Vol. 5 Issue 2 | January 11, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. Teens Fight Back

What it is: Meme accounts on Instagram, many of which are run by teens, are spamming certain hashtags to thwart child p*rnographers’ efforts to reach more people.

Why it’s innovative: The hashtags in question are seemingly innocuous ( #dropboxlinks, #tradedropbox), but the teenagers discovered that p*rnographers would covertly advertise “young boys” or “young girl links” in their posts, then DM links with illicit images to anyone who commented on the posts or used the hashtags. When reported, Instagram initially responded by saying that their Terms of Use had not been violated, so the memers banded together to overwhelm the hashtags with memes, thus making the p*rnographers’ posts harder to find. We love their ingenuity and willingness to take action, but it’s clear that we need to talk with our kids about this sad reality and what to do if they come across it. (Instagram has since deactivated some hashtags, but that just means new ones will be used.)

2. Danger on Discord

What it is: Free messenger apps are increasingly being used by terrorist groups like ISIS to disseminate info and recruit new members.

Why it’s concerning: In the past, terrorist orgs have tried to set up websites and use platforms like Tumblr, but they kept being hacked or shut down, so they’ve begun turning to smaller, less well known, and less regulated apps like Telegram, RocketChat, Viber, and gamer-specific Discord. Of course, the chances are slim that your kids will ever be contacted by ISIS or another terrorist cell, but they’re not the only predators on these apps, and all of them capitalize on users’ lack of awareness, young ages, and hesitancy to tell others about something questionable. Have you created an environment where your kids feel safe enough to talk with you if something strange or threatening comes through one of their apps? Our Parent’s Guide to Discord can help.

3. Live Listen

What it is: ICYMI, Apple has a feature called “Live Listen” that allows you to use your iPhone or iPad like a microphone and your AirPods as the receiver.

Why it can be creepy: It only works with iOS 12 and AirPods (other headphones don’t work) and was designed to turn AirPods into hearing aids by magnifying sound. But as this Instagram post (may have to log in) shows , it can be used to spy on someone in another room without them knowing. All they have to do is leave their phone in the room with Live Listen activated and walk away. Two things: 1. Please don’t use this against your kids. As tempting as it might be, good relationships are built on trust, not secrecy and control. And 2. If your kids have the ability to use the feature, have a conversation with them about why you won’t use the feature on them and how you hope they’ll show others the same courtesy.

Did you know we also create in-depth Parent Guides on a weekly basis to aid you as you disciple teenagers? We’ll be featuring one each week in the new section below in order to better serve you! Let us know what you think.

Parent Guide Spotlight: As Billboard’s Artist of the Year for 2018 and Spotify’s most-streamed artist in 2018, Drake has massive influence, not just on culture, but also on music lovers. Our brand new Parent’s Guide to Drake will help you better understand him and his influence so you can disciple teenagers to be thoughtful and intentional about who and what they listen to.

The Humans Trafficked In Our Homes

Today, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and the entire month of January is dedicated to raising awareness to end modern slavery. Today’s slavery is radically different from the Atlantic slave trade that brought millions of Africans to work the plantations of the antebellum South. Present-day slaves are mostly women, young girls, and even boys coerced into commercial sexual exploitation. Experts believe as many as 4.5 million people are currently trapped in sex slavery. The average annual profit from a woman forced into sexual slavery is $100,000, meaning this black market is a lucrative business.

While this all sounds horrible, you may be wondering just how it touches your family. If pornography is being consumed in your home—which, sadly, is likely; of the most-visited websites in the US, numbers 6, 7, and 8 are all porn sites, beating out eBay, Instagram, and Twitter—then in very real ways that act is aiding and enabling the sex slave trade. Porn and sex trafficking go hand in hand: 49% of women rescued from the industry said pornography was made of them while they were in bondage. Here’s a disturbing, yet informative video on the inextricable link between porn and trafficking.

So what can your family do? First, have honest conversations about the porn pandemic. There are no innocent users. The industry is filled with victims and perpetrators, and viewers become complicit, fueling supply and demand. Second, harness your child’s passion for social justice by raising awareness online or by starting a trafficking club at their high school. Third, get involved with local or national groups actively engaged in the fight to end modern slavery. Here’s a great list to choose from! Finally, check out our three-part Parent’s Guide to Pornography detailing how porn appeals to and impacts both boys and girls.

10 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. “It’s about all of us asking, together, what kind of lives we want in our households, what kind of relationships we want with the people closest to us, what kind of people we are personally becoming—and whether our current use of technology is actually helping us become people of wisdom, courage and love.”

Andy Crouch in response to the positive reception of his book The Tech-Wise Family. His line of questioning here is useful, not just for technology, but also in making sure we’re modeling for our teens wise, courageous, and loving relationships with work and success, excessive consumption, how we treat our neighbors, etc. We all know these are important areas of life, but are we actively showing with our lives how teens should live, or are we just telling them?

Technology

Devices

2. It’s an attractive but beguiling solution, using technology to solve problems created by technology. Attractive because using technology seems easy and unambiguous. Beguiling because the promises of technology often prove hollow. Yet again we must wrestle with the conundrum: Can smartphones, the possible source of teen mental health issues, also be used to detect mental health issues before they become problems? Perhaps Andy Crouch may provide some wisdom yet again: “The biggest cultural mistake we can indulge in is to yearn for technological solutions to our deepest cultural problems.” It could be that our human problems will take human solutions, like maybe sharing a hug today or kind words with someone who needs them.

Apps/Websites

3. Given how much time teens are spending using the internet and assigning so much value to the pictures and words they see there, it’s a good idea to ask the question, how much of it is real? Perhaps unsurprisingly, not a lot. One of the biggest surprises for us was that the Instagram “influencers” we’ve previously written about are now posting “sponsored” content for free. In other words, they’re making fake ads so that they have more credibility in order to become more influential! What a weird and twisted cycle of image-crafting.

Pop Culture

Film/TV/Streaming

4. Here’s a long, but not exhaustive, list of movies that are due to release in 2019. As expected, there are many sequels or continuing stores from established intellectual properties. What are your teens most excited to see this year? Are they looking forward to any original stories? Why or why not?

Trending

5. The Consumer Electronics Show was this week, and as is the case every year, it was full of small, lighter, more powerful gadgets than ever before. If you’re interested in extensive coverage, check it out here. Do your children think any of this stuff is useful? Or is most of it fancy junk? What is the appeal of consumer electronics?

6. One such item of fancy junk is the new “intelligent” toilet. It features audio and lighting that can also synchronize with your mirror, tub, and vanity. Why did we need this? We don’t know. Also the toilet costs $7,000.

7. But wait, that money might be worth it for the likes! A fancy, light-up throne just might earn you a coveted spot on the growing fancy bathroom trend on Instagram. Bathrooms are one of the latest (and maybe one of the last) places to receive the Instagram treatment, i.e. they need to be fun, quirky, and make people look cool and cute in photographs, so that businesses can lure in customers to get that coveted shot on their timelines. Then people will tap the like button on their apps, and we will all feel validated. Seriously, we live in really weird times…

Teen Culture

Positive things

8. We’re not Elon Musk fanboys by any measure, but we were rather impressed by this summary of how he’s been able to achieve what he has. When presented with a problem, he’s always tried to uncover the foundational tenets of the problem. He ignores all the assumptions or standard ways of doing things. Then he leverages those basic foundations to come up with novel solutions. In an era when so many “answers” are given to teens by entertainment and social media, we thought it was a good reminder to help your teens learn how to ask good questions about why things are the way they are. Teach them how to find out what is actually foundational and what is just taken as a given in a situation. This could apply to their relationships with friends, the problems they want to solve in the world, or even what it means to live as a follower of Christ.

9. Here’s one example we came across. It’s generally a given that in modern civilization we have to design places and spaces to accommodate cars. But what if that wasn’t necessarily the case? One Spanish city has completely changed the way their city streets work by considering people first and cars last. It’s a completely unusual way of doing things, and we think it’s worth mentioning to teens to provide them with a glimpse of alternate ways of doing things. If today’s teens don’t grow up to simply preserve the status quo, who knows what kind of future they’ll be able to create?

A note from the editor

10. The dark hole that is the internet and, by extension, the psyche of the world has only seemed to get darker and wider the more I have stared into it for these past two years. Everyday it seems like our teens are inheriting an increasingly worse world. We do what we can to stem the tide, but what can a thimble do against the ocean? It might feel like we are fighting a battle we can’t win. And the truth is, we are. But if I have learned anything these past two years, it is that the reality of our limits and inabilities is not cause for despair, but the beginnings of the realization of our greatest joy. This is the good news: We do not need to win this battle because it has already been won. And the victor, a human being, is even now enthroned in power in heaven and is actively interceding for us and for our children. And the resolution of His victory is sure. Take heart, for He has overcome the world!

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you every week for the past 2+ years through the insights of this newsletter. At this time, I have found it necessary to make the difficult decision to end this season as editor of The Culture Translator Premium. I will miss being able to walk with you in translating the ever-changing teen culture, but I also know that I leave you in good hands. Our team of cultural experts and writers will continue providing incredible insights each week. Thank you so much for subscribing, reading, and engaging so consistently week after week in this premium version of The Culture Translator. You are some of the best subscribers I’ve ever heard of.

May the peace of the Lord be with you in your journeys,

Nicholas Gerber

 

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.