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1. “Search It Up”

What it is: Google’s market research reveals that 40 percent of young people use TikTok or Instagram as their search engine, rather than turning to Google itself
How it works: As we’ve written here recently, the search habits of Gen Z look a lot different than millennials. When looking for a new local lunch spot, young adults 18 to 24 tend to use hashtags and search features on social media rather than typing in a few keywords. When they do use search engines, they often use voice-to-text features that make their queries resemble questions you would ask a live person. Google is responding by trying to index social media sites as part of their search results. (Search for a keyword and add the word “TikTok” to your query and you’ll see what we mean.) Gen Z tends to see search engine technology as a personal assistant rather than a static repository of data. As such, they will use the tool that caters to them most individually when it comes to finding information. Put another way, teens don’t want a list of lunch places, they want to know which lunch place they will like, and their favorite social media platforms happen to already know lots of their preferences.

2. The Wren Eleanor Effect

What it is: One of the trends on TikTok over the past few weeks wasn’t about posting, but about deleting past posts of young children.
Why it’s unsettling: Moms who share cute pictures of their kids on TikTok are an entire sub niche of the app. But young TikTokers commenting on this issue seem to clearly understand that publicly posting photos of little kids could be problematic. Backlash against this type of content grew louder after a YouTuber broke down how many followers of a particular account were men over the age of 18. The account, called @wren.eleanor, centers around the daily activities of a three-year-old-girl and her mother. TikTok’s “save post” feature was also allowing users to keep some photos of @wren.eleanor to reference later, which had been done hundreds of thousands of times. In response, Wren’s mom began taking down some of her content, as well as thousands of other moms concerned about online safety and privacy for their kids. Unfortunately, once content has already made its way onto the dark web, there’s no way to stop it from being used and shared in troubling and illegal ways.

3. Tell the People What They Want

What it is: Meta announced this week that they will continue to push their short-form video (read: TikTok copycat) type of content, and will significantly increase the amount of content in feeds from accounts users don’t follow.
Why it’s got users riled up: Content creators who rely on Meta-owned Instagram say that by pushing Reels and algo-generated “recommendations,” Meta will effectively kill their businesses. Meta has doubled down by saying that they are simply reacting to what users seem to want. Some cultural observers wonder if  users don’t even know what they want anymore – these algorithms are so entrenched both in their psyche and with capitalist motivations, it’s hard to know. But Gen Z doesn’t typically open IG or Facebook to watch short-form video, because they already have TikTok for that. This move feels like a desperate one from Meta leadership and perhaps, as many users noted, illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what people seek to get out of using social media.

Song of the Week

Future ft. Drake and Tems, “Wait for U” This melodic rap with an intricate, understated guitar sample is currently #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s about longing, love, and loneliness, so it makes sense that Future would call in hip-hop’s man of melodrama, Drake. The lyrics detail a relationship that’s tainted by drugs and alcohol, as well as tested by separation. A lush and meandering music video set in the medieval era stars Future as a “toxic king” surrounded by beautiful women. (Warning: Explicit lyrics). Music video here; lyrics here.

Translation: The Wren Eleanor Effect

It’s no secret that social media is exploitative by nature; it asks us to put our entire lives on display, after all. However, for the most part, adults consent to this exploitation to use the internet in the first place. As concerning as this might be, and as big of a conversation as we ought to have surrounding it, there is a far more insidious side to the internet’s voyeuristic tendencies: when those without any autonomy, without the ability to consent, are put on display for the consumption of others. Wren Eleanor’s case is a heartbreaking one, even as it continues to develop. The apparent willingness of anonymous TikTok users to sexualize a toddler is disturbing beyond measure. Even as moms across the platform are removing videos and pictures of their children, it can feel like too little, too late.

In Leviticus 20, God makes His position on the harming of children unmistakably clear as He speaks to Moses about child sacrifice: “And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people.” We may be tempted to ignore these verses as a relic of the past; after all, who is Molech to the modern world? But in her song Religion, singer-songwriter Sarah Sparks gives us a frightening visual regarding the continued violation of the innocent: “And we’re still sacrificing our children as we lay them down at the feet of the idol of convenience. ‘Because the only God I fear is me.’”

This week’s translation is not intended to frighten or discourage. We ask you to see it instead as a call to protect these most valuable gifts––your children––and live this most sacred calling––your role as a parent. To return to the case of Wren Eleanor and children like her, remember that the situation is not totally without hope. There are many people, mothers and non-mothers alike, who are fighting for the toddler’s dignity and working to protect her innocence. The internet is nothing more than a tool; though dangerous when wielded by the reckless, powerful in the hands of seekers of light. If we walk forward in the fear of God, seeking to protect the powerless and safeguard the innocent, He will always bless our efforts.

Questions to spark conversation with your teens:

  • Do you think it’s okay to show pictures and videos of children on social media? Why or why not?
  • What do you do if you see someone being exploited on the internet? What about in real life?
  • How can you help protect the people you love, even if it’s in small ways?