I’ve waited a few weeks to blog anything at all about this new ingredient in the soup of today’s youth culture. I wanted to see just where it was going. . . and now we now. . . at least in part. It’s a new Facebook App that appeared a few weeks ago called “Bang With Friends.” The app is self-billed as a way to “anonymously find friends who are down for the night.” Friends. . . anonymous. . . down for the night. There you have it. That’s what sex has become in these days. Pretty straightforward in today’s hook-up culture, huh?
Here’s how it works. First, you download the app. Then, you log in. What you see are pictures of your Facebook friends. When the app first launched, the faces you saw were of your opposite-sex friends. Of course, that will most likely change pretty quickly in today’s sexual climate. Under each of their photos is a button that says “Down to Bang.” Click on the buttons under the photos of the friends you’d like “to bang”. If they use the app and click on your face, you get a notification email telling you that you’ve got a match. Then, you and the other person just take it from there. Are Facebook users using “Bang with Friends?” To date, the number of people who have downloaded the app is close to a million, and it’s believed that the app is responsible for a couple hundred thousand “matches.”
This week, the SXSW annual music, film, and tech festival in Austin has become a “Down to Bang” hot spot. The app launched a new landing page for SXSW attendees who want to hook up with each other. This too, is a
No doubt, all of us who have a history of struggling with sexual pressures, temptations, and sin in our teenage and young adult lives are thankful that something like this wasn’t a part of our cultural landscape. But we do have to be concerned for our kids. . . for so, so many reasons. . . . far too many to mention here.
Still, thinking for the last couple of weeks about the advent of “Bang with Friends” has kept me pondering what happens every time a person steps out of God’s grand and glorious “YES” and design for sexuality. Recent research on the chemistry and composition of the brain shows that we are integrated and marvelously made beings who God has wired for sex. The sex that he’s wired us for is to be between one man and one woman within the context of a monogamous covenantal marriage. God made it so that a couple commits to each other in marriage, then they consummate that commitment in the glorious act of sexual intercourse. Research on the brain shows that when a couple does that, an amazing complex release of brain chemicals occurs that binds the couple together and makes them want to come back for more. In effect, God has made us to be “addicted” to each other. Sadly, the same addiction occurs every time a person engages in sex. . . either alone, with another, or with an image on a screen. . . . and it messes us up when it’s not with our spouse.
If you haven’t done so already, every one of us who are parents, youth workers, pastors, etc. should take the time to talk to the Facebook-using kids we know and love. And the conversation should start with this sentence: “I want to talk to you about ‘Bang with Friends” . . . “
- Among kids ages 15 to 17, 44% of boys and 39% of girls have engaged in some kind of sexual activity with an opposite-sex partner. (CDC)
- Although 73% of mothers tell researchers they’ve talked with their teenager about sex, only 46% of teens strongly agreed they had. (Girls Uncovered)
- More than 80% of parents who have sexually active teenagers know that their kids have had intercourse, but only 45% of parents whose teens said they’ve had oral sex knew it. (USA Today)
Again, although these are things we would probably not like to know, those statistics you have just read show alarming reasons why we parents need to have “the talk”. And not just the “mechanics” talk. We need to have the “I am concerned about how our culture says that casual hook ups are ok/you don’t find your identity in how you look and how good you make someone else feel/I am going to fight for you to have a healthy mental state, healthy attitude about sex, and have a disease free future” talk about sex. It’s not teaching our kids about remaining a “technical” virgin until marriage. It’s about deciding to live a pure life so that our kids don’t have to worry about engaging in dangerous, casual sex hookups and the emotional and physical damage that can happen from them. It’s so important for our kids to know that their identity comes from their creator and not from what some boy or girl thinks about them because they won’t give in to the pressure bestowed upon them.
Check out what the February 2013 issue of “The ParentLink” from Group Publishing says about our “hookup culture”:
TACKLE THE LIES OF OUR HOOKUP CULTURE
Casual encounters have replaced dating among many young people, as glamorized in movies such as Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached. These promiscuous “hookups” accentuate the devil’s diabolical skills:
- Mental impact—Satan uses the false promises of promiscuity as a primary temptation to overcome a low self-image: “If you can get a guy or girl to sleep with you, it proves you aren’t as [ugly, fat, awkward, unpopular, generally undesirable] as you think you are.”
- Physical impact—God created sexual foreplay and intercourse as a celebration of unity between a man and woman who’ve vowed to stay together forever. But the devil flaunts sex as just something physically fun to do—a recreational pastime with no downside.
- Spiritual impact—Satan promises relationship through physical intimacy but leaves us with only wounds and damage to our ability to be in relationship with God and others.
The hookup culture is so enticing that conventional approaches to helping kids avoid its traps are nearly useless. Young people need to hear about positive relationships, about how God treasures them as his children, and about his limitless forgiveness.
- How has the hookup culture affected your kids’ attitudes about sexuality? How has it affected your views?
- For you, what’s the most challenging aspect of discussing sexuality with your teenagers?
- What’s the most important message you’d like to convey to your kids about sexuality—and how can you do that?
Lauren Surprenant, a ministry director for Youth for Christ, suggests these redemptive approaches to engaging with young people on the topic of sex:
- Ignore the awkwardness. Instead, open your mouth and start talking. Kids may giggle, but they’ll still talk to you. So be adult enough to tackle the topic. You won’t be a magnet for tough questions until you’ve proven you can navigate choppy waters.
- Be “for,” not against. Rescuing kids from the hookup culture is centrally about being for the beauty and power of a redeemed relationship with God.
- Move from the givens of promiscuity to the starting point of “asexuality.” Calling kids into a commitment to asexual behavior (no sex) generates more interest and discussion than does the use of churchy words. The asexual standard isn’t simply targeted at intercourse. If kids wouldn’t want Grandma watching them do something, then it isn’t “asexual.”
- Cancel the condemnation. Share the good news of the redemption behind Jesus’ sacrifice. No matter how destructive and repugnant the behavior, it isn’t an impediment to God’s grace and mercy.
- Speak the Truth. If teenagers are turning to sex to fill their God-shaped hole, then they haven’t yet discovered their place in that epic adventure. Remind them that they’re in the story.
A Template for “The Talk”
Expert Insights for Parents of Teenagers
By Lauren Surprenant
Use this guide for discussing sexual choices with teenagers. Also pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the words he wants you to say to your kids.
- I’m not going to preach at you; I just want to help you understand the long-term ramifications of sex-too-soon with someone besides your spouse.
- First, you could get pregnant—and you won’t be on a TV show that pays all your bills. Having a baby won’t provide you with someone who will love you unconditionally. (If that’s what you want, get a dog.) If you’re a girl, look at your relationship with your mother; for boys, look at your father. You’ll be just like her (or him), and your child will be just like you. Your child will always have greater struggles, and your life will be over because you’ll exist for your child. And if you think using birth control will prevent these consequences, you’re wrong.
- Next, consider the impact of intimacy and how your sexual involvement will impact your future spouse. The level of intimacy you have with your sexual partner should enhance a life-time commitment. When you save that treasure for the soul mate you marry, sex isn’t a heat-of-the- moment act but a true expression of love. When you hookup as a teenager, however, you will be having an awkward conversation later with the person you’d like to marry—and that could be a deal-breaker.
- Premarital sexual involvement also leads to drama and damaged reputations. Don’t give people “something to talk about.” And don’t do stuff that will come back to haunt you in the future.
- Finally, remember that Jesus sees you as wholesome, valued, and pure. He knows what’s best for you, so consider trusting him by doing things his way. Step away from “sex too soon” and live a life of purity, repenting and walking away from sin.
From Zagg.com and huffingtonpost.com
In this day and age, it’s more and more common to see a teenager with a smartphone. Prices on devices have dropped in recent years, and the monthly service reasonably affordable, too.
One mom, Jannel Burley Hofmann, bought her 13-year old son Gregory an iPhone for Christmas, and wrote the following letter / contract to accompany his gift. So check out her letter to him and let us know what you think: is she being perfectly fair and reasonable? Too controlling and restrictive?
Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. You are a good & responsible 13 year old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.
I love you madly & look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person – preferably me or your father.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear – including a bad reputation.
13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO – fear of missing out.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.
It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!
BY R. ERIC TIPPIN
NOVEMBER 28, 2012
I found this video on Facebook. It is so moving to me for some reason.
I’m pretty sure these people were intentional with the contrasting message of the consumerist aspect of being at the mall (focusing on spending money to purchase gifts that will eventually find their way to being stored in the basement, going out of style, or being replaced by the new upgraded version, etc.) to proclaiming the birth of the newborn King, our Savior, Jesus Christ (focusing on the One who was born in a lowly, crude stable. The One who will never be put into storage in my basement, and hopefully, not yours either. The One who will never go out of style. The One who doesn’t need an upgrade; He was already upgraded once on the cross for our eternal salvation, and doesn’t need any more upgrades).
Here’s the great news – There’s no cost for our salvation. We don’t need to go to the mall to buy it. The price was paid when Jesus went to the cross. He gets what we deserve, and we get what He deserves. It is a gift given freely from God. There is nothing we need to do to have it. In fact, He wants to give us this gift so badly that he chases us to give it to us. We just need to let him catch us.
Please experience the joy that this video gives in heralding the birth of Christ, at the mall, to those who don’t know Him. It’s probably not unlike when the angel announced that the Savior had been born in the town of David. Then a host of heavenly beings appeared with the angels and began singing praises to God. When the singing was over, the shepherds decided to travel to Bethlehem and see the Christ-child. (Luke 2:1-20)
I don’t know for sure, but I bet there were some “shepherds” there who decided to find out some more about Jesus that day.
Feel free to experience the joy of this bringing tears to your eyes as people are moved to fall on their knees in worship. Maybe they didn’t even know why they fell to their knees. That my friends is the Holy Spirit in action.
Feel free to experience Christ.
Here is part 3 on my Instagram series for parents. This time with some more information on privacy settings.
You can read Part 1 and 2 here:
***Please note that this article only talks of instagram in terms of Ipod and Iphone. It is an Android product as well, and now profiles and comments can be viewed on the web***
In many ways, and without reinventing the wheel, Instagram is changing the way people share photos with each other. The mobile app, which is only available on the iPhone, is steadily growing in popularity among the kid and teen crowds, causing parents to take notice and ask, what exactly is Instagram, and is there anything I should be worried about?
Just like with any social sharing application, there are a few things parents need to know about Instagram and how their teen may be using it, so the Yoursphere for Parents editorial team did the research. But first, what is Instagram?
What Is Instagram?
Instagram is a photo sharing mobile app that’s (currently) only available on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Users can either upload a photo from their device’s library or take a photo right then and there and use Instagram to change the way the photo looks.
The user then has the option to simultaneously upload this photo to a number of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare, depending on which ones they sync to their Instagram account. The photo will also be uploaded to the Instagram community where people can like and comment on it.
In many ways, Instagram is a photo-sharing social network on its own. Users have a profile with the option to fill out information such as first and last name, username, birthday, gender, bio, email address and phone number. Popular photos from all over the world are shared under the “Popular” tab, and every user has the option to follow other Instagram users and vice versa.
The idea behind Instagram is simple, really. And they execute it so beautifully. But just like with any social sharing application, there are some privacy and concerning content issues that can ruin the Instagram experience for a family with kids and younger teens.
What Parents Need To Know
The only information required when signing up for Instagram is an email address and desired username. Though they ask for a phone number, it’s very clear during sign up that this is optional, so please consider your privacy or your teen’s privacy before entering a phone number here.
The single most important thing to realize is that, by default, anyone can view the photos that you upload to Instagram. In other words, your profile and your photos are publicly viewable unless you tell it otherwise. If you only want your followers to see your photos, then you need to set your profile to private by following these steps:
- Go to your profile page (tap the Profile tab)
- Scroll down to the bottom of the Profile page, where you’ll see a “Photos are private” switch
- Toggle the “Photos are private” switch to ON to turn on privacy.
Once you set your profile to private, anyone who wants to see your photos will need to be your friend/follower first, meaning they’ll have to send a request and you’ll have to approve.
During the process of uploading a photo, the geo-location data of the photo you’re uploading can
easily be shared with your followers if you’re not careful. Fortunately, Instagram turns geotagging off by default, but it’s easy to accidently turn it on.
When uploading a photo, be sure to avoid tapping the button shown in this screenshot. If you do, you can always tap it again to turn it off. This is just something to be aware of as geotagging is a huge risk to you and your teen’s privacy online. You can learn more about how geotagging works,here.
Blocking and Reporting Users and Content
While there are tools for reporting/blocking users and inappropriate content, know that people will, and do upload nude photos. In fact, the editorial team found a multitude of bestiality photos in less than one minute when searching for friends. It’s a sad fact, and another commonsense reason that you shouldn’t allow your children to use Instagram. If you are an Instagram user, they provide easy-to-use tools to block or report someone. The steps below show you how:
Blocking a user –
- Navigate to their profile page (tap Profile > Search Instagram > Names and usernames, then search for and tap on their username).
- Tap the button in the top right corner of the screen (gear icon).
- Tap “Block user” to prevent the user from viewing your account.
The same steps can be followed to report a user, in addition to giving a reason why you’re reporting them.
Reporting a photo –
- Tap the “…” below the photo you would like to report and then “Flag for review”
- Select the proper reason for reporting from the list and, if prompted, a short description.
NOTE: All flags are anonymous and go directly to Instagram.
So, parents, do you use Instagram? Does your teen? If so, have you or they encountered any privacy, bullying or content issues like we did? As I said at the outset, Instagram does a simple and fantastic job of letting us do some very fun and creative things with our photos. Frankly, in my opinion, it’s a shame that others ruin what should be enjoyed by you and your family.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And remember, there are plenty of apps out there, just like there are plenty of social networks out there that were made FOR your children, and with their privacy in mind. And though it’s a wonderful app that enhances the way we share photos, Instagram is not one of them.
I hope you have found this series useful. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know what your kids are doing when online. It’s important to understand that online doesn’t mean sitting in front of a computer. If they have a smart phone, they can be online anywhere. For their safety, please know what they are doing.