Youth Culture Window
Appropriate, inappropriate, appropriate, inappropriate… which is it? American Idol is proving to be just a bit bi-polar.
If you’re like me, you might find it difficult to find clean family entertainment today. “Let’s see—Discovery Channel, rent the Narnia films, catch Soul Surfer in the theatre… now what?” Is there any appropriate TV programming? Or more specifically, is American Idol a good choice for families?
My family watches a few shows together each week, one being American Idol. But episodes like the ones we’ve seen the last few weeks have made media discernment a little more difficult.
A few nights ago we witnessed some heartfelt moments on the show as we watched “the top three” go back to their hometowns for a welcome that even brought a security guard to tears. This year’s top contestants, particularly the top two, Scotty and Lauren, are proving to be pretty wholesome kids (emphasis on “kids” –these two are the youngest final two in Idol history).
Cut to a commercial… and 5 minutes later the Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger is strutting around half-dressed, literally singing about being dirty while rapper 50 Cent is trying to grind up against her.
Did someone switch the channel?
This seems to be the template for most the shows of recent. A week ago we had some touching moments with the contestants we’ve grown to love, then a moment later we watched Beyonce move and gyrate her femininity in a way that would probably provide a dictionary definition of the American Psychological Association’s term “sexualization.” The week prior, Gaga, and Enrique Iglesias pushed the lines. Katy Perry and Kanye West before that.
I don’t want to come off as a prude, nor do I want to preach the opposite—no boundaries! But American Idol has been bouncing me back and forth like a ping-pong ball. In one moment, I’m seeing good family values, but in the next moment, overt sexuality.
Parents have a decision to make. How much is too much?
Preparing Our Kids to Choose
Sadly, our kids are going to be literally saturated with this kind of media in the real world, and we parents need to teach our kids discernment so they will learn to make good media choices. After all, some day they’ll be out on their own and they can watch whatever they want.
This became a reality to me this week. My son Alec just turned 18. He’s heading off to college in just a couple months, and I am well aware… he can watch whatever he wants then. Who’s to stop him?
The question is, did I prepare him for those choices?
In the handful of years that parents have with their kids, they need to teach their kids to make responsible media decisions. This is easy with some channels:
Animal Planet- yes
In the same way, some shows are blatantly irresponsible, shows like Two and Half Men that are littered with casual sex with no apparent consequences. Reports like the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Sex and the Media report make it clear that this kind of programming is harmful to our kids.
But what about shows like American Idol. After all, that same AAP report encourages parents to co-watch shows with teenagers (rather than letting kids have free reign with the television). Is American Idol okay to co-watch?
Whether or not you decide to allow your kids to watch the show, here’s a few considerations to ponder:
- Who are the role models on this show? What kinds of character qualities are required of these role models? Are teenagers influenced by the people on this show? (people vote with their wallets)
- We don’t even need to ask the question, “Are teenage boys ‘turned on’ when they watch J-lo, Beyonce or Nicole Scherzinger dance provocatively on the show?” The answer is yes. The question is, is this lust? What does the Bible say about lust? What does the Bible say to do when we encounter sexual immorality?
- At what point does a TV show need to be turned off? What Biblical values support this?
If you decide to let them watch the show, take the advice of the experts and at least “co-watch” it with your kids. That way, you can look for teaching moments, even discussing some of the above principles.
The last few episodes of American Idol have given me and my family plenty to think about. We’re tired of being “sidelined” with questionable content from questionable personalities. We’ll have to seriously consider whether this show is even worth it for season 11. It's too bad because the list of "family" entertainment on TV is growing more and more slim.
But there are other shows on other networks. We’ll be paying close attention. I suggest you do, too.
What do you think? Where do you think parents need to draw the line? Post your comments below.
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new
Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a
World of Isolation
, and the award winning book
Do They Run When They See You Coming?
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across North
America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his
. You can follow Jonathan on
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help.
Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live
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