Vol. 5 Issue 29 | July 19, 2019
Three Things This Week
1. YouTubers? They’re So Last Year
What it is: Last week at VidCon 2019 (the premiere event for influencers and online content creators), TikTokers seemed to steal the spotlight from YouTube royalty.
Why it’s possibly the future: TikTok is the app to beat with teens right now, and its stars recognize that, so they took the opportunity to mingle with fans, make collab vids with other TikTokers, and generally be more relatable than their more established YouTube superstar counterparts. Dubbed the “new wave” of creators, TikTokers are often themselves teenagers who like the playfulness the app offers. And because fans want stars who will take selfies with them and be silly, it means these low-level celebrities feel immense pressure to always be available, never stop creating content, and never mess up—all at the ripe old age of...16? We don’t know many adults who could withstand that kind of stress. (What’s TikTok? Check out our Parent Guide here.)
2. Emoji Empathy
What it is: Want to connect with Gen Z? Learn to speak emoji! In its first-ever Emoji Trend Report, Adobe found that 83% of Gen Zers feel more comfortable expressing emotion via emojis than phone conversations.
Why it’s useful in more ways than one: When you compare that number to 71% of Millennials, 61% of Gen Xers, and 53% of Baby Boomers who felt that way, it’s clear that emojis are quickly becoming a staple in our culture’s lexicon, but Gen Zers are the quickest to replace actually talking with them. Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes words do fail us—that’s why art is such an invaluable form of expression—so we shouldn’t completely hate this change. But being able to feel, show, and voice our emotions with others is important, too. So while you learn to use emojis to connect with your teenagers, also reinforce the value of being real, honest, and vulnerable in face-to-face and/or phone conversations (i.e. let the emoji spark a non-text conversation).
3. Truth Hurts
What it is: Rapper Lizzo’s unexpected and quick rise to fame on the back of her 2017 song “Truth Hurts” is the perfect storm of all things 2019.
Why you should know about her: She’s been around for a while now, but 2019 has become her year not because of traditional record promotions or radio play, but because of a TikTok challenge, use of the track in Netflix’s Someone Great (which led to the song hitting the Spotify charts), an electric performance at the BET Awards last month, and Lizzo’s unapologetic personality being on full display on social media. And as fun, catchy, and sassy as her music is, it’s also quite problematic. We don’t have space to dissect it all here, but if your teen follows her and/or listens to her music, it’s worth reading through some of her lyrics, checking out her social accounts, and calmly having conversations with them about both the good and bad she brings to the table.
Spotlight: For many people, including Christians, spiritual warfare is a pretty polarizing topic: either everything is of the devil, or the whole thing seems too superstitious to be real. Yet the apostle Paul wrote that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood... but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” and that his church was “not unaware of Satan’s schemes.” Yet how many of us could realistically say the same? Our newest conversation kit on spiritual warfare aims to help you and your teens better understand this part of our world and what to do about it.
Teenagers are outraged this week after the death of 17-year-old “e-girl” Bianca Devins (Instagram @escty) at the hands of 21-year-old Brandon Clark. As heartbreaking as her untimely death is, her teen fans are most upset about how social networks are handling it all. Clark posted photos of her mutilated body to Instagram, Discord, and 4chan on Sunday, at which point other accounts trying to profit from the incident began reposting them or promising to DM them to people who followed them.
Once the highly disturbing photos were discovered, her fans began reporting them in droves, but Instagram was slow to react. Eventually some of the images were removed, but multiple users shared screenshots (language) of Instagram saying the photos hadn’t violated their terms of service. We could still find the images on Tuesday afternoon, and on Thursday, though most of the photos were less easily found (thanks to users flooding her tagged images and #escty with positive images), there were still many comments with instructions on how to easily find the images on other websites.
If your teens followed her or have learned about her death, it’s important to ask them how the situation has impacted them. Their worlds may be rocked by the realization that someone she met online had the capability of committing such atrocity or by the fact that their beloved social network doesn’t seem to have their best interest in mind.
It also becomes a great opportunity to talk about the pros and cons of technology and community that the situation highlights. Yes, a disturbed person killed someone who trusted him, and yes, many other profiteers grossly used her death to their advantage. But many, many others rallied around her and her family, figured out ways to protect and honor her, and even called the local police after seeing suspicious things online. Ultimately, many aspects of this tragedy are outrageous and wrong, but perhaps most especially the fact that it emphasizes how powerful, yet vulnerable, our social-media-connected teens are. It can be tempting to respond in fear; but instead, let’s choose to react calmly, rationally, and empathetically, working with our teens to create good boundaries and foster healthy online interactions.
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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