What Teens are Saying about the New Hunger Games Movie

If you work with teens, have a teen or have interacted with a teen at your local fast food restaurant in the last few years, you’ve probably heard about The Hunger Games.

For those of you who have been living without cable, internet or human interaction since 2012, here is a brief synopsis. The Hunger Games is a series of 3 novels and is the latest science fiction series that has captured the minds of teens and young adults. In 2012 the popular novels were turned into a series of movies starring Jennifer Lawrence as the main character.

The first film, The Hunger Games, was released in March of 2012 and brought in $152.5 million it’s opening weekend. The second film in the series, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released in November of 2013 and set records for the biggest November opening weekend and biggest three and five-day Thanksgiving box-office totals.

mockingjayThe third installment in the series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, debuted last weekend (November 21st, 2014) to the excitement of teens everywhere. I have to admit, I am a little excited to see it as well.

In an effort to gain a better understanding of why tweens and teens enjoy The Hunger Games series, I asked several tween/teens who saw the movie opening weekend to provide me with a brief review.

I asked each tween/teen to answer the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 to 5 Mockinjay pins (A key symbol in the books and movies) how would she rate the movie overall?
  • General reaction to the movie: Did they enjoy it, how does it fit/flow with the other films?
  • Why did they like the movie specifically compared to other movies?
  • Why is the movie appealing to teens specifically and any other thoughts they might want to share.

Being tweens and teens, not all of them answered each of the questions. Go figure. I made basic changes to grammar but overall left the comments as said. Never-the-less, here is what they had to say about The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.

Ava age 12: I would rate the movie a 5 out of 5 Mockingjay Pins. I really enjoyed it, although it was a little bit violent.  I thought that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was the best but Mockingjay part 1 was my 2nd favorite. The movie is appealing to teens because of all the romance and drama. Also the action. Other thoughts: the end with Peeta scared me ALOT I almost had a heart attack but afterwards I was okay.

Daniel age 16: I would give it a 4 out of 5 Mockingjay Pins. I enjoyed it and it flowed mockingjay pinrelatively well with the other movies in the series. It pretty well parallel with everything that happened in the book. Although it’s a stretch, I believe the reason why these movies are so popular is because in some instances, the events in the movie could really occur.

Lily age 12 : I would rate MockingJay a Five out of Five. I would rate it this because it was very intense and filled with action, drama, and romance. I really enjoyed seeing this movie, as it was a little different from the other movies since it was the first in the series that didn’t involve a hunger games competition. But still fit very well with the other movies in the series.

One thing that I liked about this movie was how different they made the characters. Everyone in the movie is a whole new person compared to the previous movies. This is because most of the characters are mad about all of the terrible things that the capital is doing, and those emotions are turning them into a whole new person. This movie is appealing to teens because of the cliff hangers and intensity levels that it beholds. Also because of the classic romance that every teen can’t get enough of.

Kaylee age 13: Based on the contextual features of the movie and book, on a scale 1 to 5 worth of Mockingjay Pins, I give the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 a 4. I liked the fact that its different from the first two movies in the saga, where there are no games involved. I also liked how every event was spaced out nicely, and that the movie interacted with more than the main people involved in the story. The movie was sewn together well with the book, although you can’t tell what parts and pieces weren’t incorporated without Mockingjay part 2.

The one thing that riles me is the lack of action. There was quite a lot, but all the speeches and videos interfered with it, and hoaxed myself to think differently. This movie would suit teens because the books were written for YA readers, and the footage would grasp mostly teen girls, as the main character being a strong, daring girl. Overall, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1 was a modest movie, and is a desirable movie to watch.

Morgan 12: I give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 4.5 pins. It was fantastic and I think it flowed very well with the other books/movies. I liked it compared to the other movies in the series because it followed the plot of the book very well and it had a lot of action. I think it appeals to teens specifically because it’s like dystopian with romance and also it’s like rebellious and things like that, and I just thought overall it was very good.

jennifer lClosing Thoughts: Often teens gravitate to certain movies or music because it expresses feelings they are having but don’t know how to vocalize yet. If your teen is talking about The Hunger Games or another movie, watch it with them, take them to see it or rent it yourself and then engage in a conversation with them about why they liked the movie. What aspects of the plot they felt related to their life or what characters in the movie they saw themselves as. You could be offered a great glimpse into your teenagers life and how they see the world and how they feel the world views them.

If you have a teen who saw the movie or is seeing the movie and they would like to share their review based on the questions above, feel free to connect with me via email or twitter (@daverozman).

YouTube’s Growing Influence on Teens

I want you to think back to when you were a teen. What celebrities were most influential on your life?

My guess is that it would be an actor/actress from your favorite TV show or movie, a player on your favorite sports team or a musician in a band. Personally I was a huge fan of Sylvester Stallone and Dennis Rodman. Let me clarify that I was a fan of pre-freak-show Rodman when he was with the Detroit Pistons and they won back-to-back championships.

Looking back, my infatuation with these celebrities was wrapped up in the character they rockyplayed or the effort they displayed and less about who they were. I idolized Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky. I was drawn in by the dedication, determination and will he displayed. I mirrored my style of play on the basketball court after Rodman’s. Diving for loose balls and recklessly going up for rebounds against bigger guys. That was the sum of what I knew of them, yet they were powerfully influential on my life.

Teens today want more. For someone to have influence on them they want to know their story, know they have things in common and feel that that person, in-part, represents their own aspirations in life. I believe this is true for two reasons.

One, teens have greater access to information than I did when I was a teen. They have the ability like never before to find out more about a celebrity beyond what they see on stage or the big screen. Finding out more can make the teen more or less interested in that person. If I would have known some things about Rodman back when I was a teen I may not have held him in such high regard.

Two, teens today have a strong desire for authenticity and affinity. To truly know someone else and feel connected to others. If they learn that they have similar interests and passions of a celebrity they like, the more they will feel connected to that  person. And ultimately that celebrity will begin to be influential on them.

With today’s teens desires to connect with others and the rise of the internet, it comes as no surprise then that YouTube personalities (A person or group that gains widespread recognition on the internet and beyond for videos they post on YouTube) are rising in the ranks of celebrities who are influential to teens today.

youtube-stars-shine-brightestIf you are not familiar with YouTube channels, here is a quick snapshot. Individuals and or groups create videos of varying lengths (sometimes multiple videos each day) on all sorts of topics from their daily life, dance, music, beauty/fashion tips, complete randomness,  or their own mini-shows. My kids personally love Kid Snippets videos where kids do the voice-overs for adults acting out situations. They are pretty funny. Some channels build a solid following with millions of subscribers and views on their videos.

Personally I have stumbled upon entertaining channels myself and before I knew it I had viewed a dozen videos by the same creator. I even found myself checking back for new content days later. Teens are digital natives and big users of YouTube and they are doing the same thing. For instance, a recent survey by Variety magazine “found the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13-18 are all YouTube celebrities,” not your traditional movie actors or actresses.

I asked Leo, a teen from southern California, to give me his thoughts on YouTube Celebrities being influential on teens today. Here are his thoughts:

In my opinion, I believe that they are influential and popular because they are associated with comedy, youth and consistency. YouTube stars tend to post content frequently, therefore gaining a much greater audience than say a mainstream actor who only comes out in a movie once or twice a year.

Most of the mainstream media actors do not have the interaction that the YouTube stars have due to the fact that they have no form of communication with their fans other than their social media. Even then they’re very limited towards what they can say. On the other hand, YouTube stars have the option of interacting with their audience through the form of a video which they can post at any time they wish. They have the liberty of voicing their opinion on their channel.

If you compare Felix Kjellberg (a Swedish video game commentator on YouTube known as PewDiePie) to Jennifer Lawrence, Felix posts content every single day. About two videos and each ranging about 7-10 minutes long. That has led to his HUGE success now with over 31 Million subscribers. Therefore he has a better interaction with his fan base community. Jennifer Lawrence on the other hand comes out in a hit movie every couple of months for about 2 hours. This amount of content and interaction plays big role because unlike Jennifer, Felix has public exposure everyday which keeps him very relevant in the media. What big celebrities struggle with is the fact that they cannot stay very relevant in the media. Right after a big movie or TV show is released, they just gradually lose the interests of the public.

If you still do not think teens are being influenced by YouTube stars, look at the fact the bethany-mota-at-teen-choice-awards-2014-in-los-angeles_21Teen Choice awards now have a category to recognize Web Stars. Bethany Mota and Tyler Oakley took home the 2014 honors for Web Star Female and Male by the way. Side Note: Bethany is also on the current season of Dancing with the Stars. Which leads to a whole other conversation around brands using YouTube Celebrities to influence teens for their brand. We will save that for another time.

Youth Worker and Parent Tips:

  • Learn who some of the popular YouTube celebrities are. Common Sense Media has an article titled 10 YouTube Stars Your Kids Love that i recommend you start with.
  • Use YouTube to create a common connection with your teen(s). Find a YouTube channel that you and your teen(s) both enjoy and is appropriate for their age and watch the videos together. Like I mentioned earlier my kids, who are not teens yet, enjoy Kid Snippets and we occasionally watch them together.
  • Have a discussion with your teen(s) about their favorite YouTube channels, why they like those channels and what is it about the videos that connects with them. You might learn something about your teen that you did not know or identify opportunities for you to connect better with them.

Teen Trends: Summer of 2014

Did you spend your summer Vamping or watching a full season of a TV show in one sitting? Or are you taking the time to record a video of yourself doing some crazy stunt to post on YouTube? Maybe these don’t occupy your time, but for many teens, this is what has captivated their summer.

Let’s breakdown some of the Current Trends in Teen Culture.

Vamping: A fun new way to say “I stayed up late.” Teens staying up into the wee hours of vampingthe night surfing the internet, texting or playing video games is not a new trend. But taking a picture of your self and tagging it with #Vamping is. Read more about teens, sleep deprivation and Vamping in this New York Times Article.

“Fire Challenge” -Teens Set themselves on Fire: Videos have been on YouTube for several years showing teens putting a flammable liquid on themselves and then lighting it. In the past I have seen this viral video stunt done in small amounts. A dab on the arm or hand that is quickly extinguished. This summer the Fire Challenge gained popularity with oitnbteens dousing themselves in accelerant and lighting it. Luckily, out of the teens I spoke with, more have seen these videos than have actually partaken in the stunt.

Binge Watching Netflix:When I asked a group of teens what recent trends they have seen, unanimously they mentioned watching Netflix. Not just watching a movie or a TV show here or there. But sitting down and watching full seasons of a TV show in a short amount of time. Often in one or two nights. The most popular show teens have been binge watching on Netflix, Orange is the New Black.

hookahHookah Smoking: Recent studies suggest 1 in 5 teens have smoked Hookah (essentially a water pipe that is used to smoke specially made tobacco) in the last year. I shared this statistic with a group of teens and asked them if it sounded accurate. They responded with the following statements:

  • Everyone around here does it all the time! It’s like a hobby for some teens.”
  • It is very popular in my area. Just about everyone does it.”
  • “I have seen a lot of people in the area use Hookah pens. According to my knowledge they use it because it is water vapor and not real smoke yet it still contains nicotine/tobacco products. They also use it since it is cheap.”

The Positive: When I read articles that are labeled “Dangerous New Teen Trend,” or “Parents Be Aware of the Crazy Stuff your Teen is Doing,” I get upset. The reason being, articles like these lead us to be fearful for our teens and think they are all on some crazy mission to destroy themselves. I know that is not the case.

That is why I want to share with you some of the great things teens have been up to this summer. I asked the same group of teens what trends they were seeing this summer and here are some of the positive things they shared with me:

  • Engaging in new sports such as Rugby.
  • Taking summer school or college courses to get ahead.
  • Working a summer job.
  • Hanging out with their friends.
  • Going to the beach.
  • Going on trips with family.

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Does anyone remember back in April and May when teens were engaging in the “Cold Water Challenge?” They were jumping into bodies of cold Ice Bucket Challengewater and challenging their friends to do the same or donate to a charity. At the time there were several media stories talking about the dangers of the Cold Water Challenge and encouraging teens not to do it.

Fast forward a couple months, move from jumping in a lake to pouring ice water on your head and add in a single charity and you have the biggest trend not just for teens but everyone. My Facebook news feed and my favorite late night talk shows are full of videos of people taking the Ice Bucket Challenge to support ALS. Here is what teens have to say about the challenge:

  • Everyone in my town has been doing it, I have never seen anything like this before it is crazy. I thinks it has its drawbacks but it is great for the awareness of the disease.
  • I haven’t done it, but its been done by some of the senior citizens in our community and they challenged others I think it’s a fun safe challenge compared to others.
  • I’ve done it and also donated. I think it’s a trending challenge for a great cause, but many, including myself, are forgetting to spread awareness.”
  • I have done it and donated and I think it is amazing!! It’s getting people to know the cause and be aware of it!
  • I have done it… Twice and so have my friends. I haven’t donated yet. But I will try my best to donate at least $50 if possible. I think of it being a safer challenge/ dare rather than the fire or cinnamon challenges. Especially since it is for a good cause.
  • I think the Ice Bucket Challenge is a really fun, creative, and positive way to send a message to many people about ALS. You’re not getting hurt, it’s a positive message, and it’s fun! It makes people want to do it, and it gets a lot of people to donate, but it also spreads the message as well.

Leave a comment and let me know what Teen Trends have you seen gain popularity this summer?

Positive Teen Trends in 2014

I came across an inforgraphic called, “2013 In Review- Being a Teen In 2013” a few weeks ago and have not been able to get it out of my mind since. It was created by the website Help Your Teen Now and shows what teens were exposed to in 2013.

20-Thirteen-In-Review-Infographic-edited2013 In Review-Being a Teen In 2013 focuses on trends that were popular with teens in 2013 such as sexting, drug trends like smoking alcohol and Molly, bullying and of course the list cannot be complete without twerking. This list makes me sad for several reason.

First it is correct. I shared this infographic with about 40 teens and they all said the same thing, “This is pretty much 100% accurate.” Many even shared stories about seeing these topics played out in their social circles. Seeing teens bullied on twitter, knowing a teen who brought a gun to school  and how the growing use of technology has affected them.

Second, it is very negative. I know that the purpose of this particular infographic was to show what teens are exposed to and what they have to navigate today. But it makes me sad because it reflects the reality of what we think of teens. When I have conversations about teens today, these are often the topics adults bring up. When we think about teens we almost automatically think of the negative.

We don’t think about the 2.5 million teens and young adults taking action through DoSomething.org, a not-for-profit focused on young people and social change. One of their most popular campaigns is Teens for Jeans, where teens collect and donate jeans to be given to homeless youth. In 6 years 3.5 million pairs of jeans have been collected by teens for the cause.

We don’t think about the teens who are making a difference in their communities, like the winners of the 2013 Peace First Prize. “These are youth peacemakers who are focused on creating peaceful schools and communities.” Seriously, check them out, you will be impressed by the positive things these young people are creating and leading.

We don’t think about the two teens who created the twitter account @HistoryInPics, a twitter account with almost 900,000 followers focused on sharing historical pictures with brief description.

When people think about teens, I want them to think about all the positive trends associated with teens today. Here is what I propose.

  • As an adult, seek out positive stories about teens and make sure you have a balanced perspective of the reality of teens today. Not just the negative trendsw the media tells you. Watch a few TedXTeen videos and be inspired. Read articles on Huffington Post Teen, they often feature positive stories on teens and articles written by teens giving their perspective on current teen culture.
  • Share these positive stories with the teens in your life. If all teens hear and see is the negative, they will assume that it is normal. They may begin to act it out themselves or at least be complacent with the negative. If you surround them with positive stories they will realize there is another option and more available to them than just the negative.
  • Engage your teens in groups focused on the positive. The reality is teens are very peer driven. If their peer group is focused on the negative, they will often focus on the negative as well. The opposite can also be true if their peer group is focused on the positive.

Will you join me in this challenge of having a positive view of teens today and helping them have a positive view themselves? My hope is in 2014 we can have an infographic showing all the great things that teens navigated during the year.

#TheLinesProject

Last April I shared about #SemiColonProject416. This is where teens drew a semicolon on their wrist to represent that they struggle with self-harm, depression or suicidal semi colonthoughts. Drawing the semicolon on your wrist and seeing others with the semicolon on their wrist was a show of support, that you are not alone with your struggles and that you can overcome what ever it is you are facing.

I spoke to several teens who said participating in the #SemiColonProject416 helped them feel normal and made them realize that they could talk to their friends about the issues they were facing. Overall it made them feel like they were not alone with the struggles they faced.

thelinesThis week I came across a similar project scheduled for next week (December 15-20th) called #TheLinesProject. This is a similar act of drawing on your wrist if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. One significant difference is if you are not experiencing these thoughts but want to show support to those who are you draw the lines on your right wrist. If you are experiencing thoughts of depression and self-harm you draw the lines on your left wrist.

Just a few clicks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr show this picture re-posted tens of thousands of times. Many of the teens I spoke to about #TheLinesProject had not heard about it. But with Social Media today I am betting many will know about it by the end of the week.

Teens desire to feel part of a community, to feel like they are normal or at least not too different from their peers. For teens that struggle with various negative thoughts, this is one way for them to share that they have gone through some hardships and that they have struggled. And it is a great opportunity for teens to show support for one another.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • If you see a teen with a the lines drawn on their wrist, ask them about it. Ask them what it means or why they have drawn it on their skin.
  • Ask them if they want to talk.
  • I am not a counselor or a psychologist, if there is one that works at your organization or school please share this with them and discuss how you should proceed if you see a teen with a these lines drawn on their arm.
  • I do not know much about this yet, but I do not see a need to freak out at every teen who has a semicolon drawn on them. But I do see it as a sign from that teen, maybe a little flag saying “help me” or “notice me.” As parents and youth workers when we see something like this we need to let the teens know that we care for them.
  • Be there for your teens. Love on them. Show them that they matter.
  • Become familiar with the resources in your community that deal with teens who have suicidal thoughts or self-harm.

 

 

Teen Culture Articles of Interest vol. 2

I read a few GREAT articles related to Teens last night and I thought I would share a few of my favorite with you. Enjoy!

11 Sites and Apps Kids Are Heading to After Facebook. Via Common Sense Media. The best breakdown of social media sites and apps I have seen. Not only do they hit on the popular apps teens are using, they provide an explanation as to why it is popular and what parents need to know. I can’t share this article enough. Seriously I have tweeted it several times, posted it on my Facebook page and shared it on LinkedIn. If I could share it through smoke signals I would.

Is 25 the new cut off point for adulthood? Via BBC News Magazine. While discussing the age range child psychologist work with, this article provides a great overview into the recent shifts of adolescent development.  Here is one of my favorite passages from the article is, “Neuroscience has shown that a young person’s cognitive development continues into this later stage and that their emotional maturity, self-image and judgment will be affected until the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully developed.”

What Facebook, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram, and Internet Porn Are Doing to America’s Teenage Girls. Via Vanity Fair. Prepare yourself, this article is covers a lot of topics and issues. It takes a look at the role social media is playing in the sexualization of our youth, how cruel youth can be on social media and much more. What I like about this article is that they talked to teens and got their thoughts, stories and perspectives. Warning this is pretty graphic and you will probably feel sad for our youth after reading it.

17 Reasons Why The Kids Don’t Like Facebook Anymore. Via Huffington Post Tech. I laughed out loud reading this article. Then I tried to tell my wife about it and could not stop laughing to relay what I had just read. The article shares examples of parents interacting with their teens on Facebook that would embarrass their teen but make us laugh out loud. I thought you might need a good laugh after reading the previous article. I guarantee you are going to want to share this one.

If you come across an article related to teen trends, culture or development that you find interesting please pass it along. Hit my up in the comments section or tweet me (@daverozman).

The Garbage Teens are Watching

I hear it all the time. Adults complaining about the garbage teens watch on TV. Shows often filled with violence and sexual activity. I don’t try to defend these shows, some of them are really trashy. What I remind adults is that teens are connecting with and enjoying these shows for a reason.

TV shows provide an opportunity to talk with teens about issues they are facing, positive or negative character traits and their perspectives on life. In order to create this dialogue, we need to not immediately dismiss a show as garbage, but instead engage teens in a conversation about the show.

Parent and Youthworker Tip:

  •  Pay attention to what your teens are watching on TV. Once you know what they are watching, do your research. Common Sense Media does a great job of reviewing TV shows,providing parents with a guide to what age group the show is appropriate for and a summary of the show contains.
  • Watch an episode of the show yourself. With shows available On Demand or streaming services you can easily watch a show at your convenance. You may find redeeming characteristics to focus on instead of the negative reviews you have heard about the show.  Focus on the positive where possible.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Instead of judging the show, ask a question. Something along the lines of, “That guy Joe on the show was a jerk to that girl, what is his deal?” This allows your teen to respond, share their perspective and opens an opportunity for a conversation with your teen.

With that being said, what TV shows are teens watching? Based on recent teen award shows and a survey I did with teens, here are five shows that are currently popular with teens. (This is by no means an exhausted list)

teen wolf

Teen Wolf: Shown on MTV Monday’s at 10pm (currently between seasons). Episodes are available on Hulu and on MTV’s website.

 

family guyFamily Guy: Seen on the Fox network Sunday’s at 9/8c and reruns are available Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights on TBS. You can also catch episodes of Family Guy on Hulu, Netflix and on the Fox website.

pllPretty Little Liars (or PLL as it is refered to by the teens): Seen on ABC Family network Tuesdays at 8/7c. Episodes can also be viewed on Hulu, Netflix and the ABC Family website.

SpongeBob Squarepants: Seen on Nickelodeon ALOT. No seriously it is on multiple times every day. Episodes are also available on Hulu and the Nickelodeon website.

gleeGlee: Seen on Fox Thursdays at 8/8c. Episodes are also available on Hulu, Netflix and the Fox website.

I purposely did not provide descriptions of any of these shows because I have a challenge for you. Ask a teen if they watch any of these  five TV shows. If they do, ask which one they like the most and have them give you a short synopsis about the show and why they connect with it. Then email (or post in the comments) the synopsis and I will add it to this post. So we have a teen perspective on each of the shows.

Teen Slang: What is My Teen REALLY Saying.

Teen’s are always coming up with words that perplex the average adult but connect with a fellow teen. Here are some current Teen Slang words defined.

  • YOLO is still popular with teens but fading compared to this time last year. It means You Only Live Once. For more on YOLO check out my previous post “Whats Up with Yolo?”
  • Swag means a person has their own cool style that represents themselves. As one teen told me, “Swag is a term used to define people who have style, but it’s wildly overused.”
  • Before Miley Cyrus’s performance this week at the MTV VMA’s, not many adults had heard of “Twerking.” Now it is all over the news. USA Today even put together a little clip explaining Twerking. Several teens explained it to me as “a dance move where you are shaking your butt.” Twerking is usually in sexual suggestive manner and has caused many schools to ban “Twerking” and dances.
  • Turnt Up” has two meanings. Some teens shared that they use it to describe a party that was awesome. A teen might say, “That party was Turnt Up!” A second definition is a little more concerning. It is in reference to getting high or wasted. For example, “I’m about to get turnt up” or “He got so turnt up at the party last night.”
  • Ratchet is one of the most popular terms I am hearing lately. Teens were pretty consistent in describing what it meant. It is used towards another person and means dirty, skanky, nasty, ugly, not classy etc. It is most often used towards females in a derogatory manner.

One teen pointed out that most of these phrases became popular because of their integration and use in Hip Hop music. He went on to say that he does not feel many teens know the true definition of the words but use them because they are incorporated in popular music.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • Ask. If you hear a word you do not recognize ask what it means. I am surprised how often teens are straight forward with me and tell me what a slang word means.
  • Look it up. If you don’t know a phrase used in a TV show, movie or song Google it and educate yourself.
  • Use it. Ok not really. But if I ever had a teen who would not share with me what a word meant I would often ask them if it was ok for me to use it or call them that phrase. Real quick I would learn if this was a negative term or not based off of their reaction.

Popular Teen App Spotlight: Ask.fm

If you work with or have teens and have not heard about the popular app Ask.fm you need to be aware of this potentially dangerous new app.

The Youth Culture Report (A great resource for youth workers) has posted an article I wrote about Ask.fm and what you need to know. You can check out the article Here.

Popular Teen App Spotlight: Ask.fm

(I recently wrote this article for The Youth Culture Report on Ask.fm. I wanted to re-post it here for those that missed it)

In elementary school I remember getting tapped on the shoulder and handed a note. The note had my name on it and had been passed anonymously from someone in the room. Opening it up it read something like this, “Do you like A) Christina, B) Sally or C) Jen?” There would be a note to circle who I liked and then to send the note back.

As I moved into middle and high school, the same style of anonymous questions came continued. But now they were often being asked by a peer who had been sent on a secret mission to figure out who I liked for their friend.

I remember two distinct feelings during these situations. First I would usually blush, get embarrassed and a little giddy inside thinking that someone may like me more than just a friend. My second feeling was that of uncertainty and fear. “What if I circled a name and it was not the person who sent the note? Would they be upset? Would they tell the person whose name I circled that I liked them?” A similar mental through played out in middle school and high school as well.

These experiences, although somewhat anxiety ridden, felt more like a childish game than anything else.

Times have changed since I was young. With access to technology and social networking sites, these types of encounters are more secretive (as far as who is asking the questions) and more public (who can see the questions and answers) through apps and websites.

ask 3A few years back Formspring was all over the news as a website teens were using to ask each other anonymous questions. It quickly got on the radar of all parents and youth workers because of the harassment that was occurring on the site.

Now a new app called Ask.fm is gaining popularity with teens with the same results.

Ask.fm is a question platform site and app that is highly integrated with Social Media where users can pose questions anonymously to other users through the site or on other social networks. Apps like this can be great fun with questions like, “What movies have you seen lately?” or “What did you do this summer?”

ask 2But when the site is abused it can lead to intentional harm and embarrassment to others. Based off of what I am hearing from teens, incidents of bullying, harassing and creating embarrassment for others is widespread.

It is also important to note that there are not many privacy settings on Ask.fm. Meaning anyone can see what questions are being posed and how they are being answered. Even if you are not a user of the site.

Parent and Youth Worker Tips:

  • Engage your teen in a conversation about what sites they are using and how they and other teens use them. Ask them if they have used Ask.fm and what type of questions they see their peers asking and answering.
  • Work with your teen to set up guidelines for the behavior online. Focus on what they will do if they encounter a situation that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable. Talk about what respecting others looks like online and what you expect from them. It is important to note that engaging your teen in coming up with these guideline will empower them to take ownership of their behavior and consequences. Every teen is different and you need to set guidelines based on your teen.
  • Discuss what the consequences would be if they violate your agreement. Teens feel that if they alert an adult to something that occurs online, even if they did not do it, they will have their internet or technology privileges taken away. And that is the last thing they want. Be clear that reporting something to you will not get them in trouble.

Please share this with your co-workers, fellow parents and teachers. As we begin the school year I see the potential for drama created by this app to spill over into our schools and after school programs.

Want More? Sarah Brooks wrote a GREAT article last week that tackles Ask.fm from a spiritual/religious viewpoint. Check it out Here.