Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Teenagers and Media

Leslie Basham: A young woman reflects on the media being created for her generation.

Young Woman: I think that there is an artificial perception of love being given in those movies and in the books. Love in the movies is always physical or something emotional that really pricks our "girl heart." It’s like, "Oh, he sang a song. Oh, he wrote a letter. Oh, he came after her." That’s not necessarily love.

Song:

Love me like they do it in the movies.
Come and take me by the hand.
Kiss me in slow motion, walking by the ocean.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Tuesday, April 29. Yesterday Bob Lepine, the co-host of FamilyLife Today, joined us to talk with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh about Lies Young Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free.

That’s the title of the new book by Nancy and Dannah offering practical help to young women and their parents who want to make wise choices. Let’s get back to that conversation.

Bob Lepine: It’s interesting. We’re living at a time in our culture when media is changing. I remember when my own children were younger, and we thought we got to get on top of media usage, which basically meant we want to control how much television they’re watching. Well, I’m at a point in my parenting now where I can have controls over how much television my children are watching and that’s fine with them because . . .

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: They’re not watching television.

Bob: Television isn’t a big deal anymore. It’s the clips they’re watching on YouTube or the TV that they can actually download and watch on their laptop. All of a sudden it's moved out of the living room and right into the personal computer. Media has become a dominant part of a teenager’s world.

So when it comes to media usage, it’s a changing landscape for parents, but the lies that teenagers believe about media have stayed pretty much constant. It’s just the technology that’s been changing.

As you talked with teenage girls about technology and about media usage, you found that it’s pretty dominant in their world. There’s some danger there, but they don’t necessarily see the danger, right?

Dannah Gresh: No. Well, the frightening thing is that they do see the danger, but they’re not convinced they need to do anything about it. One of our top lies in the area of media was that the benefits of constant media use outweigh the harm.

Almost a hundred percent of the girls—98% of them—said, “Yes, I’m making some media choices that clearly are not good for my spiritual life. They affect my relationship with God. They affect my relationship with my family and others, but I think the benefits outweigh the damage.”

Nancy: Often with sin or foolish choices, you don’t reap the consequences right now. So you feel like you can safely go on sowing these seeds. When you’re 14 you’re not really thinking about being 44 and some of the long-term consequences, which is why Proverbs issues such a call to young people to be wise, to think about the future, to think about the long-term implications of their choices. That’s where we’re trying in this book to reason with them and to say this may not be destroying your life in a visible way at this moment, but are the seeds that are being sown healthy ones?

Bob: Some parents will hear about the damaging, destructive media and they respond by saying, “We’ll isolate ourselves from media.” We’re growing into a culture where that’s becoming virtually impossible. Parents who two decades ago said, "We just won’t have a TV in the house" will now have to say, "Well, we won’t have a computer in the house, and we won’t have a cell phone in the house."

All of a sudden you’re going to live in cultural isolation if you remove yourself from the media options. It’s found its way over the wall and into everybody’s home. Really, we’ve got to train our young people to know how to use media in a way that does provide benefit. There are things about media that do provide benefit, right?

Nancy: And we say that here. There are some advantages. There are some ways that it can be used for cultivating relationship and for personal and spiritual growth. You want to take advantage of those. Our plea in this book is be intentional about your media choices.

One, know what it’s doing to you. Don’t bury your head in the sand and pretend like it’s not doing anything because it is affecting you. To say it’s not affecting us—I mean our generation said that when we were teens. But it did affect us. So we say know what you’re taking in.

Dannah: We tried to use the media itself to convince them of how it’s affecting them. We tried to go to sources like Madonna and Stephen King. What do they say about how the media affects their family?

For example, Madonna had a nanny remove her daughter from the audience before her famous kiss with Brittany because she didn’t want her daughter exposed to that kind of filth, and yet she exposed our daughters to it and our sons to it.

There was a case where after watching Finding Nemo, a little girl went home and flushed her goldfish down the toilet to set it free. [Laughter]

Nancy: You wouldn’t be laughing if you were the goldfish.

Dannah: Right. E.T.—do you remember the candy that was made so famous?

Bob: Sure. Reeces Pieces, right?

Dannah: Reeces Pieces. Their sales increased by 65%. So obviously we respond. What we did was we tried to put the voice of the culture back at the girls and say, “Are you saying that these people are wrong, that we’re not responding, that we aren’t changed? Maybe it’s possible, just maybe you are changed by the media you expose yourself to.”

Bob: As we said, the media is very different. Teenage girls today are probably spending more time on Facebook or on MySpace or . . .

Nancy: Not probably. Definitely. More than I am, for sure.

Dannah: That’s their pizza parlor. That’s where they hang out.

Bob: You have a table in the pizza parlor, don’t you? You have your own Facebook space or your own MySpace?

Dannah: Actually, I am not that cool.

Bob: You’re not.

Dannah: My daughter has posted a MySpace page for me simply so I can be her friend and keep an eye on her, which is a really good thing for a parent. I got that idea from one of my girlfriends who’s also a mother of teenagers. Okay, you can have a MySpace page if I’m your first friend. So the only way I really use my MySpace page is to spy on Lexi. She knows that, and she’s okay with that.

Bob: What are you seeing as you spy? Not on Lexi, but what are you seeing among her friends? What’s going on in the culture? Parents are going, “I’ve heard about MySpace or I’ve heard about Facebook and I know my son or my daughter has one of these, but is there something really wrong here or how do I navigate this as a parent? How do I help them steer clear of believing a lie about this media being safe if it’s not fully safe?

Dannah: Well, some of the things that they’re seeing there . . . A few months ago one of my best friends called me frantic because her daughter’s friends had dressed up in their underwear and taken a group picture of girls together and posted it to all their friends—guys and girls.

Bob: On the Internet?

Dannah: Common, normal, casual kind of thing. Not okay, though. Not okay for my daughter to see or your daughter to see because then that takes away her inhibition to be modest when she sees girls in their underwear on her MySpace page. Stuff like that I think is very harmful and dangerous.

As a parent, if you’re not on there . . . One of Lexi’s friends posted a picture of her with a gun, and I was like, “Lexi that’s probably not great. I know it’s a water gun, but it looks real.” MySpace actually shut the page down for that very reason. But do you know what your daughter or son is seeing on MySpace and on Facebook? Do you know?

Bob: The truth is as parents, unless we’re joined at the hip, we’re not going to know. How do we train our kids to have wisdom and discernment in their media choices? The music they’re listening to, the movies they’re watching, the TV shows they’re watching, the stuff that’s online. How do we help them see that there really is a corresponding relationship between what goes in and the cultivation of godliness in your soul? What do we do?

Dannah: Well, one of the ways that we know that what goes in counts is another chapter where we talk about the lies about themselves. Because they believe the lies about beauty that the media throws at them hook, line, and sinker. If they don’t believe that they’re being affected in the other areas, the girls do believe that they’re being affected in this area.

Bob: So they know that what the media is holding up and saying, “This is beautiful,” they’re buying that and they’re reshaping their own appearance as a result?

Dannah: A majority of the girls that look at teen magazines, fashion magazines—a majority of them experience depression because they are never going to be that airbrushed image.

Bob: You’re saying most girls who would pick up a teen fashion magazine are going to wind up depressed?

Dannah: I’m saying that the majority of them will experience some level of depression, depending on how much they’ve engaged in the magazines. It might be a 15-minute depression; but if they feast on them, they might fall into full-out depressive episodes.

Nancy: More than that—beyond that—into eating disorders and some things that can be really physically harmful.

Bob: Let me go back to these 98% who are saying, okay, I know that some of this may not be good for my spiritual life, but the benefits outweigh the liabilities. What am I going to do? I mean, I can’t just drop off the planet and stay completely away from media. So help a teenage girl know how can I live in this culture, in this media environment? How can I stay connected without it becoming dangerous for me spiritually?

Nancy: I think one of the things that we have to be doing as adults and then as those who influence young people is learning to think biblically and critically. By that, I don’t mean with a critical spirit, but to not just mindlessly imbibe the culture. That’s a danger for us as adults. It’s easy to just take it in. What you hear on the news, what you read. We’re lazy. We need to learn to evaluate the input that’s coming into our lives by, "How does this square with Scripture?"

I’m not a parent or a parent of a teen, but it seems to me that you don’t start that when the child is 14. You start from earliest childhood, teaching, modeling, practicing in the home two things.

  • One is exposure to that which is good and healthy, so reading the right kinds of materials and watching the right kinds of healthy entertainment. You’re creating an appetite for that which nourishes and feeds the soul.
  • But then also from the youngest ages with your children helping to say, "What is the message here?"

I can remember a season when I didn’t want my parents lecturing me with a commentary on life, but now I’m so thankful that they did. It takes timing and wisdom. Not every moment is the right moment to speak, I’m sure, but to be evaluating. That means again, and I keep coming back to parents, that parents have to be thinking about what they’re taking in and not just coming in and living on the Internet or the television or turning on the radio and just taking it in mindlessly.

We need to be holding it up to the Scripture and saying how does this square. Not just so we can reject the culture, but so we can say, “How can we glorify God and represent His heart and His ways to our world?” Then you’re helping your children. Your vision for them then is not just that they survive. It’s not just that you cocoon them and wrap them up and hope the world won’t hurt them—put them in a little Christian fortress.

Your mindset really is: How can I from earliest childhood train my children to think as world-changers and to represent the heart of Christ in a way that is winsome and not argumentative so that they become salmon swimming upstream? I think it’s a wartime mentality, not in the sense of being war-like in our spirit, but in the sense of we are called as God’s people to swim upstream and to go against the culture and to seek to win those who have been influenced by this culture for Christ. How do we do that?

Bob: You point a lot of teenage girls and their parents to Philippians chapter 4, verse 8, which gives us guidance on the things we ought to be dwelling on with our minds, right?

Nancy: It’s a great checklist there if you want one. It says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

So we’ve provided a list of questions in this chapter for the girls, asking them to ask these kinds of questions:

  • Would you be embarrassed to watch it with Jesus?
  • Does it create conflict between you and your parents?
  • Is it something you have to hide?
  • Does it cause you to isolate yourself from family members or friends?
  • Does it cause you to neglect other responsibilities?
  • Are you addicted?

They all say, “No, I’m not addicted.” The thing we say here is here’s a way to find out if you are addicted. Do without it for 30 days and if you can’t, then you’re addicted. I have to go back and examine my own heart as one who is trying to influence these young women and say where are my addictions? What are the things that I am excusing, condoning, tolerating that may not be overtly evil, but they don’t measure up to the standard of Scripture?

That’s where we’ve got to be willing to be—humble and honest ourselves and to say, “Look, you know it’s not just you. This Mosaic generation has its issues. They do. But the fact is, we have our issues and before we throw the book at the kids today, we need to say, “God, what are You wanting to say to our own generation and where do we need to repent of our own media choices and our own selfishness and tolerance of things that are not wholesome?” We can’t expect a response on the part of these young people that surpasses our own willingness to pursue holiness ourselves.

Bob: Dannah, when a teenage girl is facing media choices and this is where her friends are and what they’re doing . . . In fact, if you’re going to do something on a Friday night, the odds is that media is somehow going to be involved in what you’re doing—you’re going to the movies; you’re going to a friend’s house to watch a DVD; you’re going to be online. All of a sudden you think, “Okay, I want to do this the way God wants me to do it, but I do feel like I’m going to have to be a technological drop-out or a hermit or really weird if I do this.”

Dannah: Well, like you said, we live in a technological society. How is your child going to hand in their term paper at the end of the quarter without a computer? So the reality is: This is the world we live in.

I think parents need to get involved in their children’s media. I think that a creative approach sometimes is part of the solution, not just what am I watching, but am I a part of what my kids are watching? Create a MySpace or have your kids create a MySpace before you let them have theirs.

I’ve heard Lexi listening to music that are not artists that I would necessarily listen to. I try to sit down with her and say, “Hey, let’s listen to that album together. Let’s go through the words together.”

There are a lot of times when I say, “Wow, this is a pretty cool artist.” She goes, “Yes, I knew you’d like her. She’s just like your favorite Christian artist” and she’ll name my favorite Christian artist. That opens her heart up for me to say, “But this one right here, what do you think that says to your spirit when you listen to it?”

One of the top risk reducers for our kids, whether it’s we’re afraid of them being sexually active or using alcohol or drugs or being involved in violence, is parent-child connectedness. If we think there’s risk in their media, I think one of the ways that we can really alleviate that risk is by being connected to them through the media. That gives us the voice to say no.

Bob: You said there is a connection between how girls view this issue of beauty and the issue of media. One of the lies that you identify in the book is a lie about physical appearance, about beauty. This is a significant issue for a lot of teenage girls.

Dannah: Yes. In fact, we used the voice of some of the people that they would maybe know and see in the media—Kiera Knightly, for example. We have a quote in here about her saying, “When I go to these auditions, I’m one of the largest girls there. I’m huge.”

Now Kiera Knightley is a kind of waif-like young woman. She’s 5’7”. The media guesses she’s probably a size 4. And she’s big? So again we said, you’re right. The standard of beauty that’s out there, girls, is so difficult and so unattainable. We feel your pain.

Nancy: In fact, not even those media stars themselves attain to that standard.

Dannah: Exactly.

Nancy: So much of that is technologically . . .

Dannah: It’s photo-shopped.

Nancy: Photo-shopped.

Dannah: But then we take them back to the Word. We empathize with them first and then we say, “What does God say about this lie that you believe that because I don’t look like the cover of a magazine, I don’t have value?” What does God say about that?

Bob: One of the things that you find in the Scripture at the end of the description of the Proverbs 31 woman is this statement that "charm is deceitful and beauty is vain" (verse 30). Beauty is fleeting.

Nancy: Unfortunately, you don’t realize that when your 14 as much as you do when you’re 49. As you get older, you realize that you may have had it when you were younger, but it is fleeting.

Bob: But the boys in school are talking about the cute girls, the hot girls. They’re not talking about the plain girls. They’re not talking about the unbeautiful. So again, it’s not just the media culture that’s holding this up, but it’s the peer culture that’s saying you better look hot.

Dannah: Even when your daughters bring up those kinds of things, like that’s the hot girl or whatever, that’s an opportunity to go back to what does God say about that hot girl or that lovely vessel that God gets to fill? What does God say about that? And to ask your child questions. Not to always have the answers, but to ask them questions.

Bob: Again to point them back to passages like the passage that describes the inward adornment of a woman, not the outward adornment, which it doesn’t say to neglect.

Nancy: The kind of beauty that is of great value in God’s sight. Again, when you’re 14 maybe that’s not the thing that you most aspire to. You know what, when you’re 44, that’s not maybe the thing you most aspire to, but I’ve lived now long enough, as has Dannah, to see some women who would not physically be the most striking women, but you look at them and . . . I was with a woman like this last week who, a woman in her 40s. She’s beautiful.

Bob: She’s radiant.

Nancy: She’s radiant. There’s a countenance, there’s a sweetness there. You realize as you get older that that is an enduring beauty. That’s a beauty that grows and increases. Paul talks about it. He says out outward bodies are decaying. They’re wasting away, but our inner man is becoming more beautiful, more complete, more rich, more holy (see 2 Corinthians 4:16) . We are a temple for God. We’re made for Him. We will live for all of eternity. These bodies they’re decaying. They’re dying. But there is a beauty that can increase with age.

I know I look a lot older today than I did 20 years ago. I am a lot older today than I was 20 years ago. But I just decided a long time ago that I wasn’t going to spend my life chasing after physical, youthful appearance. But I also decided that I wanted to spend my life pursuing qualities that endure:

  • a grateful spirit
  • obedience
  • love
  • compassion
  • tender-heartedness.

By God’s grace, my goal is the day will come when I will be a beautiful woman. But I know it’s not going to come from the outward. It’s going to come from the inward.

So that’s where we want to walk alongside these younger women and say, “We feel your pain. I know what it was in 7th grade to be 5’1” and 130 pounds, and I hate my gym suit, and to feel like I am ugly. I know those feelings, but I also know now, being down the road a little bit further, that those are not the ultimate things and that there are some things that really do matter and that take you through life in a way that is really a joy."

Dannah: We tried to introduce some really practical things for the young women in this book. In addressing this lie and talking to them about how beauty is fleeting and how the true beauty comes from your heart, we established a test for them to post on their mirror.

The test is this: Did you spend more time today in front of the mirror making yourself beautiful on the outside or in God’s Word developing inner beauty of heart and character? Just a good reminder for them to know that . . .

Nancy: And for us.

Dannah: Yes and for us. And aren’t you glad wrinkles don’t hurt? I mean at least we can be thankful for that, right?

Leslie: That’s Dannah Gresh who understands that some of the lies that young women believe can tempt all of us as women. The young women you’re influencing need to hear the kind of conversation we just heard between Dannah, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and Bob Lepine. That’s why I hope you’ll engage with young women whether you’re a parent or a mentor and go through the book Nancy and Dannah wrote called, Lies Young Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free.

It’s practical and insightful, addressing the unique challenges a generation of young women are facing. We’ll send you a copy when you donate to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Call with your donation and ask for Lies Young Women Believe. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or go online to ReviveOurHearts.com. You’ll be able to set the amount of your donation, and then you’ll be prompted to let us know that you’d like Lies Young Women Believe. After that we’ll get your copy to you.

Did you know that Dannah Gresh and Nancy Leigh DeMoss will both be part of the powerful lineup of speakers at True Woman ’08? It’s the national women’s conference coming to Chicago October 9 through 11. Space for that is quickly disappearing so make your plans to be there. For details, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do the young women in your life value marriage? Do they value children? How will their values affect their future? Nancy, Dannah and Bob Lepine will be back to talk about it tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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