Tag Archives: Social media

Teens and Media

Recently I was looking a materials for a fall program centred on Creation.  One of the offerings included programs for children, teens and adults.  The group begins together and then breaks into smaller groups.  In one version of these activities, they encourage the leader to ask teenagers: “What are the television commercials that you particularly like? Why do you particularly like them?”

Teenagers and media

For many years, these questions would have been meaningful and relevant to teenagers.  I watched television as a teenager as did most, likely up until about 10 years ago.  While we did have the capacity to tape shows and thus fast forward through commercials, this process involved actual VHS tapes which was clunky.

In 1999, companies began to introduce digital recording options which allowed content to be stored on the device rather than a separate tape.  These remained dependent upon the networks to provide the content so that individuals could record it for later viewing.  While advantageous, there was still a fair bit of television that was watched live along with the commercials it included.

Moving to Online Content

Enter Netflix.  In 2007, Netflix expanded its business to include streaming media.  With the introduction of streaming media, people no longer had to intentionally reference television guides and record live shows.  Rather, they could simply access the content they wanted and press play.  This can be done from a television, computer, tablet and cell phone.  Compounding the options are opportunities to view content via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and News feeds.  While commercials do pop up, it is far easier to ignore these than ever before.

Paying Attention

Recognising the variety of options available, it is important that adults pay attention to the ways young people consume media.  Consider the ice bucket challenge, the cinnamon challenge and the tide pod challenge.  There have been multiple times in which a trending challenge has encouraged young people to participate in activities that are not only dangerous but could actually be deadly!

As well, with so many options available, the opportunities for a family to sit together in front of the television and thus engage in conversation about the content being watched are reduced.  Thus, it can be harder to create family time, explore themes within the content which young people consume and, at times, ensure that what our children see is appropriate.

What do you do?

Recognising the challenges of media consumption today, what efforts are made in your house to ensure that young people access appropriate content, create space for conversation about themes and spend time doing or watching things together?

We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/


Go Play Outside

There are multiple memes and posts floating around social media which compare the youth experiences of older generations to a perceived sense of youth today.  Typically these comparisons highlight the wonder of being outside as compared to an assumption that today’s youth are technology obsessed.

It’s Complicated

It is easy to point to technology as the reason young people do not go out and play as has been the reality for children across the centuries.  While technology does provide options that engage young people, it is important to avoid assuming that this is simply a cause and effect equation.

Fear of outside

A plethora of information has fed concerns of parents since the 80s when public service announcements talked about ‘stranger danger’.  The result has been parents are more reluctant to allow their children to play outside citing multiple concerns including traffic, the possibility of being snatched by a stranger, the attitude of neighbours and more.

Added to these concerns are environmental concerns that have been raised recently including the possibility of getting Lyme disease from tick bites  and the increased risk of getting West Nile virus from mosquito bites  These realities help to feed our fears creating a space in which some are beginning to wonder if we are becoming nature phobic.

Scheduled Kids

The prevalence of scheduled activities has also increased significantly over the years enabling parents to enroll their children in everything from sports to music to science programs and more.  Windsor’s Activity Guide provides opportunities for young people to remain active throughout the summer.  While these opportunities can be beneficial for the development of children, a case has been made that scheduling activities makes it harder for children to engage in creative, spontaneous play.

What is meaningful?

In the end, perhaps the more important question to ask is what is meaningful for young people?  The tools available to today are significantly different from anything experienced previously and young people are finding ways to make meaning through technology, programming and quiet time.  While these opportunities may not fit with how we experienced or understand childhood, that doesn’t necessarily mean young people can’t learn, develop and grow through these opportunities.

The key is balance – ensuring that our children are physically and mentally active in ways that make sense for them.  How does this work in your family?  We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Lessons from SVU

My teenager has been binge watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit this summer.  This has provided an interesting juxtaposition of life and art in a time when the Sexual Health Curriculum in Ontario is a major topic of conversation as the government seeks to repeal and replace it.

No real person or situation…

Each episode of the series includes a disclaimer that no real person or situation is depicted in the storylines.  At the same time, this show clearly touches on real issues regarding gender, sexuality, consent, bullying and the Internet – all themes that are in the updated curriculum that has now be repealed.

Example 1 – “A Misunderstanding”

The storyline depicts two teenagers who converse via text and then find themselves in the darkroom during a school dance.  The male, wanting to be memorialised as part of the “Cherry pickers’ club”, becomes aggressive despite the pleas of the female for him to ‘slow down’ and ‘don’t go down there’.

The investigation and trial becomes a he said/she said battle that is complicated by teenage insecurity and parental assumptions.  I suspect there are those who could easily relate to and sympathise with the characters on both sides.  As a result, we are reminded that, all too often, young people are not equipped to navigate sexual relationships appropriately leaving them vulnerable to the consequences of ‘a misunderstanding’.

Example 2 – “Transgender Bridge”

A transgender teen is bullied by a group of teenage boys and falls off a bridge.  When the transgender teen dies, the District Attorney decides to try the 15 year old assailant as an adult with the hate crimes statute attached.  The defense argues that a teenager’s impulse control is not fully evolved and that, presented with someone who contradicted his understanding of maleness, he reacted out of confusion and the fear that he didn’t want his friends to think he was gay.

This premise seems to suggest that education about the transgender community could have changed the outcome of such an encounter significantly.  Protection from discrimination based on gender identity and sexuality are provided in Ontario and Canada. Ensuring that young people are taught about these individuals could reduce stigma and the possibility for bullying and violence.

In real life…

Rehtaeh Parsons was 17 years old when she killed herself after having been assaulted by four teens at a party and finding photos of the event online which led to bullying and harassment.  After reviewing the updated Ontario curriculum, Rehtaeh’s father suggests that if that particular curriculum had been taught at his daughter’s school, she might well be alive today because the curriculum “…talks about mental health, it talks about suicide and it talks about consent.”  He goes on to say: “I think the young men involved in Rehtaeh’s case don’t believe what they were doing was sexual assault or rape.  They don’t believe that whatsoever, and I think a lot of the kids in Rehtaeh’s school who victim-blamed her had no idea around issues of consent. If they had, they may not have been so willing to torment her.  If there were courses at school about sexting and sharing an image like that of her – people would have said this is child porn, this is against the law.  And other kids would’ve come to her defence, or they might have confronted the ones who were victim-blaming and calling her names.” See here

There is much to learn…

As mentioned in this post, a lot has changed in the past 20 years.  Art has highlighted these changes through programs like Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  In Ontario we are currently confronted with the question: what will be taught in schools come September?  What tools do you think our children need to ensure they can safely navigate through the realities of life in 2018?

We want to hear from you: Would you allow your children to watch Law and Order: Special Victims Unit?  How might this program become a springboard to talk with young people about sexuality, gender, relationships and consent?  To what extent do you think these topics should be discussed in schools?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Access to Information

This morning as I skimmed through my Facebook feed, I was drawn to the words of a friend: “There are some days when I wish I could close my eyes and go back to a reality when I didn’t understand and was ignorant to the impact”.  The comment pointed to this news article about the relationship between addiction and adverse childhood experiences.

In the first paragraph an addiction doctor says addiction shouldn’t be called addiction.  It should be called ‘ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking’ because of the way such behaviour is linked to adverse childhood experiences.  The article continues by highlighting the pedigree of the doctor as a way to clarify and establish respect for his position and then delves into his extensive research.

Information in the ‘stone age’

There was a time when in depth articles about health and well-being were limited to medical journals.  To the extent that the research was helpful for the majority, summaries could find their way into mass media, typically skewed by the perspectives of the authors.  For the most part, however, people relied on the wisdom and ability of their health care providers to stay on top of the latest medical research and developments.

Googling google

As I prepared this post on health education in Ontario, I looked back on what has changed in the past 20 years.  Doing so, meant googling a variety of issues to refresh my memory as to how things have evolved.  This included googling google to determine when this Internet search engine was introduced to the masses and when it formally entered into our vocabulary.

Since 1998, our ability to access information has shifted from card catalogues in libraries and encyclopaedias.  In fact, at this point, we could ask Siri, Alexa or Google virtually any question and have access to information almost instantaneously.  The challenge isn’t access, it is our ability to decipher the quality of the sometimes hundreds of references we are given.

Knowledge overload

We don’t even have to google to get information.  Internet news pages, social media feeds, and news programs of many different forms continue to inform and engage the masses.  Knowledge swirls around us like a storm of words out of which we somehow need to make meaning for ourselves and others.  This meaning-making is then expected to influence our actions, helping us to decide whether or not to eat eggs, which plants are toxic, how to save the bees, which renovations will give us the most bang for our buck, which places are the most volatile, how addictions should be addressed, and which politicians support which policies.

What about the next generation?

If, at times, all of this information feels overwhelming for adults, imagine what it is like to be a teenager with access to this level of information?  What impact does it have on the psyche of young people when they are scrolling through news feeds and social media and encountering information about climate change, violence, racial tensions, sexuality and more?  How do parents and teachers help young people make-meaning out of all that information?  What can adults do to help young people stay optimistic and engaged in a world that is all too often painted as problematic?  What examples do you have from your circumstances?  Feel free to comment.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

What has changed?


“What were phones like in 1998?”  The question from my teenager could have been viewed as another opportunity for a young person to roll their eyes at ‘Stone Age’ technology from the time before they were born.  It could have been, but, in this case the question arose out of a sense of urgency when it was revealed that the new Provincial Government was rolling back the health curriculum twenty years, fulfilling an election promise.

Twenty years may not seem long for some.  In reality, there are many twenty year periods during which there was not significant changes that would require updating school curricula.  The introduction of a new curriculum in 2015, however, suggests that there were at least some people who felt an update was important.  So, what has changed in the last 20 years that might be useful to include in a health curriculum?

The Toronto Star reflected on this in a 2009 article which looks back on the previous decade and identifies 50 significant changes.  Other notable changes that embrace the two decades include:

  • Google was founded in 1998 and became a recognised verb in dictionaries in 2006 as more and more people used this search engine to discover answers to any question they could ask
  • Legalisation of same sex marriage in Ontario on June 10, 2003 and in Canada on July 22, 2005
  • Gender identity and gender expression have been protected from discrimination in Ontario since 2012 and in Canada since 2017
  • In Sept. 2010 “Bell Let’s Talk” began a new conversation about mental health in Canada in an attempt to raise awareness and funds to support programs that address mental illness.
  • Facebook was founded in February 2004, Twitter in March 2006, Instagram in Oct. 2010 and Snapchat in Sept. 2011
  • Cyber bullying has increased significantly with 1 in 5 young people reporting they had experienced cyber-bullying as early as 2014.
  • The death of Jamie Hubley on Oct. 14, 2011 led to the Ontario Legislature mandating school boards across the province develop tougher anti-bullying programs and offered legal protections for gay-straight alliances in the province’s schools.
  • The deaths of Amanda Todd (2012), Rehtaaeh Parsons (2013) and others, highlighted the vulnerability of young people to exploitation and abuse through the Internet.
  • Time’s person of the year for 2017 was “The Silence Breakers” the women whose experiences of sexual violence led to a renewed awareness of the need to better understand boundaries and consent through the #metoo movement.

These are only a snap shot of the significant things that have happened in the last 20 years.

Parents will always be an important resource for children especially in regards to determining morals and values.  With all that has changed, however, I wonder how many parents feel appropriately equipped to address these changes with our children?  How confident do parents feel about talking about health, gender, sexuality, bullying and relationships in an era when there has been such a significant shift in how we communicate and understand who we are?  If schools limited the health and sexuality content to a curriculum that was written 20 years ago, are parents prepared to fill in the gaps so that our children have the tools to effectively navigate relationships, community and sexuality today?  What do you think?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Screen Time

Fun fact: there were a couple of years when our television mysteriously ‘broke’ during summer and my parents were ‘too busy’ working to get it fixed.  In reality, my parents had simply cut power to the television in an effort to ensure that we would not spend our summer in front of it. 

Unplugging today

As a parent, I didn’t have the opportunity to ‘pull the plug’ on television in the same way.  While we have only ever had one television set in our home, we have accumulated computers, a tablet and cell phones.  The number of screen options has grown exponentially over the years making it very difficult to surreptitiously eliminate the possibility of screen time.

That being said, following the pediatric guidelines we did try to minimise screen time while our child was young.  We have also taken a technology-free vacation where only one cell phone was allowed for emergency purposes.  This led to a particularly wacky weekend where board games had us laughing uncontrollably.

The reality of Screen time

With a cell phone and computer readily available, our teenager spends a lot of time in front of a screen.  During the school year, (as I wrote about here) we recognise that technology is a vital tool for research and development of projects and notes.  I know from my own experience that a fair bit of my work is spent on the computer – researching, writing, connecting with people and so on.  We would not want to get in the way of our teenager developing the necessary skills to use technology.

The challenge of summer

Summer, however, provides a time away from the rigours associated with school and thus the use of technology changes.  For our teen, some time is spent reading and being creative on Wattpad or writing music with MuseScore activities which we think should be encouraged.  We also know there are social media accounts to review including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.  We seek balance in the process but recognise that there is still work to do, including regarding the importance of validation via impersonal social media accounts.

Modelling balance

Balance is encouraged when it is also modeled by other members of the family.  Parents who are overly focused on technology and zone out while watching television or working on the computer, validate these actions for their children.  Banning technology during meals and at other meaningful opportunities can create space from which interpersonal interactions can take place reinforcing these skills as well.  This doesn’t require a special pepper mill to do so, but does need a commitment from family members to use this time together for conversation.

What do you do?

So then, how does it work at your house?  Do you place limits on technology and screen time for your children?  How do you balance positive use with potentially problematic usage?  What advice would you give to others in regards to the use of technology in youth?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual

Finding Hope on Social Media

This past weekend, we celebrated Father’s Day.  This is our opportunity to give thanks to the men in our lives who make a difference.  While there were BBQs and gifts, dad jokes and beer in some homes, there were also places where celebration was hard.  Not everyone is blessed to have a good relationship with their fathers.  Not everyone has a father who is still with them.  Some fathers continue to mourn the loss of their child.

A not so happy Father’s Day

This morning I saw re-tweets shared by my teenager from Fred Guttenburg (@fred_guttenburg):

‘Dear America, Today I will begin Father’s Day by going to the cemetery to visit my forever 14 year old daughter Jaime.  It is over 4 months since she was murdered at school.  Today, I am too sad to focus on myself and so no need for Father’s Day messages for me.  Instead…everyone please post or tweet a very simple message that simply say’s “I commit to vote orange in November #OrangeWaveInNovember”’

Following the trends

More and more, I am acutely aware of the reality that young people can be inundated by social media trends and information which doesn’t paint a very good picture of this world.  How do you find good in the words of a father who mourns the loss of his child from a senseless school shooting?  What is hopeful about the Twitter trends: #IfIDieInASchoolShooting (which I previously discussed here) or #WhereAreTheChildren (which protests children being taken from those who are coming into the US looking for a brighter future).

Our teenagers have access to information, conversations and media which makes it painfully clear that world is not fair and robs them of the innocence that had been previously associated with being young.  Young people should bask in the knowledge that they have their whole lives ahead of them and yet, they are seeing too many examples of how this is not true or that what is ahead will not be overly amazing.

Looking Deeper

While these trends may be heartbreaking, it is important to continually dig deeper, to recognise that social media has given a space for voices to be heard – not solely the voices of the powerful but also those voices which could otherwise be easily silenced.  Through social media Fred Guttenburg has the space to encourage others to use the tools available to them to make meaningful change.  Through social media David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and others are able to rally students to #MarchForOurLives.  Through social media we have heard women cry out #MeToo and #TimesUp.  Through social media we have heard the rallying cry #BlackLivesMatter and shown support for those grieving as we #PutYourSticksOut.

Navigating the Trends with our teenagers

Social media trends can feel overwhelming.  Compounding this problem for parents is that the medium can also feel new and foreign for us.  Still, it remains important for us to be aware of the kinds of information and stories to which our children have access through their various social media accounts.  Open conversation can create space to help all of us confront the anxieties of living in 2018 and open our hearts to hope for what is to come.

What do you do?

In our efforts to support our children through the images, conversations and uncertainty highlight by so many social media trends, what do you do?  Do you follow your children/teenagers on their social media accounts?  How do talk with your teenagers about what they are seeing on social media?  Where do you find hope?  How do keep from feeling overwhelmed by the content and/or the medium?

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/ and Follow us on Twitter @ThriveFamilies.

Twitter Trends


I have to admit, I haven’t quite gotten the hang of tweeting yet.  Still, I have added @Thrivefamilies to the twitterverse because I know that this is where we can connect to teenagers and I expect my teen to help with this process.

One of the other reasons I have included Twitter as part of our social media presence is to monitor what is trending.  Via Twitter, it is possible for us to get a glimpse into the thoughts, struggles and hopes of teenagers.  To that end, my teenager asked me if I had noticed a hashtag that had grown in popularity this past weekend #IfIdieInASchoolShooting.

Using the Search…

For those who haven’t used Twitter, you can set your preferences to identify the most popular trends for a particular target area.  I focus on Canada.  It would seem my teen has a wider view and so, this morning I entered #IfIdieInASchoolShooting in the search.  The results made my heart break:

  • #IfIdieInASchoolShooting or any shooting, I want to be buried next to my brother.
  • #IfIdieInASchoolShooting I will be just one of the many kids who’s (sic) life meant nothing to our lawmakers. Just another statistic.
  • We, teenagers, are tweeting using #IfIdieInASchoolShooting. The saddest part about it? We have already had these thoughts – have already wondered if it will be our school next, what we will do if it happens to us, and how our community will (or will not) respond.

Why does it matter?

We live in Canada where gun control is far stricter than the US.  The odds of our teenagers falling victim to a school shooting is far lower than their American peers.  Still, they are watching members of their generation who, instead of feeling young and invincible, are genuinely concerned about the possibility of being gunned down at school.

We can tell our kids they are safe.  But they know that already.  What they are seeing is a world where life isn’t fair.  Where innocence is lost.  Where governments fail to protect.  Where big business is more important than lives.  They are witnesses to a symptom that the world is not as wonderful as the song claims it should be.

What can families do?

If our teenagers are following these trends, parents need to be courageous in our response.  We need to listen to their concerns and be honest about what is possible, what we can do to protect ourselves and support the efforts of their American peers to protect themselves.

While it is unlikely to happen here, it matters to some teens that it happens and that makes it worth discussing.  Conversation is always important, as is a willingness to support efforts our teenagers offer to advocate on behalf of those they see as vulnerable.  Our teenagers are reading #IfIdieInASchoolShooting.  It is up to us to engage them further so that they can find hope in the midst of a sad situation.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/