Teens See Teens Do

Over the past few weeks I have seen many stories about teens mimicking what they are seeing in popular movies. The most disturbing stories are the one about teens mimicking the popular movie Project X.

Project X  is a movie about three teen guys who attempt to gain popularity by throwing a huge party which gets totally out of control. The movie basically is all about the party and what is taking place there. Click here for more details on the movie. If you read the movie review on Plugged In, you will find that the movie is full of sexual content, nudity, terrible language, drug use, and violence.

The first time I saw a story about a group of teens mimicking Project X was when I was scrolling through The Youth Culture Report app on my iPad. There was a link to a news story about a group of teenagers who vandalized a for sale home and was getting it ready for a blowout party following what they perviously saw on the movie Project X. Then a few days later I saw a tweet with a link to another news story about the same thing. I’m not sure if the two stories are actually about the same situation or if this was two different situations, but either way, the lesson for us who work with teenagers is clear: Teens will mimic what they see.

Since teens have a tendency to do what they see, how do adults who work with teens, whether as a student pastor or a parent, respond to this truth that teens mimic what they see? Here are a few things I believe we can do to in response:

1. Be a Godly example for them to follow. Many teens follow the examples they see in movies or in music because they don’t see any other examples worth following. I believe parents and student pastors should do everything they can to be Godly examples for teens to follow. Spend time growing your walk with God and becoming passionate about it so teens can see your Godly example. If you are being authentic and passionate about your walk with God, teens will follow you and try to do the same. Paul had this idea in mind when he said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

2. Set a standard for the movies your teens watch. I don’t want to sound legalistic here, but teens need to understand that there are some movies that are ok to watch and some that are not worth watching because they do not honor God. Parents, as long as you have a teen under your roof, you need to set a standard as to what movies will and will not be watched. This is a tricky issue for student pastors, because we cannot set a standard for the teens ourselves, we need to allow parents to do that. I was recently just on a camping trip with some teen guys from my student ministry. The last night of the trip we all slept inside a house because it was cold overnight. They wanted to watch a movie that I knew was not a good, clean movie at all. I used it as a teaching point to encourage them to choose movies that honor God. I set a standard and said we were not watching that movie and allowed them to pick another movie.

3. Don’t just tell teens not to watch a certain movie, teach them why they shouldn’t. What I mean by that statement is this: don’t just tell them they cannot watch Project X, take some time to teach them why they shouldn’t watch it. Show them Biblically why the movie is sinful and does not honor God. Show them in the Bible where God tells us to fill our mind with what is good, honorable, pure, etc. (Phil. 4:8). If we just set a rule and say they can’t do something, like watch a certain movie, but not teach them why they shouldn’t watch it, they will never learn how to set their own boundaries and learn how to discern what is Godly and what is not.

These are just a few ways we can respond to the truth that teens normally do what they see. Below is a powerful video that was actually used as a commercial that shows how a teen does what they see done.

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