A Disturbing Culture Shift: Popular Apps and Websites and What They Tell us About Today’s Youth

We all know that technology has allowed our society to progress and one of the most amazing developments of the 21st century is the smartphone. As an adult, it allows me to reconnect with people who are on the other side of the world, I can use the best trading app uk to invest and manage my money, I can keep an eye on where my children are, and so much more! But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend and shift in the current teen culture that has been caused by the smartphone. The point of awareness came to me when I was preparing and researching different apps that are currently popular with teens.Anonymous selfie

In my naivety I assumed that teens were into the apps and sites that I am accustomed to and personally use. I found myself thinking things like “these are popular and main stream” but quickly found that what I consider normal and popular, like so many generations from the past, is no longer popular with newer generations.

I first started asking what was going on when I kept hearing that teens simply weren’t interested in Facebook.

I understand apps and sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for the most part. I get the need to express ourselves and to explore identity through these genre’s, I also understand the longing and desire to connect with people, even if they aren’t in the same room or even country as we are. I’ve taught the value of walking teens through the process of figuring out who they are with the help of sites like these. Some even go on to make money through these apps, or at the very least can grow a large following with the help of services like Growthoid.

Exploring the concept of redeeming the use of something that could be used for bad and making it good brought excitement and freedom from fear for most (at least to some degree).

But the popular apps of today are not as easy to redeem.

Here are some current categories of popular apps that show us where teen culture is right now:

  1. Secret/anonymous texting apps
  2. Micro-blogging sites
  3. Secret/anonymous gossip and picture based apps
  4. Apps meant for meeting and dating strangers
  5. Live Video streaming apps

For details on what these explanations mean and specific examples and descriptors of apps in these categories click here.

Based on these categories and the rising popularity in their use, we can see that there is clearly an overt shift in teen culture from the concept of figuring out who they are and expressing that online through profiles and blogs, to staying anonymous and hiding who they are entirely. This shift is pared with the shift from “selfie” photos to live self-broadcasting from their bedrooms and shows us where they are gaining a sense of self worth. From the affirmation of strangers and nameless commenters, this is a dangerous combination.

I guess you could almost call it the “Anonymous Selfie” generation, or maybe “Anonymous Video-Selfie” generation. Either way the ramifications are scary.

There has never been a greater need for us to engage in relationships with our children and particularly our teens.

Here are the core needs being expressed by the interest and shift in app use:

  1. The need REAL parental involvement and relationships.

Ron Luce states that his research shows “The average parent spends 3.5 minutes in meaningful conversation with his or her kid each week compared to 72 hours of media per week!”

Who do you think will have more influence? If we have any hope of influencing them at all, we must be the source of solid and intentional relationships with them.

  1. They need REAL experiences and activities.

There is more need for activities than ever. We must be doing things with our children and families. Taking them places and doing things beyond screens that keep them aware of the real world and create a longing for it.

All of this leads to my next post, which will be about what Youth Ministries can do to respond to this shift.

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  1. That is very alarming and discouraging to be sure. It makes me realize how prayer is so important as we face these giants

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