1. The Worst Job in Tech
What it is: TikTok moderators say they are being trained (language) to spot and report child abuse using content that’s been removed from the app.
Why it’s got parents worried: The fact that TikTok is hiring a third-party vendor called Teleperformance to increase its content moderation means they are at least trying to police their platform. But the moderators-in-training were aghast when confronted with the images of abuse and exploitation that were pulled from the app. TikTok’s training library of children being abused was being stored so haphazardly that a whistleblower contacted the FBI about it. Perhaps more disturbing is to consider that although TikTok pulled the content from public view, at some point, it was posted and available. And with workers at Teleperformance saying they are undertrained and overworked for the task at hand, it’s not likely that current moderation strategies are keeping kids who use the app as safe as kids deserve to be.
2. Sweating Out the Summer
What it is: Teens notoriously wear sweatshirts in the summer heat, to the bafflement and frustration of their parents.
Why it’s worth thinking about: Heat can’t stop teens from wearing hoodies, even in the warmest climates. Writing for Forbes, Dr. Marshall Shepherd muses that this could be because hoodies feel like wearing a portable comfort object — sort of like a weighted blanket. For teens coping with body insecurities and anxiety, a garment with deep pockets and a hood can feel like the perfect solution for when you want to disappear for just a second. Lighter-weight hoodies can also be ideal for those moments when you’re moving from a harsh, sweaty outdoor climate and into a blast of cold air conditioning. And as temperatures in the US begin to grow cooler in the evening hours, it’s hard to beat a hoodie for a summer night spent on a boardwalk or by a fire pit. While hoodie-induced heat stroke is always a possibility, it’s more likely that if your teen gets too hot, they will swap their outfit for the day. Maybe the hoodie habit isn’t so mysterious, after all?
3. Not a Minor Thing
What it is: #notaminor and #fakebody are being used to evade TikTok content moderators as young people post in revealing clothing.
Why it’s attracting predators: #fakebody (NSFW) has reached global viral status, closing in on 30 billion views. Many of those posts, especially ones coming from the USA, are also tagged with #notaminor (also NSFW), which is ticking up toward 530 million views. These hashtags cover a wide range of content, but most often, the person posting is dancing to a trending viral sound. Many of these users are wearing braces and posting from what appears to be a suburban backyard pool, a family kitchen, or childhood bedroom—all signs that the person definitely is a minor. By applying these kinds of tags to their content, posters are hoping to reach a wider audience and evade being flagged for violating TikTok’s Terms of Service. But while teens may feel like they’re pulling one over on the algorithm, they’re actually opening up their accounts to attention from adult predators who are certainly as aware of this hashtag as teens are.
Song of the Week
“Break My Soul” by Beyoncé: Although it’s already been popular for several weeks, this dance track only continues to grow. As one of the only tracks from her album Renaissance that isn’t dripping with profanity and raunchiness, “Break My Soul” is about quitting the things that bring you down and remaking the world from a “new foundation.” You could also ask your teen what they think she means when she refers to her “new salvation.” Lyrics here; lyric video here.
Translation: Moderation, Hashtags, and the Holy Spirit
At some point, AI might be sophisticated (and unbiased) enough to handle all content moderation. Until then, human beings working low-wage jobs will most likely continue to be exposed to humanity’s worst so that the rest of us don’t have to be. These jobs can be traumatizing, and the people working them deserve our prayers. To make matters worse, as we saw with the hashtags in Thing 3, many young users are also bending the truth in an attempt to avoid moderation on their content, hoping to gain more views.
As with content moderation, parenting involves trying to protect the next generation from harmful influences, but also the recognition that sometimes, things get through. Try as we might, there is no way to squash every single source of temptation or distraction before it makes its way to our teens. This is why during the teenage years, the fundamental task switches from preparing the path for the child to preparing the child for the path.
We live in a culture that regards sexual attractiveness as a cardinal virtue. As a result, it makes sense that many young people would start to see hashtags like #notaminor and #fakebody as a path to secure value for themselves. C.S. Lewis addresses this in his book Mere Christianity: “Our ancestors have handed over to us organisms which are warped in this respect: and we grow up surrounded by propaganda in favor of unchastity… God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.” His words about difficulties obviously apply to those wrestling with temptation, but they also apply to those of us striving to shepherd the next generation through this world. God sees our situation and difficulties, too.
The ultimate moral goal for the next generation (as well as the moral goal of Christianity) is not to master external restraint but to experience inner transformation. As Christians, we believe that it is through the work of the Holy Spirit that someone becomes pure and holy—and not merely external moderation. May God give us grace to partner with Him in this, depending on Him as we invite the Spirit into our homes and hearts.
Here are some questions to spark conversation about this with your teens:
- Have you ever come across anything online that you think shouldn’t have gotten through?
- How would you describe your relationship with the Holy Spirit?
- How do you think the Holy Spirit changes us?