What’s Up with Pop-Culture?
There was a time not so long ago where our society actually believed that young people needed to be protected from certain aspects of pop culture. How things have changed! Due to the easy access of everything from the internet, online gaming, social networks and YouTube – everything is now mainstream.
There can be no doubt that today’s pop culture has made a turn for the worse – everywhere you look you see the lewd and the crude and it’s growing more profane by the minute. Constant exposures to these messages not only are having a numbing effect on our children but for us as parents as well. So where do we go from here? There are many who would say the first step is to talk to your child. I personally believe the first step we should take as parents is to educate ourselves as to what is going on in their world.
We all know things have changed since we were our children’s age…but are you aware of how much things have changed? I recently came across an article that I felt was rather appropriate for this topic…here it is:
The viral world of teen entertainment
By Ken Mueller
The most popular kid on the block these days also happens to be one of the newest kids: YouTube.com. The site was officially launched in December 2005 by a pair of unemployed, debt-ridden, 20-something Silicon Valley geeks as a way of making it very easy for people to upload video content to the Internet. As an indicator of how popular online video has become, this site alone features 35,000 new videos each day, with viewers watching more than 40 million videos—every day! According to research from the Online Publishers Association, 5 percent of Internet users view online video on a daily basis, 24 percent view weekly, and 46 percent watch at least once a month. Much of YouTube’s early popularity was driven from MySpace as teens and other social networkers wanted a place to upload videos to put on their own sites.
But YouTube is only one of dozens of such sites that host and highlight these videos. Other popular sites for outrageous videos include eBaum’s World (ebaumsworld.com), StupidVideos.com and Heavy.com, as well as some of the larger search aggregators such as Google Video, Yahoo Video and MSN Video. (See the chart on page 8 for a list of some of the other more popular video sites.)
The popularity of online videos has the big boys of traditional media taking note. While there is a considerable move to make original content available online, the major broadcast and cable networks also are moving to take online content and put it on TV. VH1 now airs a program of online videos called “Web Junk 2.0,” while Bravo airs “Outrageous and Contagious: Viral Videos.” Other new on-air entries include NBC’s “The Net with Carson Daly,” E!’s “Cybersmack” and the USA Network’s version of “eBaum’s World.”
The growing popularity of online video also has caught the eyes of marketers who see money to be made. YouTube and its clones are all working on ways to generate income through advertising, while other sites are offering original and premium content to viewers for a small fee or subscription.
What’s the draw?
First, and most importantly, online videos are … (insert adjective here). Funny. Entertaining. Creative. Sarcastic, Mean spirited. Extreme. All of the above. At a time when TV and other traditional media are finding it hard to engage a young audience, the Internet allows teens to find programming that connects with them and their sensibilities. Remember: in most cases these videos are good, clean fun.
Second, because of their viral nature, finding the best online videos is like digging for buried treasure. Kids vie to find the latest and greatest so they can be the first to share them with their friends. There is a measure of honor given to those who find the best videos online, so some kids will spend hours scouring these sites looking for amazing clips, much like an online treasure hunt.
Third, the hidden online nature of these videos also gives kids a sense of ownership and control. Like a lot of other Web entities, such as social networking sites, there is a sense that this is an adult-free zone. Kids are attracted to those things of which mom and dad aren’t aware. There is something special about something that belongs to you without the knowledge of parents. This doesn’t mean all online videos are bad or forbidden. But there is a sense of individualism and independence. Atom Film vice president Scott Roesch says digital entertainment gives “consumers total control of their viewing experience. Their schedule is no longer two hours or 30-minute shows, rather you can access wherever and however long you want it” (“Internet Vid Content Jumps on Mobile Wave,” UPI, 2/14/06).
Fourth, for those kids who are uploading content, there is the lure of celebrity. MTV Networks executive Brian Graden correctly notes that “fame has become an overblown aphrodisiac in our culture, and now here you go: put your video you made on iFilm and maybe you’ll be on TV next week” (New York Times, 3/26/06). Certainly the large number of videos uploaded each day precludes most of them from finding anything more than a few viewers. But the fame accorded BowieChick, Numa Numa, David Lehre and others is something many kids would love to achieve. While the chances are admittedly small, there is a greater chance of getting noticed on the Web than there is of following the traditional route of film school or acting school and moving to Hollywood.
How do we respond?
First, we need to recognize that online video is here to stay and is paving the way for new forms of entertainment and content delivery. It is a part of our culture, particularly the culture of our Web-connected teens. As a result, we need to approach it the way we approach other media and entertainment: from a posture of mindful critique through the lens of a biblical world and life view. As Christians we need to avoid the extreme of mindless consumption on one end, and the extreme of hiding from the culture at the other end. With that in mind, we should sit down with our kids and view these online videos with them, helping them to process the messages. One helpful tool is our How to Use your Head to Guard your Heart: 3-D Guide.
Second, helping our kids become more discerning about the media they consume will help to protect them as they search the Web for online videos. Many of the sites that offer the best videos are also home to videos we would be wise to have our kids avoid. While most video offerings are harmless, there are plenty of videos that range from the slightly provocative to downright pornographic. It is not uncommon to find videos of teen girls dancing provocatively in their underwear or performing a strip tease. At the same time, pornography sites often upload “teaser” videos to these sites as a way of generating traffic to their site. Our young teen boys are especially vulnerable to the addictive lure of pornography, and there are plenty of online videos that will whet their appetite for sin. Other videos feature extremely graphic violence and the glorification of drugs and alcohol.
Third, while they may be funny, many online videos find their humor and appeal through a mean-spirited approach to life that includes laughing at the expense of others. The subjects of some videos are often the unwitting victims of pranks or hidden cameras. In 2002 a 14-year-old boy filmed himself pretending to be a character from Star Wars, wielding a makeshift light saber. The video, now known as “Star Wars Kid,” was stolen by several of his friends who made it available on the Internet where it quickly became a viral hit. Unfortunately the star of the video was subjected to global taunting, dropped out of school and sued his friends. We need to make sure our kids have a Christ-like attitude toward others and don’t find entertainment value in the misfortune or misery of others.
Fourth, with the prospect of instant fame just a click away, we need to help our kids make wise decisions regarding anything they might choose to put on the Web. None of us wants our daughters performing erotically on the Internet. We also don’t want our kids to imitate or participate in dangerous and extreme activities. MTV’s “Jackass” spawned a host of at-home imitators, some of whom were injured trying to outdo their on-camera heroes. As online videos of dangerous behavior gain popularity, teens will feel a need to push the envelope even further in order to be noticed. We should do everything in our power to educate our kids and discourage them from participating in immoral or reckless behavior they view as fun.
Fifth, we should be encouraging our teens to use their God-given creativity. As beings created in the image of God we are creators ourselves. Those students who exhibit abilities in filmmaking and production should be given the chance to use those gifts. Glorifying God with our talents is not merely a function of producing “Christian” video content. It is more a matter of both the content and quality being marked by technical excellence and truth. (See Francis Shaeffer’s “Four Standards of Judgement” in his book Art & the Bible.) The Internet helps to level the creative playing field and our kids should take advantage of the chance to have their work seen and possibly be “discovered.”
Sixth, we need to make sure our kids are on firm legal ground. Much of the video that is uploaded to the Web comes from other sources, and therefore is in violation of copyright laws. When peer-to-peer file swapping networks such as Napster came on the scene, the music industry actively worked to shut down all channels of illegal downloading. It is expected that the same will happen with video clips that are being uploaded and downloaded illegally. Our teens have grown up online in an environment that sees nothing wrong with taking things found on the Internet. We need to teach them a strong and biblical sense of right and wrong, and a healthy respect for the law.
Seventh, explore the possibilities of using online video as a touch point for ministry. The world of online videos is a window into youth culture. By recognizing what is popular with teens we can take their cultural and spiritual pulse and better minister to them. For teens, talking about their favorite online videos is akin to office water cooler talk. I know of several youth workers who open their weekly youth meetings with interesting online videos, either as icebreakers, attention grabbers or discussion starters. Popular online videos can make great object lessons. And some youth groups even produce their own creative videos that are worthy of delivering to an online audience.
Online video sites:
The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding grants permission for this article to be copied in its entirety, provided the copies are distributed free of charge and the copies indicate the source as the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding.
After reading this article there can be a real sense of despair and hopelessness. How can we compete as parents with our culture? How does our faith even relate to today’s media and culture? That is exactly why we are bringing in Brett Ullman on Friday, February 6th and Saturday, February 7th. With my parent hat on I want to strongly encourage you as parents, to make sure you do whatever it takes to be a part of that weekend!
May God continue to richly bless you!
Pastor G <><<