If you’re from my generation, you are immediately singing along (perhaps aloud?) to a song about which you, no doubt, assured your parents something like the following, “Mom, I’m only listening to the beat!” Believe me, I was one of the “good kids” who rarely pushed the envelope, even as a teen. Yet, when I was a co-sponsor for student council during my second year of teaching, the “StuCo” leaders came to me and my colleague to get their music approved for the upcoming school dance. “Baby Got Back,” another familiar song from my high school years, was one of the songs on the list. My colleague and I immediately vetoed it; there was no room for it at our Christian school dance.

“But it’s got a great beat!” They protested. “No one’s listening to the words.”

Without missing a beat (no pun intended), my colleague and I both began singing the song. Our StuCo leaders looked at us in shock. Were these words coming out of our teachers’ mouths?! We grinned, and he said, “We just listened to the beat in high school, too.” They surrendered.

So, why am I telling you this? Because the appearance of sex in the media, especially that which is targeted towards teens, is nothing new. If your son or daughter has read the book of Genesis, then he or she has been exposed to sex!

It does seem that contemporary literature is more graphic, more descriptive, more forceful in its portrayals of sex. No longer are contemporary authors skirting the issue, implying that a young couple has been experimenting. They are telling us the details of this young couple’s experiment.

So, what do you, as a Christian parent and/or teacher, do? Ban all contemporary fiction? Tell your teen to stay away from the teen shelf in the library at all costs? Read everything first? No way. First of all, you can’t read everything first–there isn’t enough time, especially if your teen is an avid reader. Second, there are some really wonderful authors out there writing right now. Contemporary fiction is eminently relevant to teens, even if it’s a contemporary piece of fantasy or historical fiction. People write differently in this age of facebook updates, twitter, texting; text is more sparse, direct, and crafted than it was previously, especially in the age of Dickens–a man who got paid by the word (that explains a lot, doesn’t it!?).

Some possible avenues to explore instead:

  1. Talk with your teen–about everything. If he or she doesn’t feel like the doors of communication are open, he or she will go elsewhere to discuss. There are some meaty issues here, and the media is addressing them. Will we?
  2. Teach discernment. Ask thought-provoking questions, encourage discussion. I’m hoping to do a short series this summer with more on this, so stay tuned.
  3. Seek out reviews from those who share your worldview and offer some well written books to your teen that help balance what you may view to be unacceptable.
  4. Encourage discussion between your teen and his/her friends–show that books can be discussed, disagreed about, picked apart, and still be “fun.”
  5. Don’t discuss everything–let your teen start to exercise discernment, to practice before he or she leaves home.
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