Three Things This Week
1. This Week In Social Media…
What it is:Snapchat announced new Visual Search, in which its camera detects products and automatically finds them on Amazon, while new evidence demonstrated that Facebook, under the guise of account security, gives users’ phone numbers to advertisers.
Why it’s noteworthy: Social media is no longer just about connecting with others. As these moves demonstrate, it’s about making more money in whatever ways necessary. Though many teens aren’t on FB, they are on FB-owned Instagram. And Snapchat’s feature will affect its young user base. What message is it sending? Two big ones come to mind. First, whatever you can snap, you should buy…or at least beg your parents to buy for you. And second, never put your screen down since viewing the world through it can do so much more than simply using your eyes.
2. Teens & Kavanaugh
What it is: Leading up to Thursday’s hearings, The Atlantic asked teens what they thought of Dr. Ford’s accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.
Why it’s a lesson to learn: We have no idea what happened, nor is it our place to pick sides. However, what is interesting is that teens are listening in on this conversation and according to the article they are hearing three key things from adults: “teens will be teens”, sexual misconduct is just a normal part of adolescent behavior, and alleged incidents that happened in one’s youth really don’t matter. Is that the message we want them to embrace? We hope not. Instead, use this difficult and complex story to help them realize that all their actions matter, that what they may do in high school can impact the rest of their lives in dramatic ways, and teach them to take full responsibility for their actions regardless of their age.
3. The Mind of Jake Paul
What it is: An 8-part documentary by YouTuber Shane Dawson on one of the most popular and controversial YouTube personalities (language).
Why it’s fascinating:Part 1 (lots of language), which tells the internet’s side of the story, had over 9.5m views in its first 24 hours. It gives a glimpse into a world many of us adults cannot even begin to comprehend. Most of Paul’s fans and stans are tweens/teens, and his outlandish, ridiculous behavior (which the documentary explores as being possibly sociopathic) not only earns him more views, subscribes, and $$, it also encourages these young people (whose brains and morals are still developing) to mimic him. If your teens watch his or his brother’s videos, this might be worth watching. Part 2 released Thursday, the other 6 parts are TBA. (Since Paul’s material is often seen as bullying, it might be worth watching this interview on bullying.)
Smartphones for Smart Families, Part 2 of 2
Note: The following is excerpted with permission from a chapter we wrote for the brand new book The Art of Parenting: Aiming Your Child’s Heart toward God by Dennis and Barbara Rainey of Family Life. We highly recommend the whole book!
Smartphone Conversation Two: What Is It For?
When it comes to technology, we will quickly confess: We like it. It’s fun, interesting, and powerful. Of course, it can be massively distracting and, in some cases, flat-out dangerous. The second conversation to have about any form of technology is this: What is it for? Although it seems like a deceivingly simple question, how you and your children answer the question of purpose ultimately determines how you ought to use that technology.
So what is a smartphone for? Maybe your family would say that it’s connecting us with the ones we love the most. Okay, great! Now fast- forward to dinnertime. Your family is at a restaurant, and Dad is checking email, Mom is on Pinterest, and daughter is keeping her Snapstreak going. Whoops. #NailedIt
How about Netflix? What is it for? Sure, it’s an incredible library of long-form TV shows with a few movies thrown in. What a fun way to learn and be entertained by great storytelling! But the Oompa Loompas see TV differently:
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND!
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE! HE CANNOT THINK—HE ONLY SEES!
—Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
That’s a lot of ALL CAPS from the Oompas, but we think the message is clear.
Understanding the intended purpose and subsequently the actual outcome needs to be an ongoing conversation. If the diet we’re on is causing us to be unhealthy, we should correct course. If the smartphone that’s supposed to connect us actually pulls us apart, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Remember to have this conversation: What is it for?
**To learn the other two important conversations to have about smartphones with your kids, as well as get some practical advice on smartphone discipleship, download the rest of the chapter here! For more in-depth help with smartphones, check out our free video series “Reclaiming the Smartphone” and our “Parent’s Guide to Smartphones.”
9 PREMIUM INSIGHTS
A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.
They said it best:
1. “Writing this, I kind of feel like a dad asking his child if they’d jump off a cliff just because their friends did. But that is literally the advice I’m trying to impart. Likes on social media are never worth your life.”
–Wes Siler lamenting that a tired old parenting trope has become reality. Los Angeles County Search and Rescue missions have increased 38% over the past 5 years, a trend they attribute to people trying to visit places or replicate stunts they see on social media. Often these places or stunts require advanced technical skills, and people run into trouble if they try to recreate the photos or stunts. Part of being responsible in the wilderness is knowing your limits. Like Wes says, likes are not worth your life.
2. In a surprising announcement, the co-founders of Instagram have said they’re leaving the Facebook-owned company. There’s been tension in the past between the founders and their parent company, but they’ve made things work for over 6 years. Apparently that’s no longer the case. These tensions inevitably had to do with how Instagram was run and how it would be integrated with Facebook. For a time, Instagram was largely left alone and felt fairly separate from Facebook. With the founders’ departure, that will likely no longer be the case. Instagram has remained popular with teens while Facebook has not. What do your teens think? If Instagram starts to become more like Facebook, will they stick around? Or look for a new platform?
3. To build on what was said about The Mind of Jake Paul above, this 16-minute TED Talk is another nuance to consider regarding YouTube, the content it houses, and the YouTubers it spawns. How exactly are the platform’s algorithms affecting viewers? And how early does it start? Could it be desensitizing younger viewers, grooming them from very young ages to desire content like that created by the Paul brothers? Could it be inspiring a whole generation to mimic their over-the-top YouTube heroes? These aren’t questions we claim to have answers to, but we think they’re important to consider. If nothing else, let’s at least do as the speaker says and keep our small children “away from YouTube.”
4. Google turned 20 years old this month. Love it or hate it, Google has revolutionized the way we expect the internet to function. Building its fortune on the back of its advertising business has shaped the way we interact with content online: We demand most of it for free—in exchange for vast amounts of our personal information. The downsides of this arrangement have only begun to show themselves in recent years. It will remain to be seen if Google lasts another 20 years, but there’s no doubt that its impact on history has been made and, in turn, its impact on teens’ lives. (Disclosure: A good portion of Axis’ business is conducted on Google services through their non-profit program. In fact, this email was written and edited in Google Docs.)
5. So why do we so easily give away our information to companies? One reason is because of several cognitive limitations and biases we have, such as impatience and the illusion of control. Companies have either innocently or deliberately exploited these normal human faults to make it easy to gather more and more information on us so that they can sell us more stuff.
6. Another technology that’s been around for about 20 years is AutoTune. Reviled by some, used by almost all, it has come to define the sound of the early 21st century. And its popularity is still going strong. This review is certainly a long read, but it offers several good examples of how AutoTune has been used and how its being used now. What do your teens think about the technology? Is it ruining music? Or is it another important tool of musical expression, just like a studio recorder (which allowed producers to cut and mix together different takes)?
7. As mentioned above, the Kavanaugh hearings dominated much of the national conversation this week, and teens are listening in. From where we sit, it doesn’t matter what your politics are or what you think did or didn’t happen in this particular instance. What does matter is talking about it with your teens. (It also doesn’t matter if you agree with everything that this article says to talk about, just that you do talk about it.) There are important conversations to be had about respect of others, the importance of wise choices, and of the consequences of abusing alcohol, but also the acceptance of responsibility when we make mistakes, even when it costs us. Also, there are important conversations to have about courage and risking telling the truth even when others might not believe you. Further, there’s the important work of building trust and safety with your teen so that they feel that they can tell someone (you) if something terrible does happen to them and be believed about it. Last, we need to be careful how we talk about other adults and their past indiscretions. If we minimize them for the sake of getting what we want, we risk telling our teens, indirectly, that their experiences during this time in their lives don’t really matter.
8. Not everything is terrible. People who were previously paralyzed are walking again, thanks to an implant on their spines and intense physical therapy. Two neat things here for teens. First is what can be overcome with very difficult work. Second is the exciting opportunities that exist for them to help others in the future.
Tip of the Week
9. Be strong. Be courageous. Be yoncé. (That last one’s a joke, thanks, Jerrell!) The first two are not. Your teens are entering a world where doing the right and moral thing is not assumed nor, possibly, even expected. It will take strength and courage to do the right thing, but they do not have to do it alone.
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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