Posts Tagged ‘peer pressure’

rockwellThe world we live in is void of innocence…plain & simple.  Just flip the flat screen or smart phone on…take a glance at the news…switch on your ipod or itunes store…heck…just take a stroll in the mall and watch culture unfold before your very eyes.  There’s not much innocence left in our world.  Provocative attire, violence and chaos, disillusioned worldviews from celebrities & world influencers…and that’s just on Global, Teletoon and TVO!

I might be over-exaggerating a little, but today’s culture is definitely exposed to a much broader range of in-your-face social messages vying for our attention…especially with Gen Z.  As the parent of a 9, 7, and 2-year-old, although I embrace the advances of technology and culture, I also feel a nervous tension of the world of change, expectations and exposure awaiting my kids.  Our 9 year-old daughter is already gradually entering the stage of laying aside her dolls, stuffed animals and lego…and gravitating increasingly towards the world of ipods, fashion…and yes…boys!  She still has a solid level of innocence within her, but with each passing week of exposure to social media, school, friends and the world-at-large, that innocence begins to subtly erode away.

So at what point did we start to, somewhat, loose our little girl?

Today I read a post from Jonathan McKee addressing this very question.  His post, Tossing Aside Innocence…in 1954, is a reflection of a visit he took to a local art museum, and upon viewing a particular painting, blogged about his observations.  The painting was Norman Rockwell’s 1954 classic simply named Girl at Mirror (above).  It’s a great piece of art for youth and parents to reflect on with each other about the struggle young girls face (and boys too) face when innocence intersects with increased cultural exposure & pressure.

Notice her fragile hands, the tossed aside doll, the open magazine with the ‘mature’ model, the beauty accessories beside her…all precursors of the conflict and tension that resides within young people as they break out of their sheltered innocence, and enter the arena of self-perception and the battle for self-esteem.  And if Rockwell captured the plight and tension of young girls in 1954, how much more have those tensions ramped up in our digital and social media-driven age of no-innocence?

What are your thoughts as you sit back and gaze into this timeless snap shot of culture in motion?

In the ever-changing world of youth culture, just when you think you’ve got a pretty good grasp on things, yet another topic of issue emerges from the depths of pre-adolecence.  Sexting, although not ‘new’, is still a relatively ‘younger’ term in culture, and has been used since about ’06.  Not-to-be confined to a specific age demographic, sexting has a strong & divisive allure to many youth 13+ in North America.  In most cases the scenario goes something like this;

  • in a spontaneous ‘thrill-of-the-moment’, a boy/girl take a nude/semi nude photo of themselves and sends to their boy/girlfriend/significant other.
  • the young couple in love break up (generally not a pleasant break up), and the aforementioned picture is sent by the recipient to their friends email/facebook list as a sort of “I’ll get you back” motive (although sometimes it is sent as a sort of trophy or bragging rights).
  • picture is distributed among the friend list, and usually appears on people’s facebook/social network page with a degrading message within hours, 100’s…even 1000’s of people have access to the once private, intimate picture of a young person in an embarrassing moment.
  • in the aftermath of it all, both the sender and original recipient (generally speaking) now begin the realise the collateral damage that has been caused that was never have anticipated, both for the individual, as well as for those within the family, friendship/acquaintance circle…and beyond

So how can young people, and anyone for that matter, come to the point of risking so much of themselves?  And how/why do so many on the outside end up so willing to want to crest themselves to the edge of an already spewing volcano, and pour more lava onto things?  You can read a very well-articulated parent article from the youth ministry dept. of Temple Baptist Church in Madison Heights, Virginia on the topic of Sexting…they said everything I was going to say…plus more!

On Mar. 26’11, the New York Times ran a story stemming from a sexting incident in Lacey, WA.  Rick Peters, a senior deputy prosecuting attorney for Thurston County lends his perspective on the seriousness of the matter; 

The idea of forwarding that picture was bad enough,” he said. “But the text elevated it to something far more serious. It was mean-girl drama, an all-out attempt to destroy someone without thinking about the implications.”  (in reference to the arrest of a gr. 8 boy for his part in forwarding sexual pictures of a gr. 8 girl at his school)

You can read the entire  NY Times article about one young girl’s sexting journey, and how it has altered her life, and the lives of others within her story.  You may also want to read a Global News report- The Seriousness of Sexting, which also sheds some light on Canadian laws re: the issue of ‘sexting’ and an article from parentcentral.ca 

What Does the Bible Say About Sexting?

While the bible doesn’t specifically mention ‘sexting’ in scripture (for obvious ‘technological-at-the-time’ reasons I might add!), it does address the areas of purity, self-control, respect and character that should be non-negotiable for any professing Christ-follower; (just a few of MANY!)

  • I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. For what is man’s lot from God above, his heritage from the Almighty on high? …Does He not see my ways and count my every step?” (Job 31:1-2, 4)
  • For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16)
  • Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” (Rom. 1:24-25)
  • So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 7:12)
  • Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  (1 Pet. 3:8-12)
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:29-32)

Unfortunately this is a topic that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.  But in the meantime, hopefully we can learn from this story, and others you’ve probably heard about, and to rise up and stand in the face of the cultural pressure to risk anything for attention and perceived value.  What all this comes down to is acceptance…the desire to be accepted by people, even at the risk of compromising your purity, integrity and character.  It’s nothing new in the human race’s quest to find its value in the eyes of society, and to do anything to solicit the affection and attention of those we seek acceptance from.  “If they don’t like me for who I am, then I’ll just give them something else to like” is the unfortunate anthem resonating from so many that are desperate and craving intimacy and value…but it’s a lie from within our culture, and a doomed cycle.

‘They’ say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there’s really only One whose opinion matters…and it ‘aint a boy, girl, man or woman!  You were created in a much greater image than you could possibly imagine, and no one on this earth is worth the price and pain to sacrifice your beauty, value, esteem and purity for.  So can I encourage/challenge you quite honestly?  If you’re thinking of sending an ‘intimate’ pic to someone…don’t do it!  If you receive a forwarded or sent erotic pic from someone…delete it.  If there’s people talking about, and making verbal assaults on someone caught in the midst of sexting…walk away from the conversation. 

The apostle Paul speaks about the temptation to get involved in things, that at the time, seem fun, pleasurable, innocent enough, but in the end lead us to shame, guilt, and ultimately (if willingly and continuously  desired over Christ)…death (Rom. 6:21-23).  And parents…part of this dilemma is the availability of cell phones to our teens…so perhaps we as parents need to ask ourselves…does my 12-year-old son/daughter really need a phone…or at least the latest i-Phone, Galaxy or HTC complete with camera and social media uplinks for those ‘ready-made’ moments?

Everyone knows that the pressure to fit in with the crowd can sometimes be pretty intense, especially during those middle school days…and hitting the ‘high notes’ in high school.  Wanting to fit in isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on what/you you’re wanting to fit in with.  Saying ‘no’ to peer pressure can be a tricky thing, because it usually involves saying no to people we admire, respect and want to be around.  But can saying no actually have greater benefits than we may be aware of?  Recent studies have learned that saying no to peer pressure early on in life can actually help the brain develop cognitive patterns of resisting future tempting situations…making it easier to say no to risky behavior/situations as you grow.

Just as preteens begin dealing with intensifying peer pressure, certain regions in the brain are actually developing in such a way as to increase the ability to stand firm against risky behavior, according to researchers at three West Coast institutions.”  (from the article- Adolescent Brain Development Tied to Resisting Peer Pressure)

No one says its easy to just say no, but after all, doesn’t scripture speak to us about why it can be a difficult task, how we can do it, and the benefits of saying “no to temptations?  So kids…middle & high schoolers…keep standing firm in what you believe is right…and parents…keep instilling those godly values and principles into your children, because it’ll pay off down the road…if not through the findings of this study…then through the promises of God’s word!

When it comes to peer pressure and temptations, don’t be like Nike…just say no!