Raping the Innocence of Generation Z

Kent Shaffer —  March 3, 2009

Generation Z is everyone between 2001 to 2021. They are who your children’s ministry will strive to reach for the next two decades.

While it is difficult to forecast how Generation Z will evolve, I think we have enough data to predict that these children will have their innocence robbed at earlier ages and engage in sexual activities earlier and more often than previous generations.

The University of Pittsburgh surveyed ninth-grade students and discovered:

Exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex was one of the strongest associations with sexual activity.

Compared to those with the least exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex, those with the most exposure were more than twice as likely to have had sexual intercourse. Similarly, among those who had not had sexual intercourse, those in the highest third of exposure to lyrics describing degrading sex were nearly twice as likely to have progressed along a noncoital sexual continuum compared to those in the lowest third.

Currently, the United States has 750,000 teenage pregnancies each year.
One in four (25%) U.S. teen girls have sexually transmitted infections.

Obviously, pop lyrics have digressed from the days of the Beatles (i.e., “I wanna hold your hand.”) to the era of Beyonce (i.e., “I know you want my body. Tonight I’ll be your naughty girl”).

Many of today’s Generation Z kids already listen to mainstream pop music. In fact, 44% of UK parents sing their babies pop songs and TV theme tunes rather than nursery rhymes. And if they do not listen to provocative pop music yet, media conglomerates will package it to them and tell them to listen.

Look at the some of music nominees for Nickelodeon’s 2009 Kids’ Choice Awards:

  • Beyonce
    “Now take it off while I watch you perform.” (Suga Mama)
  • Chris Brown
    “Let’s get and make love on Venus.” (Gimme Whatcha Got)
  • Alicia Keys
    “So maybe we can go to first base because I feel you.” (Teenage Love Affair)
  • Jesse McCartney
    “Spend the night with me and I’ll rock you.” (Rock You)
  • Katy Perry
    “I kissed a girl just to try it. I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.” (I Kissed a Girl)
  • Pussycat Dolls
    “I can get off when you ain’t around.” (I Don’t Need a Man)
  • Rihanna
    “What you got up in them jeans? Put it on me, or get lonely.” (Lemme Get That)
  • Kid Rock
    “that little p**** l***** finger f***** h* a** c***.” (F*** U Blind)
  • T-Pain
    “She was s***** on me. And I was l***** on her.” (69)

Considering a large part of Nickelodeon’s audience is Generation Z, the future looks rough for these kids, particularly those who are already listening to Kid Rock, T-Pain, the Pussycat Dolls, and Katy Perry.

For Discussion:
- Where do you see hope for Generation Z?
- How can ministries best help Generation Z from becoming the probable statistics of teen pregnancies and STDs?

Kent Shaffer

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I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with OpenChurch.com to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.

21 responses to Raping the Innocence of Generation Z

  1. I almost didn’t want to read this post.

    My son is just over a year old and now I know what generation he’s in. I’ve known that my wife and I are X and my 15 year old stepson is Y (“Why?”). I’m familiar with X and Y but never really knew much about my son’s generation. Of course, it’s only in its 8th year so there is much more information forthcoming.

    This post bothered me a lot. My stepson, much to my chagrin, likes rap and hip-hop. I detest it. I grew up on Andy Williams and through out elementary school and high school, I was a big Neil Diamond fan. That’s the late 70′s and 80′s. When I started playing guitar, that’s went I started getting into rock. I shied away from anything patently evil because I was uncomfortable with it. I guess my parents did a good job of instilling that within me (growing up Catholic).

    We are now a Protestant Christian family, and now that I’m in my late 30s with children, I cringe at the sonic-assault upon kids these days. I know that in the 50′s, parents thought Elvis was scandalous with his gestures. They must be rolling over in their graves with what passes off as entertainment now.

    The only hope I see for this and future generations are parents instilling Biblical truth in their children. We must teach right from wrong, not situational ethics or morals. I refuse to go the route that “well, that’s just the way it is.” I refuse to allow sin to triumph over truth in my house. That is our only hope. Repent and turn to God to watch over our children and guard their hearts and minds. There is no alternative.

    In Christ,


  2. While I agree with the main points of this post—that extra-marital sex is bad, and music about said sex is bad—I think these stats could be misleading.

    I don’t think they are false, but perhaps just misleading. The stats are presented to communicate the message “Sex music leads to sex lifestyle.” But it could be that the kids with a bad upbringing happen to be the ones that have sex, and these kids also listen to this music as part of that same lifestyle on the whole. But I would be very hesitant to say that the music itself leads to such behavior, even though there may be a correlation.

    A lot of parents are really lousy at being parents. There is a much bigger picture here than lyrics in music.

    BTW, I was shocked at those excepts from the Nickelodeon “Kid’s” Choice Awards. What a sad state our world is in.

    Enter: Gospel

  3. This post is a bit of a confirmation to what I have been fearing with the upcoming youth. Sex is just so accessible, from music with sexual content to pornographic imagery on the internet. It will take a lot of positive role models who can make God’s standards relevant; we need people who actually live it out — I’d also be interested in hearing stats on how many promiscuous teenagers come from unhealthy homes with lousy role models.

    And although I don’t think that sexual music = sexual teenagers, there is always the phrase: garbage in: garbage out.

    @Joe: I’d hate to see you equate Rap/Hip-hop with sex/drugs/murder. There are plenty of musical artists who are Christ-centered.

  4. When you combine the lyrics you quoted with the visual images on the internet you’ve got a recipe for disaster; but the problem is, we won’t know the effects all this exposure has had on this generation for another decade. In the meantime, we have a generation of kids — including church kids — who have lost the ability to blush; one of the things that separates us from the animals. We have a generation that has completely lost their sense of shame. My book online which you can read for free (click on the name above) deals with this is greater detail.

  5. @Darren: No, my intent wasn’t necessarily to equate hip-hop to sex/drugs/murder. Quite frankly, my favorite genre of rock has all those elements as well. My issue with hip-hop and rap is a matter of personal taste and opinion from a musician’s standpoint. I know there are plenty of Christian rap and hip-hop artists, but I wouldn’t necessarily listen to them either because I don’t care for that style of music.



  6. I think what we need to recognize is that this is a holistic package and that music both reflects and influences culture. Yes, the music these kids are listening to does have an impact, it is shaping their framework and when you have elementary students singing along word for word heck yes they are going to be affected.

    But, like was mentioned before, the problem also lies with parents. While culture does have it’s hand, I think parents need to take responsibility; and part of reaching the next generation involves also reaching the parents. They need to be equipped and loved the same way their children do. They need the gospel just as much. They need to be the youth workers biggest advocate and the youth worker needs to come alongside the parent not just trying to undo what the parent has done.

    How can youth ministry be more holistic? I think a lot of parents are scared and just don’t know how to parent a child in such a blatantly sexual, sinful world. Many of the people becoming parents between 2001-2021 weren’t given good parental role models and so they themselves don’t know how to parent.

    I think this is a big key in reaching generation z.

    great discussion,


  7. Just wanted you to know that we highlighted this article and your blog on our show yesterday.

    Also, I’d like to say thanks for making articles like these, and the others you’ve done, available to me & my peers. I’m a faithful reader, and I appreciate it!

    ~Matthew Tietje

  8. I was saddened reading this article. Then my media player randomly chose Twila Paris’ “How Beautiful” which describes her awe at the beauty of Christ’s sacrifice and his body, the church. The key line: “How beautiful is the body of Christ”

    In ancient times, sexual immorality was as common as a green tree (e.g. 2 Kgs 17:10). How many trees do you see every day? While these new forms of media corrupt, in ancient Canaan the youth were tempted to be corrupted just as much by their surrounding culture.

    May God give us the perseverance of Nathan, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others who were faithful in their dark, pagan, and syncretistic world. May God move the awe of our eyes and the eyes of our children from the latest photoshop’ed woman, enticing song, and tempting situation to the ever-radiant King of Kings, the Body of Christ, and the praise of his people.

  9. I think these stats are misleading and I think we need to stop acting like the world before today was so innocent. Every generation has it’s issue and I do agree that Generation Z’ers will have the same issue as Gen X (which I am a part). I listened to Biggie and 2Pac growing up. Both artists had songs that were very positive and those that were down right dirty. I never took those songs to heart. I will admit, I should not have listened to them and that is not something I can blame anyone but myself for; however, as a parent I make them understand that they will see and hear things that are not in alignment with God. They need to constantly focus on God and his word. Whenever I have the chance, I talk to my girls about God, how Jesus treated people and how we confront anyone. Fear no man for God is with you!
    Having said that I will not rely on the tube, internet radio to raise my children. I AM raising them. My husband and I have been given the privilidge to train up our children. So church, mom, dad, nana, grandpa, take up a stance for your children and I bet you when these artists can’t sell a song, they will change their tune.
    Thank you for being bold enough to confront this topic.

  10. Pornography and sex subjects are so easily available that it is difficult to raise a child in a proper environment.

  11. As a member of Generation Z, (btw, this article is wrong, generation z begins at around 1991, we do not identify as Generation Y) I can assure you that this article is completely sensationalist. I mean, just look at the title, it’s rather hyberbolic. It’s true that my generation heard our first dirty lyrics and saw our first pornagraphy before your’s, but that honestly doesn’t mean that much. I started watching pornagraphy when I was fifteen, but the world didn’t end. I’m not so sexual deviant, I’m not addicted to porn, I’ve actually never had sex. Once you see sex a lot, it starts to become very dull (aside from really specific stuff), “regular porn” is boring to me.

    If you’re really all that concerned about your kid (not that I’m trying to tell you how to raise them), I would suggest using parent control on your computers and television, checking the ESRB rating on video games, and talking to your kids about sex. If anything, my generation is able to talk more candidly about sex, I feel like I could talk to my parents about anything.

  12. @Briana

    The definition for Gen Z is actually debatable and fluid. It appears the Wikipedia article I linked to has changed its definition since this article was published. As this Wikipedia article shows, the definitions for generations are quite fluid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generations

    I appreciate your opinion. I realize that there are many your age who would share your perspective, but I don’t think there is any one perspective that can speak on behalf of an entire generation.

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