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iTunes And The Teenage Culture

Hope Weekly 8.5.13

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iTunes and the Teenage Culture

This past summer, Mikey Dascoli and myself had the opportunity to take a number of our teenagers to the Student Led Youth Conference at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA. The conference is filled with incredible worship, amazing speakers, and challenging activities.

On one of the break-out sessions, Mikey and I attended a workshop led by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan is the president of The Source for Youth Ministry and is the author of numerous books including the new Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the award winning book Do They Run When They See You Coming? Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, 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.

I met Jonathan at a similar conference about 8 to 10 years ago and so I was excited about hearing him present to the youth leaders again at the conference. Jonathan is funny, relevant, and speaks directly to the current youth culture. He leaves you laughing, crying, angry, and encourages you continue to “fight the good fight.” Needless to say, Jonathan again didn’t disappoint those present.

The workshop was titled, “5 Observations about our Teen Culture revealed in iTunes”. For those who haven’t heard of itunes, iTunes is a media player and media library application developed by Apple Inc. It is used to play, download, and organize digital audio and video on personal computers running the OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

In other words, it is the place where 99% of teenagers and the rest of the culture go to download music and videos. It is the place where youth workers such as Jonathan and others go to find out what “is popular” or “trending” in today’s music culture.

Here are his top 5 observations:

1] Television is still huge. For example, the day after “The Voice” television series airs, 6 of the top 10 downloaded songs are usually from the show the night before. That is a lot of downloads taking place in less than 24 hours from a television show.

2] “Just Lose Control” Attitude. Many of the top songs that are popular on iTunes RIGHT NOW, are centered around this attitude of “losing control.” Artists such as Adele, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Bruno Mars are just a few of the hundreds of artists whose lyrics promote and encourage this out of control - no consequences lifestyle.

3] Eye Candy Sells. Oh, that is a surprise! More and more songs and videos depict erotic lyrics, performers wearing less and less clothing, and engaging in sexually explicit movements. Our culture is way beyond the Brady Bunch and Farah Fawcett’s poster of the 70’s. The line of sexual exploitation contained in lyrics and videos is being pushed further and further. To be honest, it scares me what is coming next.

4] iTunes – determining a “New” kind of “Clean” This one scares me the most. If you are familiar with iTunes, in the past, iTunes would give a RED “EXPLICIT” label next to songs and videos which contained vulgar language, sexually explicit lyrics, and/or nudity. This would inform parents and/or teenagers which media downloads were explicit in nature. What Jonathan shared with is that afternoon is that many of the songs that contain “suggestive” lyrics are not labeled. Therefore, even though a song is not “explicit” because of the lyrics or images, the lyrics paint a much different picture.

Also, Jonathan shared that the #1 iTunes video for a long period of time did contain an “explicit” label to warn viewers, but the 30 second preview to the video contained female frontal nudity. Heck, if the preview contained these images what does the rest of the video show. Thanks iTunes for the warning...Lord, help us! iTunes is pushing the envelope to what is explicit and what is not.

5] Humor Lasts The last point in the session Jonathan showed the adults in the room some short video clips of some recent videos that were in the iTunes top 10 for a long time. Many of these songs were comical parodies. Artists making fun of getting drunk or high, waking up unaware of your whereabouts after a one night stand, and other events that occurs in our culture. The problem with using humor in these lyrics and specifically in these videos is that it is NOT A HUMOROUS SITUATION!

As the workshop concluded and as the emotions of 30 or so youth workers reached a frustrated, yet, better informed mindset. Jonathan gave all of us some great advice….


It sounds so simple, but it is not when put into practice. It’s all about relationships. Spend time with your kids, your teenagers and their friends. Help them with their homework. Attend their school events. Tuck your kids into bed at night…even if they are a teenager and their room smells like a locker room. Interact with them during the good times as well as the bad. Be honest about your struggles. Tell them you love them so much they get sick of hearing it from you.

iTunes is going to be around and part of the teenage culture for a long time. I don’t think it is going anywhere. Let’s do our best to create a dialogue when it comes to the music, movie, and media are teenagers and involved listening to and viewing. Ignoring or looking the other way to what our teens and our culture are engaged in is not what Jesus is calling us to do. Be informed. Get involved. Love ‘em. Just like the Master did.

Check out more of Jonathan McKee’s website at www.thesource4ym.com.



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