If you have been following along with my previous blogs, I have discussed why it is important to study youth culture and what we can learn from the history and development of youth culture. In studying the current youth culture that we live in, here are 10 principles that can be observed:
- Youth are driven by a false sense of reality. The most popular movie series among teenagers today (as of 2010) is the Twilight Saga. This is a story about a girl who is in love with a vampire and a werewolf. She cannot choose between the two and her love for them drives her to take ridiculous risks like jumping off a cliff or giving up her soul to become a vampire herself. While this story is imaginative and compelling, it also reveals that teenagers have no idea what real love is. Their reality and entertainment reflects a false reality.
- More than anything else, family life shapes youth environment. Despite the fact that we think teenagers don’t listen to their parents, studies consistently prove that the family life is the unit that forms the youth. We see this all the time in youth ministry. Families that are faithful – particularly families with a patriarch who is faithful – tend to have teenagers that are more fertile soil. The Church is losing her grip on youth culture and does not have the impact in shaping youth environment that she once had. Schools also greatly affect the youth environment.
- Peers are considered a greater source of wisdom than adults. There is a lack of trust in adults among the youth culture. In the youth culture, there is a phenomenon that youth trust their peers more than they trust wisdom in adults. For example, if Suzy is having relationship struggles with her boyfriend, she would sooner trust the advice of her friend who has had fourteen boyfriends than the advice of and adult.
- Media Culture drives the values of youth culture. Today, teenagers spend more time in front of media than they do sleeping. Between internet, Facebook, cell phones, television and music, the teens are almost always plugged into the media. Media has significant influence over the formation of youth culture. The media culture can be dangerous because it provides adults with a way to communicate to youth without permission slips or chaperones. The media culture is not interested in raising young people in virtue and character. Rather, the media exploits youth in order to make money at the expense of their moral character. To see an excellent documentary on how the media exploits youth culture, see the PBS Frontline documentary, Merchant’s of Cool.
- Youth Culture is profoundly self-centered. Most teachers, parents and youth ministers will not argue with the idea that teenagers are turned in on themselves. This presents a challenge when trying to teach a teenager how to love, because love and Christianity are supposed to bring us out of ourselves.
- With regards to a moral code, dualism exists in youth culture. Most teenagers live a double life. Teenagers will live one way with friends and an entirely different way with parents. This presents a problem for a number of reasons. First, a teenager never has a real identity living two different lifestyles. An identity crisis occurs when a person lives a double life. Second, a teenager has two different moral codes for two different worlds. The truth becomes relative when there is more than one moral code for life.
- The highest virtue in youth culture is not ratting out your friends. Teens will lie to adults to protect their friends, regardless of whether their friend is wrong. They will do this in almost any circumstance. Adults are seen as untrustworthy and not capable of handling difficult situations. The media culture constantly plays into this by portraying adults and parents as incompetent and by casting them as the enemies of youth culture.
- The 3 highest ideals in youth culture are physical beauty, athletic ability and intelligence – and intelligence is secondary to the first two. Christian tradition has always spoken of these as the least valuable things in life. For a Christian, the highest value of life is virtue. For a teenager, their identity is found in the things they have instead of who they are created to be.
- Youth Culture thrives on false promises of happiness. For a teenager, happiness is driven by the desire for fun. Teenagers even have to prove their “fun-ness” to their peers (think about statements like, “we had so much fun this weekend.”). However, statistics reveal that teenagers are not happy. Fun is not completing them. In a Christian world, fun is not an end in itself.
- Youth are looking for someone to talk to. Think about all of the social networking among teenagers. Because teenagers spend so much time in virtual relationships (facebook, texting, etc) they are starving for real interpersonal relationships. Teenagers want advice and they want someone to talk to. In our current youth culture, teenagers are more responsive to adults than previous generations. They want advice from their parents. This can be really good or it could be disastrous because our current generation of parents are not well formed and do not have wisdom to share.
Having observed these principles of youth culture, I will discuss how we can transform youth culture into a Christian culture in my next blog.
Editors Note: Everett’s final blog in this series will be published next Friday.