Top Five Issues Facing Teens TodayMarch 3, 2006
On today's broadcast, Vicki Courtney, author of several books including The Virtuous Woman and TeenVirtue, talks about the top five issues facing teens today.
On today's broadcast, Vicki Courtney, author of several books including The Virtuous Woman and TeenVirtue, talks about the top five issues facing teens today.
Top Five Issues Facing Teens Today
Bob: Have you looked at a copy of Seventeen magazine, or any of the teen fashion magazines recently? Vicki Courtney says those magazines are influencing and warping the thinking of teenage girls.
Vicki: Our girls tend to measure themselves early on, we're finding, to unrealistic standards that are out there. One statistic that disturbs me about the fashion magazines is that in just three short minutes of flipping through any average fashion magazine, over 80% of women felt guilty, shameful and depressed. And so I think a lot of that is the models in the magazines are unrealistic. We put the standard out there for women that is impossible for us to reach.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 3. Our host is the President of Family Life, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to look today at the messages that the popular culture is trying to send to your teenage daughter.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we were talking earlier this week about the magazines for teenage girls, talking about Seventeen, and how even grownup magazines, like Cosmopolitan and Vogue have now come out with their teenage editions. I don't know how many parents have picked up one of these magazines and looked at it, but I guarantee you, I was thumbing through Seventeen magazine not long ago and I thought do parents know what these magazines are saying to their kids?
Dennis: I can tell you one parent who knows. She joins us on FamilyLife Today. Vicki Courtney joins us again. Vicki, welcome back.
Vicki: Well, thank you.
Dennis: Vicki is the founder of Virtuous Reality Ministries, and weren't you looking at one of these magazines, Vicki, in light of your daughter?
Vicki: Oh, I actually subscribe to the magazines for the sheer pleasure of trashing them across the country when I would speak. I would post up on Power Point just to let moms know. At our events we encourage moms to come and the general sessions are geared usually to the daughter, but then we have separate breakouts for the middle school girls, high school girls, and then moms have a track, and I teach one of the tracks to moms. I gain great pleasure in showing the moms, "This is what you're girls are reading on the pages of these magazines."
Bob: If it's been a while since a mom has looked at a Seventeen magazine, what's there?
Vicki: Wow! I'd say several months back they did an issue where they described in pretty graphic detail a rainbow party, which I would rather not go into detail on the air about, but it has something to do with oral sex, an epidemic, and things girls are doing at parties. And so educating our girls to things that they should not have knowledge about. One of the worst offenders is actually Cosmo Girl, which is right in there in competition with Seventeen magazine, and they tend to push the envelope much further.
Bob: Much further than that?
Vicki: Oh, yes. I mean, they had an article, I wrote about it in my Teen Virtue in letting girls know the dangers of fashion magazines, about a transgender girl who was halfway through a sex change operation, and they showed her naked from the waist up after having her breast tissue removed. So, mothers are just horrified when they find out what's in these magazines.
Dennis: So, what's behind this? I mean, is this a concerted effort to undermine the morality of our young people today?
Vicki: I really do believe it is, Dennis. Again, I cover in Teen Virtue where I address the "Top 40 Issues Teen Girls Face." I have a whole article in there on "Warning! Fashion Magazines are Dangerous to Your Health." I want to let the girls know that there is an agenda behind these magazines. The editors by and large are feminists. They are wanting to get the message across to our girls that anything goes in the culture. You don't need to feel guilt, you don't need to feel shame for sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, anything like that. Anything goes.
Dennis: You mention your book. It actually has a magazine look to it. It's called Teen Virtue, and you say the "Top 40 Issues Teen Girls Face." I had to ask you this question. Bob doesn't like me to ask this kind of question.
Vicki: Oh, no.
Bob: Here it comes. If you had to pick just one –
Dennis: No, no, it's not going to be just one, Bob. It's not going to be just one. Could you give us the top five that young ladies are facing today? Because I think moms need to know what their daughters are facing to guide them. What I'd like you to do is start with No. 5.
Vicki: Oh, no.
Dennis: And go all the way to No. 1. You have to give them what you think is the top issue they're facing, so I guess I did end up getting the –
Vicki: Wow! I need a night to my homework, but let me take a stab at this. I would say I'd start with the whole sexy craze out there is No. 5, and that's one article out – or one issue out of the top 40, but it encompasses so much of what bombards our girls.
Bob: You're calling it the sexy craze?
Vicki: The sexy craze.
Dennis: Is this the midriff, showing the midriff deal?
Bob: That's so five years ago. You are just not in touch. They don't do midriffs anymore, do they?
Vicki: No, that's kind of – it is kind of going out, but –
Bob: See, you're out of touch with that.
Dennis: Excuse me; I just recently took a walk.
Bob: And you saw a few? Okay. All right.
Dennis: If I'm out of touch, the whole city I was just in is out of touch.
Bob: Okay, I gotcha!
Vicki: Yes, I saw a little bit of that, too, Dennis, this weekend. And, unfortunately, if you come to some of our events, you'll see more of that. So, no, I would say it's better. Girls are covering up a little bit more.
Vicki: They are. There is actually a new fashion trend underway; it's more of the preppy look. If only, guys, we had saved our Izod shirts; they're worth a fortune now. So, girls are covering up a little bit more. Department stores, I'm happy to say, are starting to follow suit and offer some clothes that will cover these girls up a little bit more. It's not the short shorts, but it's still pretty scantily clad stuff.
Dennis: So, what is the sexy craze? Bob shamed me here as though I don't know what the sexy craze is. What is it?
Vicki: I think it really encompasses that whole pressure that you see on the shows that the girls are watching. You know, I'm amazed at how many of our Christian girls are watching Desperate Housewives, or the OC, and those sort of shows. It shows women as being sex crazed, assertive, aggressive. Forget this whole guy-makes-the-first-move thing. It's the girls making the first move, and you have to be sensual and attractive to get his attention. You pick up the fashion magazines and they're telling – I think I cited on an earlier show, subtitles like "Swimsuit Tops that Tease and Please." These are geared to 12- to 17-year-old girls.
Bob: And what girl – I mean, you go back to when you were 15 years old, girls want guys to notice them. And if the magazines are saying the only way you're going to make this work in today's culture is the jeans or the swimsuit tops, or whatever else, whatever the fashion is, girls will run to it, because they want to be noticed, don't they?
Vicki: They will. And you know, one of the things we do to support the girls in this and let them know there's an alternative, what we do at our events is we pull actual images from these fashion magazines and we show them on Power Point, and then we have a live model come out. We've adapted the fashion to be more wholesome. Because you have to be careful with this whole – I mean, God put something in women to want to be attractive to men. There is something that's very natural about that, too, and so we want to be sure and not tell our girls that this gives you an excuse to, for the remainder of your years, wear baggy sweatpants and never wash your hair again, or your face, or wear makeup. And so there's a balance in all that, too, that's okay to want to be a good steward with what God has given you and for the right reasons. Because I tell women, boy, wow, when you're married, yes, be sexy to your husband. I'm sure he'd appreciate that.
Dennis: Right. This is one of the things Barbara and I talked about, and Barbara has sought to lead our daughters in, which is, well, more of a hide it rather than a flaunt it approach, because what you attract is what you get.
Vicki: That's right.
Dennis: And the question is, do you want to train your daughters to attract men around your physique, or do you want to attract young men around your heart, and who you are in your character?
Okay, let's go on to No. 4 of the top 5 issues young ladies are facing today.
Vicki: I would have to say, "Are you into the comparison game?" This is something that most of your adult female listeners are relating to right now, and that our girls tend to measure themselves early on we're finding to unrealistic standards that are out there. One statistic that disturbs me about the fashion magazines is that – and I don't know who ran the study, but I used it and cited it in my Your Girl book, so I know it's real, is that in just three short minutes of flipping through any average fashion magazine, over 80% of women felt guilty, shameful and depressed. And so I think a lot of that is the models in the magazines are unrealistic. We put the standard out there for women that is impossible for us to reach. It doesn't take into allowance childbearing years, or that your body shape changes, or that women are made differently, we're all going to look differently.
Bob: Or that airbrushing has happened.
Vicki: It has occurred to a large degree, and so I would say that's a huge issue for girls that's still very much out there, that we're showing them unrealistic expectations of what they need to be.
Bob: Was that one of the things that fueled for you ongoing bouts with eating disorders as you were growing up in high school and college?
Vicki: Yes, it was.
Bob: You're looking at what's presented as attractive womanhood, and you're saying I got to get there, right?
Vicki: Absolutely, yes. That was definitely one.
Dennis: You mentioned in your book that there are 3 billion women, and the 3 billion women compare themselves to a handful of women who, as Bob said, are airbrushed in Hollywood?
Vicki: That's right, exactly.
Dennis: It doesn't exist.
Vicki: And they confess to it as well, most of them.
Dennis: Bob and I were having dinner last night, and he was talking about a Hollywood star, who just broke up with her significant other, and some tabloid said she's trying to get back in shape to win him back over.
Bob: She'd be classified as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, and yet she now doesn't measure up with her ex-husband, and so she's got to get on the treadmill and try to get back to lure him back. The point is, when you talk about body image, that if you try and find your significance there, if you try to find that life is there, you're going to find, first of all, it's an unachievable goal, you're never there. You never get to where you look in the mirror and go, "I really like the way I look." I've never met a woman who has said, "I really like the way I look," when she looks in the mirror.
Vicki: You're absolutely right, and this is what I share with girls in the magazine, and also in the Your Girl book. I tackle it with moms, because I tells moms we have to be careful; you are conveying to your daughter, whether you realize it or not, when you stand in front of your bathroom mirror and you grumble –
Bob: Yeah, preach it. There you go.
Vicki: -- your daughter sees this and you can tell her until you're blue in the face that, "Oh, you shouldn't care about what others think, or you shouldn't care that you're a little bit overweight, or you shouldn't care about these things, but when your daughter sees you reacting to those things, it sends a much stronger message. And so we've got to start with Mom, really, here.
Bob: Okay, so we've got the sexy image as one of the issues.
Dennis: No, it's the sexy craze.
Bob: Sexy craze, sorry. Thank you. We've got the body image as another issue. What's No. 3 on your list?
Vicki: I'd say No. 3 would have to be the staying in line when online. That is huge for our girls today. Again, I have one article out of 40. I give top 10 tips to stay in line when online. You could put together a whole magazine alone – or I've nicknamed it a magabook, because it does look like a magazine, but it really is a book.
Dennis: Why don't you give them those 10 tips real quick, because I think this is a real danger for young ladies today.
Vicki: And we're finding, even since I've written this, that it is a large part of their life. This is the number one communications means for teens now. I didn't have that stat when I was writing this, but some of the tips that I've got in here, I tell girls, is to try to get in the habit of asking yourself on a regular basis, "Would what I'm typing bring glory and honor to God?" We've got to get our kids to point where we don't say, "Okay, the Internet is evil, you can't get on." That's not realistic. It's going to be a part of their life. We've got to train them to self-monitor. And so I would think the first way we do that is to say, okay, let's ask God. "Would this bring glory and honor to Him?" Your profile, "Would it bring glory and honor to Him? Your buddy list, the people you're talking to, the things you're talking about.
Number 2, I tell girls, if you have a profile, would someone who doesn't know you determine that you are a Christian after reading it? I've gone onto profiles of some of my kids' friends that are in the youth group and at the private Christian school or wherever, and I've been shocked at what I have found, that it is not only a poor witness, but it would leave you wondering. You would never imagine that this child was a Christian.
Dennis: Okay, we're going to allow you to give one more of your 10 online rules. Give us one about safety, because I'm really concerned about safety for young people. And if it's okay with you, we'll post all 10 of these at familylife.com. We'll also have a link to an alert you have for moms, to help them guard and guide their daughters when it comes to the Internet.
Bob: What's your last tip?
Vicki: Last tip I'd have to say is for our girls to remember that nothing is private online. Real big craze out there is blogging. You know, that's short for web log and keeping an online journal, and I'm finding that a lot of girls are – that's very appealing to girls. I mean, forget the diary with the lock and key that you hide under your bed. Now you can go on for free and have a user name, and upload your whole photo album and share your innermost thoughts online.
Bob: And all your friends can respond to your thoughts.
Vicki: Yes, can respond and see that. And I've been doing a lot of radio interviews lately on this whole blogging phenom, and a lot of church kids are doing this and the parents have absolutely no idea that it's going on. I've discovered on a real popular site, myspace.com, kids from our youth group, girls that are inappropriately dressed posing in their swimsuits, thinking nothing's wrong with this. And you know it's funny, when I mentioned to my kids that I had been on myspace, my oldest son, who's 17, looked at me and said, "Well, how did you get on there?" It's almost – they really have this mentality that no adult could penetrate that private online world.
Bob: It's their secret world.
Vicki: So, I would tell girls that you need – and our guys, for that matter – you need to remember nothing you post online is private. I told my son, "What about worldwide web are you not getting?" Can you imagine if these kids run for public office some day?
Dennis: Yeah, and the thing that they don't realize is, is that there are evil people. They are advertising. It's like taking out an advertisement in a newspaper that goes to a very perverted, evil section of the nation.
Vicki: Yes, and you can bet they're on these sites. I did, Dennis, I sat my own kids down and I showed my daughter why this is wrong, and I said, "Look at this friend of yours right here. She's mentioned her first name," because my daughter said, "She didn't mention her last name, look." I said, "She's mentioned her first name, she mentioned her high school, her home town, and in her photo album she shows a picture of her, and you're in it, in your cheerleading uniforms. We've narrowed it down to 1 out of 15 girls now, and the only one with that name on the cheer squad." If somebody really wanted to find her – and so this is – and then my daughter was like, "Ew, ew," and you know, that's what they're not getting it. They're not getting that to even all those details when they come together for that evil person that you speak of, and there's many.
Bob: All right. We're keeping the countdown going here on your top issues for parents. What's No. 2 in the countdown?
Vicki: I would definitely have to say the whole issue of moral relativism that has infiltrated our world today, in our youth culture especially. I have an article in there "Right is Right, and Wrong is Wrong." We need to get back to that as Christians, where we're not afraid to say that there's an absolute standard for right and wrong, that God alone is truth. I'm disturbed at just the level of moral relativism, that the church, Christians have even embraced to the degree of, you know, sometimes I think we're so – we want to be so PC about everything, that we're afraid to say that there is a right and wrong, for example, that Jesus is the only way. We should never be ashamed or embarrassed to proclaim that. Now, we need to do it in a loving, loving and a grace-filled manner, but I'm very disturbed at the large number of teens that I talk to in the church that say, "Well, I'm not so sure that homosexuality is wrong," or "I'm not so sure that abortion is wrong," issues like that, or downloading music illegally, or burning a CD for your friends. We're really living in a culture where, again, anything goes and they're told that. And, so, we've got to get our kids back to this, there is such a thing as right and wrong, and you determine that by looking in God's Word. And you've got to be familiar with God's Word, and that God decides that standard.
Dennis: You have to help your children withstand the breeze, which is becoming hurricane force –
Dennis: – in the culture. I'll never forget Ashley describing herself when she was in junior high. She told one guy, she said, "I am an iron pole stuck in concrete, and you are a willow blowing in the wind."
Bob: This is your daughter, Ashley, right?
Vicki: I love that.
Dennis: The picture of that willow blowing back and forth, you can see it everywhere, but I think Ashley learned to have that concrete pole conviction because she had parents who were driving it home to her life over and over and over again, and you need to know there were times when she bent a little bit. But she really turned out to be quite a young lady and has become a great mom. All right, what's No. 1?
Vicki: Well, No. 1 that I address, I would have to say would be "Why are we here in this great big world?" That's, of course, addressing our purpose in life, and adults, for that matter, many Christian adults, are still struggling to, you know, "What is that in a nutshell?" And so I let the girls know that in a nutshell, that is to know God and to make Him known. And I think sometimes as Christians, we camp out in Part A of that equation, to know God. "God, what can you do for me? How can you bless my life?" And we're actively pursuing, you know, well, getting in Bible studies, getting to know him, but we forget Part B of that equation is to make him known. If we are sincere, we've made it a habit to get to know him, a natural part of our lives should be that we are making him known as we go each and every day by the way that we live and our boldness in telling others.
Bob: And that is No. 1 on the list, because that's the foundation from which everything else begins to find order and shape, isn't it?
Vicki: Absolutely. And that's – I get asked in many radio interviews – I only get asked what is your top issue. So thanks, guys, on the cuff there, I had to come up with five. I've had the pleasure of sharing this on some secular radio shows, that the number one issue that I address is the one that I just shared, and for what you said, Bob, that it's because without that as a foundation, the rest of this magabook is not going to make a lot of sense.
Dennis: And it's God's assignment for parents to take the issues you've listed and to take the scripture, and to begin to embed the truth and the reality of scripture in our children's lives so that as they grow up and go through the teen years, yeah, they're still going to face issues. And I have to say, Vicki, as I look through, what did you call it, a magalog?
Vicki: I nicknamed it a magabook.
Dennis: A magabook, every page I turned and it's fresh, it's relevant for teenage girls, but it's also pretty sad. I mean, the issues that young ladies are having to face today, the eating disorders, sexual abuse, decisions about body piercing and tattoos, and on and on and on the list goes. I'm just glad you've taken it on, and I'm thrilled for your ministry and your outreach to moms and daughters, because if there's ever been a time when it's needed, it's today.
Bob: And I can imagine there will be a lot of teenage girls who will enjoy reading the Teen Virtue magazine, bookzine, magalog, whatever we call it. They will enjoy reading it because it is put together, laid out in a format that they're comfortable with, something that they would comfortably share with a friend, and it hits these issues head-on from a biblical perspective. We have copies of it in our FamilyLife Resource Center, along with other resources that you've put together, Vicki, including a journal for teenage girls that helps them wrestle with some of the tough questions they're going to be facing as teenagers, and to be thinking about those ahead of time, and a book that you've written for moms called Your Girl. You can review any of these resources by going to our website at familylife.com. You can order online if you'd like. Again, the website is familylife.com, click where it says "Today's Broadcast" in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where there's more information about resources that are available from us here at FamilyLife.
If you're interested in all of these resources, we can send along at no additional charge the CD of our conversation on this subject with Vicki Courtney. Again, the website is familylife.com. Click "Today's Broadcast," and that will get you all the information you need on ordering these resources, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY, an we'll have someone on the team who can help make sure we get these resources sent out to you.
A quick word of thanks before we wrap things up this week to those of you who help support this ministry by praying for us, those of you who write to us, to let us know how God is using the ministry of FamilyLife Today in your life and in your family. We also appreciate those of you who help support this ministry financially. Your financial gifts are what keep FamilyLife Today on the air on this station, and on stations all across the country. We especially appreciate those of you who are Legacy Partners, and who each month make a contribution to FamilyLife Today. That monthly support is vital, and we have several new Legacy Partners, who have just recently joined with us. We're grateful for all of you. If you'd like to find out more about becoming a Legacy Partner, or you'd simply like to make a donation to FamilyLife Today, go to the website, familylife.com, or give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY, and we can pass along the information, or take your donation right over the phone or online, if you'd like. Again, the website is familylife.com, and the phone number is 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word TODAY.
Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday, when Ron and Nancy Anderson are going to join us. We're going to hear how God brought their marriage back from the brink, a marriage that had been rocked by infidelity. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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