I decided to interview both my 18 year old daughter and 14 year old son for this blog post as I suspected their answers would be very different. My daughter, Isabelle, is just about to finish year 12 and will shortly be sitting for her HSC examinations so is (hopefully) spending a considerable amount of time when not at school, studying. Brendan, on the other hand, has a lot more leisure time, being in year 8, and very different passions to his sister. I believed that these varying interests and their differing ages would greatly influence the texts they chose to read, watch and engage with. Let’s see if I was right…
Isabelle loves to read young romance novels and historical fiction, especially texts that combine both. She quite likes murder mysteries but complains they give her nightmares. She loves Jane Austen, has watched just about every Jane Austen inspired movie and TV show there is, and enjoys reading blog posts about other people’s lives.
Isabelle has a second-hand Macbook we bought her when she started year 11. This is the computer she uses for everything from homework to surfing the net to watching movies (on the net as the disc-drive unfortunately died). Her main forays into social media have been Facebook and Pinterest, though she also uses Instagram and Snapchat. Facebook is one place she unwinds by checking out what her cousins in New Zealand and her friends here are up to. She loves Pinterest, which she sees as a ‘place to dream’, to keep records of the things she loves to return to again and again. She feels it helps her identify what she likes and enjoys pinning other people’s pins. To date she has over twenty boards. Her favourite is entitled ‘yes’. When I asked her why it was called this she said, “whenever I see something and my heart says, ‘yes’, I pin it and then when I go back on it it’s just a combination of excited yeses”. Ok.
She doesn’t watch much TV on the actual TV but enjoys watching shows over the internet like Call the Midwives; Masterchef; reality TV shows like My Fair Wedding; Don’t Tell the Bride; Say Yes to the Dress; Duck Dynasty and Nineteen Kids and Counting (probably not your average viewing for an eighteen year old girl but she is a bit of a romantic – not sure how Duck Dynasty fits in there though except that she likes to watch it with her dad!).
She uses YouTube a little, mainly to watch comedy like Miranda Sings and people’s wedding proposals and wedding videos and spontaneous worship from Bethel Church in the States. She enjoys Vlogs about people’s lives, listing that of ‘Sam and Nia’ as one of her favourites. Here is one of their vlogs she likes.
She loves the shopping website Etsy, although she’s never actually bought anything from it, partly because it’s an American site and we decided it was a bit tricky. She mainly uses it to get ideas which I’m sure then influence what she pins on Pinterest.
In terms of music her tastes are probably not typical of your average teenager, liking Christian music, especially worship music from Bethel church, and in particular, Stephanie Frizzell-Gretzingr’s music. Her other favourite is folk – banjo, violin, cello, guitar acoustic combinations.
So what of my son, is he the more typical teenager? Surely he believes he is the greater authority on all things new. I find that the further I get down the line my children are starting things earlier, whether it’s the type of movies they watch or having Facebook for the first time (even though he wasn’t actually given permission to set up an account!) So Brendan has a Facebook account which he used quite a lot at first but reckons he only uses it a couple of times a week now – not sure about that though! Like Isabelle, he uses it to keep up with what family and friends are up to but also follows famous people like actors, comedians and YouTubers like Jonah Hill and Seth McFarlane. He also uses Snapchat and the app Kik with his friends.
On YouTube he likes to watch comedy videos, and videos by Max MoeFoe (‘I do prankcalls and stupid challenges’) and Vanoss Gaming (‘gaming, comedy and more’). Although he uses YouTube mainly for entertainment, he’s currently learning to skate and says he has picked up some cool tricks from watching ‘how to’ videos on YouTube.
In terms of music, his taste is vastly different to his sister’s, preferring Rap and Upbeat music which he mainly listens to via ITube on his phone. Other apps he uses a lot include IOS games, Snapchat, Kik, and Apps Gone Free which lets him know each day which apps are free for 24 hours. He is very much into technology and always seems to know the most (or think he does) of all my children when it comes to the latest trends in technology and how much it would improve our lives (his life) if we were to get it.
In some ways my kids are probably a bit atypical as we don’t allow them a lot of time on the internet and try to be a bit restrictive (more-so with the younger ones obviously) as to what they’re allowed to access and download. Not that they always check with me before they download something, particularly if they think there’s a strong possibility I may say no!
I think the most obvious attraction of the internet is the ease of access to information on anything they might think be curious about. Not much different to me really. Brendan also said he liked that he could easily find not only what interested him, but sites where other people, particularly famous people, (perhaps that’s a bigger drawcard for teenagers) liked the same things as him. Perhaps that gives greater validity and status to what he likes as he explores and experiments with his own maturing identity. Isabelle, at 18, is a bit further along the track so maybe that’s why this seems less important to her.
It’s a brave new world indeed, and one I’m still exploring with my children with some trepidation. Learning to trust their discernment is getting easier as they get older and I see them making good decisions (mostly) about what they consume of popular culture. But they’re also creating their own popular culture every time they participate in it and it’s exciting to think about the possibilities there, not just to be influenced by the world around them, but also to influence it. That’s the future that excites me.