Vol. 3 Issue 28 | July 14, 2017
Three Things This Week
1. Teen Vogue’s Guide to What?!
What it is: Recently, the teen mag published a “how to” guide for anal intercourse online, causing outrage among parents and women’s rights advocates.
Why it’s not surprising: The outrage is warranted, especially for a magazine that bills itself as “rebellious, outspoken, and empowering.” They’ve increasingly published articles about pornographic topics throughout the years, many of which are now promoted to younger generations through apps like Snapchat. Tweens and teens may not be able to discern why such content is harmful, serving to further normalize porn culture. A generation of boys and girls are learning sex ed by watching porn, leading many teens to believe anal sex is “good and right and necessary,” especially since you can’t get pregnant. Yet the harm it does to a young girl’s body is heartbreaking, not to mention the exponential risk for infection and HIV. Here’s a helpful, developmentally appropriate guide to starting the conversation about sexuality with your pre-teen, tween, or teenage children.
2. Cold Sweats
What it is: Former Senior VP at Apple Tony Fadell, who was a key creator of both the iPod and iPhone, says he wakes up in “cold sweats every so often, thinking, ‘What did we bring into the world?’”
Why it’s convicting: As a parent, that terrifies me and makes me wonder: What have I brought into my home? Why would I give my daughter a device that’s not only highly addictive, but has the capability to deliver hardcore pornography, violence, and predators right into her room? But it’s so easy to rationalize. Smartphones are convenient, they help us connect, and even help our kids fit it, but is it worth it? As Christians, we talk a lot about being “counter cultural,” but are we willing to pay the price for doing so—even if it means giving ourselves and our teens flip phones instead of smart ones? Because we dare not rail against our debased culture while simultaneously providing unlimited access to it.
3. Siesta Key
Why it’s alluring: Premiering July 31, the show follows real teens from the Sarasota, FL area and is “laser focused on reflecting the way teens and twentysomethings live today.” But unlike its predecessors, Key will be “looking at the emotional health and mental health of these people” and “how much of [their] lives plays out on social media.” Yet, as one blog notes, it features “parties, bikinis, white privilege, cool boats, over-the-top mansions, board shorts, muscle bros, and one seemingly chill minority.” The show is selling a vision of the good life to teens: perfect place, perfect toys, and perfect bodies. Ask your teens if they think the show is highlighting “real” teenage drama, or just the shallow, vapid lifestyle that decadence and hedonism provide. What would change if the cast were poor, overweight, or unattractive, and why does that matter?
In 1981, John Kavanaugh published Following Christ in a Consumer Society, a controversial glimpse into the “greed is good” decade, and how our culture of consumerism competes with the liberating message of the Gospel. This week, Amazon celebrated Prime Day with record sales, adding “tens of millions of Prime members” in the process. The self-created shopping day is both harmless and a little scary. It’s harmless because, really, who doesn’t want to save money? Yet, it’s scary for its almost Pavlovian ability to trigger our insatiable desire to consume.
In its third year, Prime Day has become a cultural phenomenon. Although this made-up event was created by humans, in many ways it is creating us, or at least forming us into its own image. “Our being is in having, and our happiness is in possessing more.” Why? Because the products promising significance, purpose, and meaning never satisfy. So we crave more. And, the more we find our identity in possessions, the less human we become. Consumption becomes a habit that, if we aren’t careful, makes us believe that “everything is marketable and buyable, from identity and acceptance to happiness itself”. In this worldview, people become products and relationships are reduced to disposable transactions.
As parents of teens with over $258 billion a year in disposable income, how do we help them counter this culture of consumption? First ask yourself, when was the last time I told my child “no”, or advised him to wait before clicking the “purchase now” button? We might think that freedom is the ability to buy whatever we want, but if we cannot say no to ourselves every now and then, are we really free or merely slaves to our impulses? Second, remind your teens that in God’s economy, there is always enough to provide our needs, but not necessarily enough to provide all our wants. Practice frugality or research minimalism with your kids. Finally, ask your teens, how much do you create compared to how much you consume? Foster creativity in your home. Instead of eating out, cook a meal together. Instead of binging on Netflix, encourage your daughter to write the story she would want to watch. Because if we aren’t careful, the American dream of having more could become a spiritual nightmare.
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