This is an extension of my previous post, Jesus is Losing on the Internet.
It’s no surprise, that youth turn to the internet for advice on just about everything. We all do. I couldn’t tie a tie without YouTube. When Wikipedia and other websites went black to protest SOPA on 1/18/12, America’s IQ was halved. But seriously, a phenomenom called Adolescent Abandonment exists.
Culturally, teenagers have been outcasted for a long time, but in recent years there has been a dramatic increase due to SEVERAL factors (increasing divorce rate, decreasing parental interaction, extended period of adolescence, decrease in intergenerational mingling, etc…). So teenagers are using the internet for sources on sexuality (which is primarily taught through porn, 90% of it being physically and verbally aggressive Bridges 2010), identity, relationships, homework, spirituality, athletics, and just about anything you could name, like ninja skills.
Here are some quotes from a research paper I wrote about Parental Involvement with Adolescent Sexual Identity Formation:
In ranking the overall percentages of sources for information on sexuality, parents (14%) at best rank as the 4th source, falling well below peers (51%), boyfriends/girlfriends (34%), and school (33%) (Wallmyr, 294). In one study, 55% of youth aged 13-15 responded that they had the ability to talk to their parents, but when asked their preference for information, parents where listed as 4th on the list (Turnbull, Preferences 281). With some 60% of adolescents turning to websites and magazines for “continued education”.
“Parents did not think it necessary to openly discuss sexual matters with their adolescent children because values should be transferred through parental respect. Their children, on the other hand, believed that open discussion was necessary for this transmission to occur. They concluded that the result was a bilateral withdrawal from family communication about sex.” (Involvement 185).
The research is clear:
- Youth turn to the internet for education and information
- Youth are searching for open dialogue
- The internet has some good resources for teens, but they are overwhelmed by the abundance of garbage, and the Porn industry will do ANYTHING to grab ahold of their mind and their wallet at ANY age
A New Approach to Evangelism
In a recent post about comment-evangelism, I mentioned the need for Christians and the Church to rise to redeem the Internet. In one comment, I said that YouTube might need a different approach than what traditional news and blog sites need. Rather than just responding to media, sites like YouTube require content creation.
One great example of this is Tim Schmoyer’s recent venture with Youth Questions. Youth can submit anonymous questions which Tim responds to through YouTube videos with answers from youth leaders, teachers, counselors, parents, and other teens who’ve submitted video answers. Here is the most recent video that yours truly makes a brief appearance in responding to this question:
I’ve tried talking to my mom about letting me sit alone with my bf (boyfriend) and having a conversation alone with him since we are never alone, but she thinks that we are gonna make out, and do “other things” but we wont. She wont believe me when I tell her that. I dont know what to do. Please help me :’(
We Must Respond
The internet has created a social disconnect from real relationships, so how do we as the Church respond to this? I think that taking truth directly to people, wherever they are, is a great strategy.
XXXChurch has been controversially taking the good news of Jesus to porn-conventions to rescue those who are trapped in a depressing and abusive lifestyle for years now, as well as resourcing the Church in battling pornography and sex addictions.
What does YouTube evangelism look like? We obviously don’t want to digitally revive the trend of people screaming on the street corner, so what are some ways we can experiment with this? Youth are desperately searching for answers.
Evangelism without discipleship doesn’t work. How do we move beyond consumable content and connect people with real community?
What about parents?
Shouldn’t we be working to reenable parents to be the prime source of information? I’m glad you asked that question. YES. But it needs to be a both/and, not an either/or.
I’m excited to see this as a growing trend within the Church (and even within school systems to a limited degree). The number of parental resources available (on the internet) is growing by the minute. Some amazing work has been done by the Fuller Youth Institute in creating Sticky Faith, which I think will not only equip parents to be the clearest voice on spirituality in the lives of their children, but it will also create a foundation for open conversation which will help to restore force. The family force that is. But like many things, this is a long process of unoutsourcing parenting. In the meantime, their are MILLIONS of youth searching for answers.