Tag: culture

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.

Storyboard: All Power is Given!

by Dan Rupple

Recently, accusations began to surface of the long history of sexual harassment and assaults perpetrated by film mogul Harvey Weinstein. Soon, he was joined by a growing number of other entertainers, journalists, and media executives who are fielding similar prior and on-going allegations.

As the scandal grew I was asked by a television interviewer, “What are we learning from these accusations?”

I responded with, “The first thing we need to understand is that all power is given; it’s a gift. When unrestrained power is bestowed upon a person, they have a choice to make. Do they use the power given them for good or for evil?”

I then explained that in the media world this evil use of power through sexual harassment, assault or sexual leveraging brings with it some added dynamics . . .

Power over individual lives.
The entertainment industry, a business overflowing with rejection and insecurity, cultivates a climate extremely susceptible to the fear and desperation of “this job could be your last.” One role can launch an entire career, just as fast as the loss of a role can place you in the “where-are-they-now” file. This culture can leave aspiring talent vulnerable to unintentionally being in harm’s way or, in the aftermath of an assault, maintaining a cloak of silence . . . especially when they’ve heard those threatening words, “You’ll never work in this town again!”

Power over the culture.
The immoral values, unethical actions, and hedonistic lifestyles of many of the fictional characters illuminated across our screens, can have a devastating and destructive impact on individuals and society at large when actually lived out behind the closed doors of real life. Characters who seek instant gratification at any cost, a life governed by an “if it feels good, do it” philosophy, the mockery of celibacy, monogamy and traditional marriage; all of these and more can have an eroding effect upon our entire culture.

Power over the abuser.
A final observation . . . it’s ironic that as these accounts of harassment within the media world dominate the global headlines, God is using the very medium through which these powerbrokers acquired their wealth and dominion to shine a light on their grievous personal sin. 

“Pilate said, ‘Don’t you realize I have power . . . ?’ Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.’” (John 19:10-11)

To close with a note of hope, an encouraging number of the talented artists I’ve had the pleasure to work with and executives I’ve had the honor to meet with, are wonderful, kindhearted, well-intentioned men and women who are trying to walk humbly and do good with the power, talents, and platforms they have been given. Furthermore, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the many stories emanating out of the studios and networks that inspire viewers with tales of heroism, courage, self-sacrifice, family, kindness, love, and good triumphing over evil.

Many of the discussions that Mastermedia is privileged to have with the world’s media leaders, are fueled by dialogue about the transformational power of the Spirit of God to live a good life and to impact culture with uplifting, values-based films.

In order for the media world’s good to triumph over the evil perpetrated by a small number of corrupt individuals, God would first have His people pray!

PRAY that God in His abundant love would bring healing and mend the brokenness in the shattered lives of the many victims of these devastating assaults.

PRAY that God would bring all the perpetrators to justice and repentance, and that they ultimately would find forgiveness and wholeness in God’s unfailing mercy and grace.

PRAY that this devastating season in media will lead to its greatest spiritual and ethical revival, ultimately impacting all of humankind . . . for good.

And as we pray, we would do well to also examine our own hearts and actions.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Off Camera . . . with Louis Henry Mitchell

An intriguing conversation with Dan Rupple and Louis Henry Mitchell, Creative Director of Character Design at Sesame Street Workshop. They discuss how Louis’ love for the Lord and his love for people come together in the workplace.

DAN: Your love for the Lord just radiates from you, Louis. Tell us about how you see your role and why you believe God put you at Sesame Street.

LOUIS: I know that [Sesame Street] is the backdrop for what He actually has me doing. Sesame Street has a big vision, but the bigger vision—my vision—is reaching out to touch people’s hearts.

Years ago, I was called “the pastor of Sesame Street.” People will say, “Louis, can I talk to you?” “Sure, what’s going on?” (I’m thinking it’s about work) One co-worker said, “I know you really love kids, right? I’m having trouble with my son.” He told me about the situation and after a while he said to me, “Would you mind speaking to him?” “Not at all if you feel like it would help.”

When I mention I’m at Sesame Street people’s hearts open up, and it’s the perfect opportunity to talk with them on a deeper level. Generally I just start sharing about the love of God. I love my work, but I love the people where I work even more than the work itself.

DAN: I know how sincere you are in your love for these wonderful people you’ve built relationships with. How do your conversations transition into the moment when it’s right to share the gospel?

LOUIS: Eventually people start asking me things like “What’s your life like outside of Sesame?” It’s not me trying to shove it down their throat; I just share with them in love and they ask, “Tell me more about you. Why do you love this so much? What’s going on?” After a while I say to them . . . “Do you really want to know?”

At that point God has prepared their hearts to receive whatever He’s going to give to me to share. It’s fun. That’s the best part of my job—co-workers asking me so I can lead to why I’m here and who I belong to.

DAN: What role does a Christian community of media professionals like Mastermedia or others have in your life?

LOUIS: The more I’m involved, the more encouraged I am because I don’t have a lot of believers around me. It’s been a blessing to engage with other brothers and to come back to work knowing that in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to be with them again.

It’s a ministry at Sesame Street, and that ultimately makes it worth it, even during the most difficult times. I don’t have to worry because it’s not me, it’s God at work in me. So I rest on that. It makes it fun, actually.

DAN: Louis, it’s always a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of how you walk out your faith as you fulfill your career calling within the entertainment industry. Blessings my friend!