Vol. 5 Issue 4 | January 25, 2019

Vol. 5 Issue 4 | January 25, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. NewsGuard

What it is: A web browser extension that aims to detect fake news not via algorithm, but by having real humans review an article, the site, and even the company behind it.

Why it’s a step: With unreliable sources given prominence on social media because of their ability to increase user engagement, it’s good that some are dedicated to combating the problem. Their color-coding system and “Nutrition Label” make it easy to see why a site is given its rating. However, as good of a tool as it can be, it’s important to realize that it’s not a solution because it doesn’t solve the real problem: our lack of discernment. This simply moves our trust from proven-corruptible orgs to another potentially corruptible org. So rather than using it as our or our teens’ filter, let’s treat it as one of many tools we can use to grow discernment and critical thinking skills.

2. Roo

What is it: On Thursday, Planned Parenthood launched their new chatbot Roo, which seeks to “get young people personalized answers to their questions on topics that are often stigmatized.”

Why it’s revealing: The chatbot is “meant to help Planned Parenthood give information to hard-to-reach audiences like teenagers who don’t receive sex education or are receiving abstinence-only education.” This exposes two possibilities: 1. In our efforts to encourage a Christian view of sex, we’ve neglected actually teaching teens about what’s happening to their bodies; and 2. For whatever reason, teens are afraid of or unwilling to ask parents their burning questions about sexuality. And while it’s smart to keep kids from getting sexual advice from who knows who on the internet, we parents should make our kids feel safe enough to come to us, not a chatbot, with their questions—no matter how uncomfortable. Check out our Parent’s Guide to Tough Conversations for help.

3. Meme & Theme

What it is: Teens and tweens, particularly girls, are curating Instagram accounts that merge aesthetics and memes into one.

Why it’s more than just images: Taking advantage of Insta’s carousel, the accounts look like mood boards at first glance. But swiping left reveals a bunch of memes underneath, offering not just protection from prying eyes, but also the ability to more fully express themselves: “‘The theme is like the outside of me, then the memes [are] my inside self,’ said [16-year-old] Esther.” Users also admit that it’s “ultimately just ‘a way to get closer to people.’” Social media appeals to all of us where we are most vulnerable: in our ongoing search for identity and significance. Every teen is asking these very normal, first-half-of-life questions: Who am I? What makes me special? Does anyone notice me? If you can help them find answers through Scripture, they have an incredible opportunity to let go of their overdominant ego and embrace this paradox of identity: We’re all both incredibly ordinary and eternally significant.

Parent Guide Spotlight: Ever wondered how we do what we do? Ever wanted a simple process to help you start discipleship conversations with your kids around the topics that matter most to them? If yes, check out our newest Parent’s Guide to Discipling Teens. In it, we walk you through how we think about teen culture and use it to start Christ-centered conversations about sexuality, technology, media, and entertainment.

Celebrity Status

What’s the difference between a celebrity and an everyday, average person? What would your teens say if you asked them that question?

Anne Hathaway reminded us of something very important when she appeared on The Ellen Show this week. She demonstrated that there is only one consistent difference between celebs and non-celebs that matters, and it’s not looks, talent, intelligence, success, athleticism, money, youth, or even experience.

It’s influence.

That’s it. Sure, some become celebrities for their talent or athleticism or intelligence; but there are also those who aren’t very talented or athletic or smart who still become famous. So the only thing they all have in common is their influence.

So why do we treat them as if they have all the answers, as if, by achieving fame and success, they now are privy to the secrets of the universe?

Not only did Hathaway demonstrate how ridiculous that can be, we also saw how celebrities can quickly jump to conclusions and use their influence to promote a narrative that they actually have no idea is true (nor even have expertise in) with the Covington Catholic student debacle. And we’re passing this blind belief in celebrities to the next generation.

For example, what qualifies Kim Kardashian to give fitness advice? Apparently the fact that she’s famous and has a coveted physique—not that she’s studied it or is certified or has won competitions or any of the usual qualifications we expect. And how is that working? She promotes “fit teas” (basically laxatives) and “appetite suppressant lollipops” (language), thus reinforcing negative eating habits and narrow body ideals. Yet somehow she has 125 million Instagram followers and gets paid over and over to promote products. Why? Because people—especially young girls—listen to her.

We could offer many more examples of celebrities being given more credit than they’ve earned simply because they’re famous (e.g. Steph Curry or Chance the Rapper considered good Christian role models; Leo DiCaprio regarded as a good source of knowledge on climate change). And we’re all guilty of it. But when we do so, we risk our views simply mimicking others’, rather than being things we’ve carefully considered, researched, and curated for ourselves. It says a lot about the health of our culture when we’d rather take advice from a star than a teacher, scientist, or tenured professor.

Ask your teens which celebs they look up to and why. Ask what advice they think they should take from them. Why? What qualifies them? By doing so, you’ll get them thinking more deeply about how they regard their celebs and what influence they allow them to have in their lives.

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