Category: The Median

“Off Camera” with Megan Alexander

Megan Alexander is a national news correspondent on Inside Edition, author, speaker, and actress. Her first book, Faith in the Spotlight—Thriving in Your Career While Staying True to Your Beliefs, was released in 2016.

Dan: Megan, thank you so much for being with us. What was it that inspired you to pursue a career in the media?

Megan: I have always enjoyed anything in the creative space; I loved doing plays and music in school. I also enjoyed speech and debate, writing, and art, so I knew I wanted to do something in this industry. Originally, I thought it would be acting or music.

Dan: When did your journey with the Lord begin, and what were the circumstances that brought you to faith in Christ?

Megan: I received a wonderful K-12 education at Kings Schools in Seattle, and it was there that that I met the Lord. My school activities—sports, musical theater, student council, and more—had a foundation in the Christian faith, and my teachers, coaches and friendships made a lasting impression on me.

Dan: In your personal and professional life, you are very open about your faith. What is the usual response from your colleagues about your beliefs?

Megan: Well, I wasn’t always that way. I believe you should do excellent work first and gain the respect of your colleagues by doing what you were hired to do—do the job. Then, just be yourself. It can be as simple as sharing what you did that weekend, what books you are reading, or how you handle stress. I work with people of many different faiths, lifestyles, and creeds. We must be respectful to everyone in how we share our beliefs. Because I HOPE I am respectful and professional, my colleagues have been supportive. I certainly felt supported when I published my book. My boss read it and said, “Well done.” He knows that at the end of the day, I will do good work for him—do my job—which is why I was hired in the first place. What’s that wonderful phrase? “Preach the Gospel; use words if necessary.”

Dan: As a Christian, have you experienced challenges in your media career that are unique to a person of faith?

Megan: I don’t believe there is a “grand master plan” to keep faith and religion out of media. I just think people of faith have not hung in there long enough to earn a seat at the table. I think the Church “gave up” on Hollywood and media a long time ago. I say stop complaining and start working to help the problem. Go to the best school you can, do excellent work, get a job in the industry, work hard. And then, when you are on the inside, you will see ways you can contribute.

There are times when I am the only Christian in the room and offer an idea for a story or project that simply would not have been presented if I had not been there. I am concerned that the faith community is not equipping young people, especially young women, to take on leadership positions and thrive in business while staying true to their beliefs. Countless people preach about Hollywood and media, but very few have actually worked there. This is why I wrote my book.

Dan: Yes, you speak to these issues in your book, Faith in the Spotlight: Thriving in Your Career While Staying True to Your Beliefs. If one of your kids wanted to enter the media business, what advice would you give them in order to “stay true to their beliefs”?

Megan: I tell young people, “You need to decide who you are and what you stand for before you get in this industry. Some days there literally will be no time for you to decide on the job.” Know who you are and what you stand for before you get here.

Dan: Megan, your Mastermedia friends admire your stance as a Christian in the business and appreciate your heart to inspire others who are coming up in the industry. We will pray for you, your career, and your family.

Megan: I will never turn down prayer—thank you!

On-Screen Inspiration

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is the story of Diana Prince (Wonder Woman), a superhero who comes from another world to earth in an attempt to put an end to WWI. She first thinks that if she can defeat the spiritual god of war (Ares) mankind will stop fighting.

Diana Prince: Only an Amazon can defeat Ares . . . . And once I do, the war will stop . . . . Once I defeat him, the German men will be free from his influence and the world will be better.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

But after defeating Ares, she finds that the war doesn’t stop. Wonder Woman discovers that there is another factor at play.

Diana Prince: I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves—something no hero will ever defeat.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned . . . (Romans 5:12)

iGen Teens Shaped by Technology

“I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people.” This matter-of-fact statement from 13-year-old “Athena” reflects a dramatic and pivotal shift in the behavior of her generation, a trend that is distinctly different from Millennials.

Social psychologist Jean M. Twenge, a leading American commentator on contemporary generational differences, has tagged these young people as “iGens.” Her research suggests that those born between 1995 and 2012 have been shaped by the combined influence of smartphones and social media.

Millennials gradually developed characteristics unique to their generation, but iGens are navigating an abrupt shift in teen behaviors and emotional states. The year 2012 was pivotal: this dramatic shift in behavior coincided with the exact moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.

What is the biggest difference between Millennials and iGens? How they view the world and how they spend their time. Everyday experiences for iGens are radically different than the prior generation of teens.

iGens are growing up never knowing life without the internet, smartphones, and Instagram. In contrast, Millennials grew up with the web, but it was not ever-present, available day and night, at all times.

Ms. Twenge opines, “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.”

What characteristics are unique to the iGen generation?

Independence has lost its appeal.
“The allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens, who are less likely to leave the house without their parents. The shift is stunning: 12th graders in 2015 were going out less often than 8th graders as recently as 2009.” (Twenge)

Why? They are more comfortable in their bedrooms, hanging out with friends on social media, than in a car or at a party. Their social life is lived on their phone. They don’t need to leave home to spend time with their friends because they have access to them in virtual spaces through apps and the web.

That could explain why today’s teens are less likely to date, and even driving has lost its appeal. Twenge says “Childhood has now stretched well into high school.”

Happiness is elusive.
So does screen time make teens happier? No. Research shows that teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy; those who spend less time on-screen are happier.

Twenge describes iGens as “a lonely, dislocated generation.” She notes that extended screen time has been linked to depression, loneliness, isolation, and sleep deprivation in teens.

Why? Although they get together less often, when they do, they document it on social media, and those who were not invited feel even more isolated and left out. Today’s teens are psychologically more vulnerable than Millennials, and cyberbullying is devastating—especially among girls, whose suicide rate is higher than boys’.

Research reveals that iGens are sleeping less than the nine hours recommended by sleep experts, and teen addiction to smartphones may be disrupting their sleep. Analysts found that a whopping 57 percent more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. But, curiously, in just the four years from 2012 to 2015, 22 percent more teens failed to get even 7 hours of sleep. Once again the increase coincided with a growing fixation of teens with smartphones.

When Jean Twenge asked her class of college students what they do with their phone while they sleep, nearly all said they slept with their phone—under their pillow, on the mattress, or within arm’s reach of their bed. One student shared, “Having my phone closer to me while I’m sleeping is a comfort.” In Jean’s opinion, it may be a comfort, but the smartphone is cutting into teens’ sleep, and sleep deprivation can lead to depression, anxiety, compromised thinking, susceptibility to illness, weight gain, and high blood pressure.

Social skills may be affected.
iGen teens have fewer opportunities to learn and practice social skills in adolescence because they are not face-to-face with people. Ms. Twenge concludes, “In the next decade, we may see more adults who know just the right emoji for a situation, but not the right facial expression.”

There is a lot at stake here. With technology accelerating relentlessly, the combined influence of smartphones and social media is shaping these young lives. And in a society with media at our fingertips 24 hours a day, we would do well to teach—and model—moderation for this vulnerable generation of teens who are “super-connected, less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy, and completely unprepared for adulthood.” And to ponder what that means for the rest of us.

The Atlantic, adapted from Jean M. Twenge’s forthcoming book, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us.