Let there be no confusion: There is a cultural war raging in our country and the weapon of mass destruction being used against our teens and young adults in particular is the smartphone. Of course, these devices can be incredibly useful in communicating, doing research, finding treasures of information, even navigating our cars. But, we can not afford to turn a blind eye to the enormous dangers that come with such instant global access.
Last night we held our monthly meeting of the Respect Life and Family Ministry at St. Martin De Porres Catholic Church and were treated to a fantastic talk by Joe Burke entitled “Youth Hacking.” Joe is a successful marketing director in the entertainment and clothing industries with a particular specialty of on-line marketing and sales. The theme of his talk was how the cultural attitudes and behaviors of many young men and women are being deliberately targeted and manipulated using the smartphone. Now Joe’s talk was nearly 90 minutes long with Q&A that followed so this blog post can only begin to scratch the surface. That said, I hope that when you’re finished reading this you’ll better appreciate the fact that as parents and grandparents we must up our game so to speak in monitoring and controlling the use of these technical marvels. We must protect our kids against the abuses of these devices with the same watchful eye as we would when they cross the street or learn to ride bike. Their safety and their very lives are no less at stake.
Incredible as it may seem, Joe sited sources indicating that ‘tweens’ (ages 8-12) spend on average about 6 hours per day consuming media either by the computer or smartphone. That value rises to a mind-boggling 9 hours per day for those ages 13-19. Consuming media in this context means being entertained by talking, texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc. and using many other social media that we will address in more detail a bit later. This does not include computer time at school working on school assignments. We must understand the staggering implications of these numbers. These average young people spend more time on social media than they do interacting with either teachers or parents. It is obvious that our youth are being formed significantly by the digital world and much of this world is centered on money and the distortion of our natural sexuality. More on that later.
The HOW of the Problem.
Ok, a problem exists with the amount of time our youth are spending on social media but what really is the problem? What are these weapons of media mass destruction and how are they harmful? Well, Joe described a number of popular smartphone applications including the intended (good) use and the subsequent (evil) use by predator type people to entice interest in and activity in harmful behavior. For the sake of ink and time, I will only quickly touch on four in this post. For more information, click on Problem Apps for an expanded list.
SNAPCHAT allows a user to send (temporary) photos and videos to anyone on his/her friend list. Problem: It is the #1 app used for sexting, mostly because people think it is the safer way to sext. However, the “snaps” can easily be recovered and the receiver can share it with others. These images, once thought to be temporary and safe, are often used as leverage against the original poster even to the point of releasing images to revenge porn sites, called “snap porn.”
TINDER is a dating website that uses the GPS proximity location of the participants to quickly review ratings, locate and ‘hookup’ with a partner. Problem: This app accelerates the hookup process. Occurrence rates of STD and HIV are prevalent in this TINDER community, as high as 79% and 31% respectively.
ASK.FM is an application that allows people to ask questions to others under the safe umbrella of being anonymous. Problem: Can easily, and has, led to aggressive and virulent cyber bullying. To date, 9 cases of documented teen suicides involving ASK.FM.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD: A smartphone app that provides direct contact to the PP website. Problem: Under the guise of ‘women’s health’, PP encourages sexual activity and provides, without parental notification or permission, powerful contraception and abortion inducing drugs .
It should be clear by now that your young people are getting into trouble on their smartphones, and the first place they go to for a solution is their smartphone. Joe mentioned that the ‘abortion services’ is searched for 6,000,000 times each month! The companies making money know very well indeed how to reach our kids and we need to fight back.
After this short review, Joe turned to address the motivation of the companies that produce and market these apps, even the ones that are free. The answer is obvious but it’s good to hear it again with specifics. The yearly advertisement revenue from these apps is over $25 Billion Dollars. Of course with that much money at stake, there is going to be incredible resistance to effecting change on the source end, we must fight it at the consumer end. We must educate ourselves and our kids.
Let’s return for a moment to Planned Parenthood and make sure there is no misunderstanding. PP is in business to make money and they are good at doing exactly that. To thrive in the business of ‘women’s health’ Planned Parenthood must continue to cultivate consumer of their services – pregnant women–and to do that they actively encourage young boys and girls to become sexually active. If you don’t believe this, below are two actual text messages sent to teens:
“Hookup: Did you know you can get birth control, STD test, and more without your parent’s consent? Text CLINIC + your zip to 877877 to find a clinic near you.”
“Hookup: 1st day of school is right around the corner! Did u know u can be excused from school to visit a clinic 4 sexual health services? More @ teensource.org”
There are others messages such as those that contain specific instructions on performing ‘safe’ oral sex but are so vulgar they can’t be repeated.
Joe made one final point on the issue of Planned Parenthood’s motivation. He shared estimates that the total life monetary worth of a woman to PP is over $10,000. In other words, by providing services like STD testing, contraceptives, and chemical and surgical abortions and then billing the patient and the government backed health insurance companies, PP realizes profits in excess $10,000 on each woman over her lifetime. What is the profit realized by Planned Parenthood for each woman that exercises responsible sexual behavior as God intended? ZERO. The motivation therefore is clear. Planned Parenthood’s business requires ‘educating’ our children, and promoting and encouraging choices that destroy lives.
Joe, using his extensive marketing experience, is working with Obria Medical Clinics (formerly Birth Choice) to launch a “Click & Mortar” internet-based platform to reach out to at-risk youth where they are – on their smartphones. Check out that site and support Obria in any way you can. For more information Joe can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now to us parents and grandparents; how do we join this fight? I wish there was a turn key solution to the hacking of our youth but these issues are too complex. We can, however, take some significant first steps. As guardians of our children, we must take back control of the influences that our kids receive. They won’t like it because something will be taken away, ‘all the other kids have a smartphone’ etc etc. We won’t like because it will take hard work. We will have to get educated in the digital world. We’ll have to impose restrictions in one form or another on the use of smartphones. Joe used the term “guided access” to imply that the responsibility of our children’s access to the internet and the use of smartphones is in our hands. It is our job to guide the use of these wonderful tools in a positive direction and do our best to isolate our kids from the carnage they can cause.
The specifics of the solution will be different for every parent and family, but here are some suggestions:
- Spend some time and learn the about apps that the kids are using. Learn the specific dangers of each.
- Look at your child’s smartphone and see if any of these apps are resident. Be aware that it is very simple to hide the display of any app on a smartphone. You will also need to learn how to find them and unhide them. At least look for the ones we’ve talked about.
- TALK to your children. Get the conversation going. This is no different than teaching them to not play in the street or the explaining the dangers of driving an automobile.
- Learn to use the filters on the smartphone to limit access to certain sites and restrict sharing of personal information.
- Look at the text log on their phone occasionally. See who they are texting and why. Get over the notion that you are spying on them. Do it above board. It’s for their safety.
- Google ‘parental control smartphone software’ and do some research on Smartphone monitoring programs. If necessary, install one and periodically review the results with your child.
- If you aren’t technically capable of implementing some of these items, then take the phone away. Get them a dumb phone. They can still call you, and text you. Besides, you’ll be giving them 6-9 hours per day back in their lives.
- Then, TALK to your children.
- and TALK to your children some more.