They Don’t Know or Don’t Want to Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need to do two things:

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

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

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

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

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry,is the author of twenty books including the brand new 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; More Than Just the Talk; Sex Matters; The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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