Culture Shock

The following is a testimony from Anne Soh, an advocate of GOV and a dear friend. Anne had the privilege of spending time in the UK with her family and was able to use our Culture Shock curriculum with a group of youth there.

I worked with a few of the youth group leaders in a local church in the UK to conduct the Culture Shock curriculum in the youth group over half a year. We took our time to delve into each topic, spending 3 to 4 weeks on each one. Then we allowed ourselves to take a break in between each topic by watching a related movie together or just have a fun day out. I had seen the GOV team carry out Culture Shock before in Singapore, but only as an intensive programme over 2-3 days. Over this extended period of 6 months, I saw even greater impact than I had witnessed before, including:

1. How easy it was to involve local leaders – The youth group leaders could pick up and implement the curriculum just by reading and following the instructions in the Leader’s Guide. We also managed to get some of the youth involved by helping to lead a few of the activities.

2. The openness and depth of the sharing, and the youth’s growth over time – Because we had the time to talk through/after every activity, the youth got to discuss the questions in the book and more. So they could share their own stories, the struggles they faced, and brainstorm strategies to overcome temptations. One of them even gained the courage (and obviously a boost to her self-image) to share publicly about how she had overcome an eating disorder.

3. Relationships were built and strengthened – As we spent time together sharing, laughing, praying and crying, we got to know and trust each other more. Along the way, the youth were able to approach the leaders with personal problems to ask for advice and prayer.

4. Partnership with parents and the church was also made possible – info sheets (adapted from the Leader’s Guide) were given to the parents after each topic so they could follow up at home. We also picked some of the youth to share what they had learnt and/or present their skits during the main service so the congregation was made aware and could actively pray for the youth.

5. God’s presence and divine intervention continually amazed us – During the dart board activity, I could see the dramatic change in the looks on their faces when I revealed that it was Jesus’ face they had pierced. The Holy Spirit spoke to many of them through this and other activities according to their individual and specific needs. For instance, when we told the story of the guy who got 3 wishes on the night before leaving for college (in the last topic), 2 of the youth were also going off to university in the coming week. God spoke to them in a way that wouldn’t have been possible at any other time.

How to Talk to Your Kids about Essena O’Neil

EssenaOneilYou’ve likely heard by now of Essena O’Neill and her recent transition to post more honest content on her social media accounts. The GOV team has been speaking to a lot of youth in Singapore lately, and we have even started including some pieces of Essena’s story in our sessions about social media. If you’re a parent wondering if this would be a good story to share with your tween or teen, here are a few thoughts to help you form a conversation:

1. Even social media can be staged – Often we expect advertisers to use things like photoshop, perfect lighting, etc. to make their models look stunning. We realize this and we’re prepared for it. But it’s harder to wrap our minds around social media that’s been altered. Think about it – when you take a selfie, do you adjust the angle at which you’re holding your phone so you look better? We all do. But we don’t always stop and think that maybe our friend has 11 other shots on her camera roll that are not as flattering as the one she just posted. We often scroll quickly through our feeds, see how great everyone looks, and never stop to wonder why we all of the sudden feel so fat and ugly. What I appreciate about Essena O’Neill is she explains some of the tricks she used to get the images she posted, thereby exposing the fact that social media is not always as spontaneous and natural as we assume it is.

2. There’s no such thing as a free meal – This is a true statement, even in social media. If you look at a picture of a celebrity/friend and think more about the clothing he or she is wearing, the thing being eaten, the makeup used, etc., that person might have been paid to take that picture. In Essena’s opinion, this is fine in and of itself, as long as the person tells you he or she is advertising something. I think this is good food for thought when you talk to your kids. No one wants to be deceived, and kids especially need to know when their emotions are being manipulated to make someone else money. That’s only fair.

3. You are responsible for the content you post and share – One thing I appreciate about Essena is that she realizes she is responsible for the effect her posts have on other people. And because she realizes this, she wants to start posting honest things. Kids need to know that even if they are just sharing something created by another person, they are still responsible (at least on a small scale) for the effect that post will have on their friends. Which gives them incentive to share positive things instead of negative things. I am friends with a lot of people who are younger than me on my social media networks (the consequence of speaking to so many youth over several years!). I’m really careful about what I post because I don’t want them to see something I share and get the wrong impression. Here’s a practical example: I live in Colorado. The sheer amount of funny memes that have circulated over the past few years about legalizing marijuana are enough to choke an elephant. I think some of them are really funny, but I don’t think smoking marijuana is a good idea. Hence, I haven’t shared any of the marijuana memes. I just don’t want to risk it being taken the wrong way.

The bottom line when guiding your tweens and teens toward healthy social media use is to communicate that social media is what we make it. We can be honest in the things we post, we can consider others before we post, and we can choose what to view. There are several advantages to social media. However, if we don’t discern the messages coming at us (whether they be from a friend or acquaintance or even an advertisement), we are in danger of allowing social media to have more control over us than we do it.

One guideline we like to share when speaking to youth about social media is T.H.I.N.K. before you post. Ask yourself: “Is what I’m about to post
T rue
H elpful
I nspiring
N ecessary
K ind

It’s a good rule of thumb for anyone – adults included!

– Megan Briggs

Megan joined the Generations of Virtue team to become the Product Manager, a position which keeps her busy researching, reading resources, managing inventory and speaking to young people.

iPod Porn + Sons


Dear GOV,
Please help! I recently found pornography on my son’s iPod touch. His father has talked to him a little bit about pornography before, but I am heartbroken to see it on his iPod. What do I do?

– Heartbroken in Minnesota

Dear Heartbroken,

First of all – this is not the end. Your son is not condemned to a lifetime of pornography use. Pull yourself out of that heartbreak and prepare to have a much-needed conversation with your son.

The unfortunate fact of our day is that pornography has a wide grip on our culture. But the good news is that people are really starting to talk about it, and realizing that it is something that needs to be (and can be) overcome. Your son can absolutely overcome this and come out stronger on the other side.

One of the first steps you need to take is to figure out if this is a recurring pattern, or if it is a one-time occurrence (maybe an accident) or something that has just started. Get this information, then sit down with your husband and figure out what you are going to say to your son. One thing to keep in mind is that every person has a natural curiosity about sex – and this should not be used to make him or her feel ashamed. Shame is the enemy’s territory. So please start your conversation out in a spirit of love and a desire to understand. Let your son talk – don’t overwhelm him with words and feelings of disappointment. You really need to pray before you have this conversation. 

A couple things your conversation should include: 1) We love you. God loves you too. You are not condemned. 2) Porn is something to avoid. It’s harmful and dangerous and we do not want you to use it. 2) Pornography does not give an accurate portrayal of sex. If you are curious about sex or have questions, we will answer your questions and help you understand what God’s design for sex is. 3) Pray for your son. Ask the Lord to break any ties with pornography and to remove the images from his mind. 4) We are going to put practices in place to help you avoid pornography from here on. This is not to punish you or make you feel like you are inferior. It’s to protect you. 5) We love you and God loves you.

After you have an initial conversation with your son, consider going through a resource with him. A couple we recommend are Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle (for boys 10-15) and Tactics for young men 15-30. May the Lord bless you and guide you as your prepare to help your son!