction recovery. If I were to summarize what he said, I would show you the clip of the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” PSA. Later on in the week, during our large group meetings, many of our students mustered up the courage to confess to the group that they had become addicted to pornography. Read MANY, as in lots of them confessed which mean many more who were struggling with porn said nothing, at least not in the large group setting of one hundred of us. Read STUDENTS, as in it wasn’t just the boys who confessed to being addicted to pornography it was some of our girls as well. These students weren’t just confessing so they could get it off their chest they were asking for help, and as many of them felt powerless to break from it. Yet it was clearly wearing on them. For the most part it was just our younger Junior High age students who spoke up, even though we know many of our High School teens struggle with it they were largely silent in the large group setting.

Convicted or not of their usage, pornography is a morally bankrupt and perverted fantasy world educating and shaping what sexual intimacy and sexual relations is and looks like for billions of people, and this is of no concern for the people making money from it. Admittedly we probably haven’t done enough as a youth ministry to truly help our students who are struggling, and thus why I am posting this article. I believe that one step in the right direction is to more intentionally bring parents into the loop, to educate and equip parents to engage this issue. I don’t like being an alarmist and hate to use fear as a way to motivate people to do something. One of the things that I appreciated about Craig Gross in his talk is that he didn’t use either one of those tactics (as I’ve seen others do) and yet was very straightforward and real about how troubling pornography addiction is. So here we go. What as parents of teenagers do you need to know and do to come alongside your children in the area of pornography?

1. Awareness: The reason why I used the illustration of the 80s anti-drug PSA is because studies have shown that pornography has the exact same affect on the brain as does narcotic drugs, and thus why porn is so addictive. It would not be a stretch to classify pornography as a drug as it induces the exact same chemical activity in the brain. When watching pornography the human brain is flooded with dopamine, which causes the brain cells to produce a feeling of excitement or well-being, often referred to as the reward signal. Because of the sensation in the brain it creates, it helps guide human behavior. Quite literally it creates and strengthens connections in the brain associated with behaviors and activities that make a person feel good.

Many of you have probably taken the preliminary step of setting up firewalls and parental settings on any computers in the house, which is a good thing, but it is not enough. I guarantee you your kids know how to get around it. Some restrictions and firewalls are better than none at all, but none of them are perfect, and you’re kidding yourself if you think that your kid won’t figure out a way around it, and cover their tracks (delete the history or browse privately), if they have their mind set on it. However, the home computer is not the only place where porn is accessible, and no I’m not referring to their friend’s house where the parents aren’t keeping an eye on things.

2. Accessibility: I’m guessing most parents probably don’t realize what the main devices are that people accessing porn on that have the weakest prevention settings. Xbox 360, Playstation 3, iPods, iPhones, iPads, and any smart phone. Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are not simply a video game system, they are entertainment systems with which you can stream Netflix, Hulu, and browse the Internet. iPods, iPhones, and iPads, use Safari as their web browser which has a “private browsing” setting where you can surf the web without any of your activity being tracked in the history.

3. Prevention: There is no perfect way to prevent pornography from coming into your home. However, the online software provided by www.xxxchurch.com is the best that I know about. The software they’ve created is more of a watchdog that tracks the online activity on a computer or wi-fi enabled devices like smartphones. Designed to be a accountability software it sends a weekly email to a selected recipient of a list of all the porn sites visited on that device. This list even includes any sites that are considered questionable and includes the day and the time of when it was visited.

Conclusion

Pornography isn’t going away. Many signs are showing that it is becoming more and more socially acceptable. While I don’t think it is fruitless to try to do whatever you can to keep pornography out of reach of your children, I believe there is something else parents must do which is far more important. Talk to your children about the dangers and trappings of pornography the same way you would talk to them about drugs. You can’t simply ignore it and assume it won’t be an issue like in previous generations because it is far more accessible than when the only place you could get it was over a counter and pay-per-view television. Today you can watch hundreds of movies without dropping a dime on any device that can access the Internet. Ultimately here are the two questions you should ask yourself….

  1. Should my child begin to dabble in or become addicted to pornography do they have a safe place to come clean and get help?
  2. Have I established the kind of relationship with my child that they know that home is a safe place to confess and seek help?