1. Tikked Off
What it is: As a US ban on TikTok looks more and more likely, TikTok’s US CEO testified before Congress this week.
What it means for users: The US government and parents in the United States have two different sets of concerns about TikTok. Government officials are worried about what the Chinese-based app will do with Americans’ data, and also say they’re worried about pro-CCP propaganda spreading on the platform. Parents, on the other hand, are worried about whether the viral content their kids see on TikTok is harming their brains and contributing to the mental health crisis in young people. What many parents might not realize is that teens don’t need to have a personal TikTok account to view TikTok content, so a ban might address government concerns more than their own. The Wall Street Journal explains that some teens whose parents won’t let them have the app simply have their friends download TikTok videos and send them as attachments that they can then save to their devices. And presumably, a TikTok ban in the US wouldn’t stop content that’s made for TikTok from migrating to other platforms, like Instagram and YouTube, where this already happens on a wide scale. The actual enforceability of a ban of TikTok content is questionable, even if the app itself becomes unavailable.
2. Who Wants to Be a Shillionaire
What it is: Male influencers in their twenties are making a fortune on YouTube telling other young men how to, well, make a fortune.
What they’re actually selling: A video breaking down what these influencers get wrong is worth watching, if only to see concrete examples of what hustle culture looks like for young men online. YouTubers like Sebastian Ghiorghiu and Mike Vestil say that if you simply work hard enough, you can be just as successful as they are. This group of young men, dubbed “passive finance bros” by some, have accrued millions of dollars through crypto speculation, house flipping, and drop shipping, all before turning 30. Establishing financial goals and working hard to reach them certainly isn’t a bad idea, and some of what these YouTubers have accomplished is admirable. But watching videos like these won’t help young people develop comprehensive financial literacy because, to put it simply, that’s not what they’re designed to do.
What it is: A YouGov study of over 3600 adults in Great Britain showed that 61% of young people (18-25) prefer to watch television with the subtitles on—even when the material was in their native language.
Why teens are doing it: Closed captioning was originally designed to make the viewing experience more accessible for people whose auditory comprehension was limited. The tool has been an accessibility on-ramp to popular media for an entire subset of people who would have otherwise been left out. This accessibility element of subtitles hasn’t been left behind, even if it has evolved; popular TikToks show self-deprecating teens saying they “can’t hear without their subtitles,” often connecting the trend with ADHD and neurodivergence. Older audiences may say that subtitles create an unnecessary distraction and interfere with the viewing experience, but Gen Z is so adept at multitasking (and so used to watching captioned media on their phones) that watching without subtitles feels foreign to them.
Slang of the Week
Gwiddy: An infantilization of the word “griddy,” a popular dance. “Gwiddy” is born out of a TikTok trend where someone does the griddy while an onlooker remarks upon their dancing in their best little kid voice, which essentially just replaces every “r” and most “l”s with a “w” sound, hence the colloquial “gwiddy.” (Ex: “What the heck, this guy is litewwly gwiddying into the stowe wight now.”)
An article in The Atlantic this week explores why many kids these days aren’t reading books as much as previous generations did. But the truth is, many kids today are actually reading a lot—they’re just often reading the subtitles of their favorite shows.
Why do so many teens prefer watching TV and movies with subtitles? As we wrote above, some TikTok videos are connecting the need for subtitles to ADHD and neurodivergence, but there’s definitely more to the story.
According to a survey by American company preply.com, 70% of Gen Z prefers to use subtitles most of the time for TV and movies, and 29% say this is because they often watch their content at home, “leaving subtitles on so as not to disturb roommates or family.” On the one hand this shows a certain consideration for others, which could be commended; on the other hand, an approach like this clearly entails less accountability for what kinds of things are being watched, which parents and caring adults should care about.
Survey respondents cited new trends of loud background music and muddled dialogue in movies and TV shows, which can also make subtitles feel more necessary. In addition, we’re also seeing the increased popularity of shows with characters who speak other languages or have strong accents, which can contribute to a desire for subtitles. It’s also possible that out of a desire to remain inclusive to the deaf and hard of hearing with TikTok videos, some Gen Zers began to regard subtitles as a standard part of experiencing content.
An article in The Guardian also reported on how many viewers watch TV while also looking at their phones, and on how some report using subtitles to “get a head start on a scene and go back to looking at their phone.” One wonders how much enjoyment a TV show or movie could actually provide given this approach; but more important than our own speculation is you finding out for yourself.
Here are three questions to help spark conversation about this with your teens:
- Do you prefer watching movies and shows with subtitles? Why or why not?
- Do most of your friends prefer watching with subtitles? Why or why not?
- What changes about the viewing experience with subtitles?