Christian Young Adult Fiction – Where is it going?

Christian YA fiction is increasingly important to publishers as it offers something many teens are searching for but failing to find in the wider marketplace. Fantasy and real-life issues are popular with Christian teenage readers. Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl spurned a series of sixteen books and she has written a total of 80 books for teens so far. ‘“The difference is that I was willing to write really edgy stuff, to get inside the skin of a teenager,” says Carlson, who has written on topics such as cutting, alcohol abuse, school shootings, eating disorders, and body image. “If the girls themselves aren’t into these things, they know someone who is”’ (Byle, 2012). Publishers of Christian books for teens face difficulties with this, finding “it’s a fine line between addressing real-life issues important to teens and drawing the ire of parents and other adults who want to protect children from unnecessary or immoderate violence, sex, or adult situations” (Byle, 2012).

Diary of a Teenage Girl series by Melody Carlson www.koorong.com

Diary of a Teenage Girl series by Melody Carlson
http://www.koorong.com

One of the things many Christian authors want to offer in their books is hope. Rejecting the hopelessness and dystopian of books like The Hunger Games, Richard Paul Evans created his Michael Vey series and believes even booksellers are desperate for material that offers an alternative to the darkness filling the shelves in the YA section. He wants his books to empower youth, to show a “true battle of good vs. evil” (Byle, 2012), to demonstrate that kids can have a good relationship with their parents, that adults are not all idiots and that “all of us have the power within us to accomplish good” (Byle, 2012).

“Christian teens aren’t all that different from teens shopping in the general market. They are drawn to stories with high stakes and a lot of action, whether in the real world or in a fantasy world,” says Hutton. “But they also enjoy stories that help them understand some of the issues they face on a daily basis. The Christian story and faith so easily lend themselves to what is popular in the general market—the ultimate fight of good vs. evil, uncertainty in trying to figure out who you are, and how to handle the issues they face.” (Byle, 2012)

So what is the future for Christian YA fiction? Byle suggests both authors and publishers think the market is expanding but recognise that a big thing is giving readers what they want to read. ‘Says Carlson, “I’m trying to offer clean, realistic truth—with consequences to [characters’] actions. I keep an eye on the trends and give my readers stories they want to read but with a spiritual element”’ (Byle, 2012).“The biggest question we all face is how far we can go with YA. We have to be true to our Christian values and mission, but we know what the kids are seeing in the media, in film, and in books” (Byle, 2012).

“Prolific YA author Carlson says she’s experimenting with a series of books for teens that will be available only as e-books. David C. Cook is in the midst of what Pape calls the digital discussion, prompted by strong growth in e-books in both YA and adult fiction. Authors such as Brouwer, with WaterBrook Multnomah, are connecting with eager readers via online sites and social marketing tools” (Byle, 2012).

Adults as well as teens read and love YA novels. Peterson explores this in her article in Christianity Today. Although some have criticized adult’s facination with YA literature as indicating our immaturity, Peterson argues one reason we love this genre is that it provides a means by which we can revisit a time of greater innocence. She says, “reading about these protagonists takes us back to when we encountered our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world for the first time and we’re reminded that as adults, we still carry that vulnerability” (Peterson, 2014). Very simply “it reminds us of some things we have lost, both as grown-ups and as a culture” (Peterson, 2014).

Perhaps that’s the real reason sales of YA Christian novels are increasing. Yes, they broach difficult subjects pertinent to Christian youth in a way they can relate to. Yes, they affirm them and encourage them in their own lives and faith and give them hope and direction. And yes, they enable us as adults to relive moments in our own lives when we too had to make life-changing decisions with life-changing consequences and the moment before these decisions have an innocence and purity we long to recapture, if only for a moment, lost in a book.

References

Byle, A. August 24 2012. Religion Update Fall 2012: Christian YA Fiction Coming into full bloom. Publishers Weekly. Retreived on November 1, 2014 from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/adult-announcements/article/53700-religion-update-fall-2012-christian-ya-fiction-coming-into-full-bloom.html

Graham, R. June 23, 2010. Are You There, God? How Christian YA novels are offering a surprisingly empowering guide to adolescence. Slate. Retrieved on November 1, 2014 from http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2010/06/are_you_there_god.html?wpisrc=newsletter

Peterson, C. October 10, 2014. The Deeper Draw of YA. Christianity Today. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/october/deeper-draw-of-ya-.html?paging=off

Michael Vey. Richard Paul Evans. 2013. http://michaelvey.com/

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Making a Million from YouTube

Seemingly all you need to be a millionaire these days is a YouTube account, a video camera and something to say that others want to hear and subscribe to. If you manage to draw enough followers to your channel and are invited to become aYouTube Partner, you can make money every time someone watches one of your videos (and the ads that go with them!) This can equate to hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars for a YouTube star.

Currently the five highest earning YouTubers are: #1: PewDiePie– $7 million (5.4b views); #2: BlueXephos – $6.7 million (2.4b views); #3: Smosh – $5.7 million (3.4b views); #4: DisneyCollectorBR – $5 million (2.6b views); #5: BluCollection – $4.8 million (1.78b views) (Warner, 2014).

The highest earner, PewDiePie, or ‘”Pewds,” as he is often called, simply plays games and allows his audience—mostly teenagers—to peer in on his experience and hear random opinions interspersed with odd behavior. He contorts, screeches, swears, sings and even “twerks” to portray his feelings’ (Grundberg & Hansegard, 2014).

At only twenty four, PewdiePie (Felix Kjellberg) has a base of 27 million subscribers. Game developers love him. He plays even largely unknown games bringing them into the public sphere and whether he loves or hates them doesn’t seem to matter – his fans even buy the games he hates!

“Unlike many professionally produced shows, I think I’ve established a much closer contact with my viewers, breaking the wall between the viewer and what’s behind the screen,” he said. “What I and other YouTubers do is a very different thing, it’s almost like hanging around and watching your pal play games,” he told the Wallstreet Journal (Grundberg & Hansegard, 2014).Although many parents undoubtedly struggle with the popularity of PewDiePie with their children and preteens, particularly with his liberal use of profanities, Vigor Sörman, founder of a YouTubers network in Sweden, believes, “PewDiePie is like a cool friend you have and subscribing to him is almost like Skypeing with him—that’s why viewers are such dedicated fans”(Grundberg & Hansegard, 2014).

Another two in the top five, DisneyCollectorBR and BluCollection, are rumoured to be a husband and wife affair. A woman runs the former site and a male, the latter. Both are very similar as they open packages containing toys, ooh and aah, and play with them. A very simple concept but kids love them. Only their hands appear in the videos and no one really seems to know who they are. Very private people, they shun interviews, don’t use social media and prefer to remain anonymous but combined, their fortunes must be significant and everyone wants to know who they are.

"Don't talk to me, I'm busy": Toddlers fall under the spell of DisneyCollectorBR's toy review videos.http://www.today.com/parents/disneycollector-toy-reviewer-enchants-toddlers-youtube-1D80001314

“Don’t talk to me, I’m busy”: Toddlers fall under the spell of DisneyCollectorBR’s toy review videos.http://www.today.com/parents/disneycollector-toy-reviewer-enchants-toddlers-youtube-1D80001314

But you don’t even have to be an adult to be a successful YouTube star. At only eight years old, Evan (no last name for privacy reasons), has already made around $1.3 Million. His YouTube channel, EvanTube, grew out of an animation project he did with his father who runs a photography and video production company. He posted his videos on YouTube so his friends could see them, then others started watching them and before long, their first video had a million views. Toy manufacturers began asking him to review their products so that’s what he does; he “reviews toys from the perspective of a regular eight year-old boy, with some help from his Mom and little sister, and his Dad films it all” (Wilson, 2014). His reviews are kid-friendly and fun and viewers love them.

So I’ve been thinking, maybe one of my kids might want to be a YouTube star. How can years of university study and thousands of dollars in debt to earn a degree possibly compare to making (lots of) easy money playing with toys or games and having fun? Not that I’ll be suggesting they all set up YouTube accounts and start filming their looming or game-playing but if they came up with something creative no one else was doing, who knows, their idea could be the next big thing! I’m amazed what people get paid to do on YouTube just because they had an idea, the means to do it and the courage or bravado to carry out.

References

Warner, B. (2014, March 9). The 25 Highest Earning Youtube Stars. Celebrity Networth. Retrieved October 27, 2014 from http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/celebrity/the-25-highest-earning-youtube-stars/

Wilson, P. (2014, October 21). The 8-Year-Old Millionaire Who Has Taken YouTube by Storm. Celebrity Networth. Retrieved October 27, 2014 from http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/http://-articles/meet-8-year-old-millionaire-whose-taken-youtube-storm/

Youtube Statistics by Social Blade. (n.d.) Social Blade. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from http://socialblade.com/youtube/

Who Creates Youth Popular Culture?

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about who creates Youth Popular Culture?

It’s one thing to study Youth, Popular Culture and Texts but quite another to examine who actually creates the texts, films and music marketed to Youth. I found it difficult to find material that delves into this aspect of youth culture. Most readings focus on youth culture itself, not on who or what creates it so even searching for this proved frustrating.

To what extent are adults responsible for creating popular youth culture? After all isn’t it adults who produce the vast majority of the films, music and books that youth then adopt as their own? Sure, the characters and often the actors and musicians are teenagers, but don’t adults usually write the novels, scripts and songs, choose the actors and create the image that sells a band and its music to teenagers?

I wonder how much youth create their own popular culture and how much they accept the popular culture which is dished out to them by the media, largely controlled by adults?

I found an interesting article by Susan Herring that examines this question. She argues that,

adults create and regulate the media technologies consumed by young people, and profit financially from them” (Herring, 2008, p. 71).

She further suggests that most Films and TV shows, popular music and video games are designed, produced and marketed to youth by adults but don’t necessarily reflect youth perspectives. Rather they are a reflection of adults’ ideas about youth. She cites Howe and Strauss’ assertion that Millennials are, in fact, “the first youth generation in living memory to be actually less violent, vulgar, and sexually charged than the pop-culture adults are producing for them.” (Herring, p.73)

Not only do adults create these aspects of the media, they also, to a large degree, profit from and financially control the access of youth to it. An example of this is the purchase of video and computer games “which are consumed primarily by children, adolescents, and young adults, (and) generated 7.3 billion dollars in revenue for the gaming industry in the United States in 2004 alone” (Herring, p. 73). Adults buy these games, often with and for their children, profit from the sales of these games and the merchandise that accompanies it, and have a great deal of influence over which games kids deem popular. Even those with adult ratings are often purchased by adults for children like the game Grand Theft Auto which is now up to its fifth edition.

Adults also aggressively target youth through new media, often advertising products that are more adult- than youth-orientated in the hope of developing in future consumers an awareness and thirst for their products. They paint a picture of teens and preteens as “independent minded, discriminating, racially tolerant, media savvy, and “cool” consumers, the underlying reality is that commercial interests seek to manipulate young people into requesting and buying certain products” (Herring, pp. 78-9).  Even though many youth believe the way they are represented in advertising has a basis in truth, they are critical of the often distorted or exaggerated images paraded by the media. Some see it as them being told what to think, what to like, what to buy rather than them dictating their own preferences and they don’t like it!

“Little wonder, then, that teens change their evaluations of what is “cool” as soon as today’s latest trends hit the wider market. In part, they are seeking to distance and differentiate themselves from adult constructions that they consider manipulative or that they simply recognize as exogenous, and therefore inauthentic by definition” (Herring, p. 79).

There are youth who either don’t care or happily accept the media’s view of youth and continue to be seduced by its promises. But there are also those who are frustrated by the confines that a largely adult-created youth culture offer and who are working to create their own popular culture. It will be interesting to follow these developments and witness their impact on youth culture as my own children grow up.

References:

Herring, Susan C. “Questioning the Generational Divide: Technological Exoticism and Adult Constructions of Online Youth Identity.” Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. Edited by David Buckingham. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 71–92. doi: 10.1162/dmal.9780262524834.071. Retrieved from http://www.distans.hkr.se/anders/exa_marcus/youth%20identity%20and%20digital%20media/kap4.pdf

Howe, N. & Strauss, W. 2000. Millennials Rising: The Next Generation. New York. Vintage Books.

ABC “Children’s” Shows from my Childhood

I wonder if anyone, as I did, watched ABC children’s shows exclusively as a child. My dad didn’t like the idea of commercial television so all we ever watched on the box was the ABC. But I have such fond memories of Andy Pandy, Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men (in black and white), The Magic Roundabout, Banana Splits, Playschool, Mr Squiggle, Kimba the white lion, the Wombles, etc. My dad, a keen environmentalist even back then, used to take us ‘wombling’ in the streets around our house and we spent many hours of my childhood happily collecting other people’s discarded rubbish to clean up the neighbourhood (don’t remember doing anything very useful with it though!).

The Banana Splits http://www.bbc.co.uk

Of all these, my favourite programs were those produced in Australia, namely Play School and Mr Squiggle. Playschool first aired in 1966 but I probably didn’t start watching till the early 70’s and then only in black and white.  I remember a truck delivering our first colour television some time in the 1970’s. Playschool then, as now, featured many of Australia’s most talented and popular actors. They always looked as though they were having a lot of fun and I’m sure having a regular gig on Playschool helped many stay afloat in between plays or television series. My favourite things were the amazing crafts they made out of bits and pieces, choosing which shaped window we were going to look through today, telling the time on the clock and listening to a story. I have loved watching Playschool with my own children as the presenters come and go. I think it is one of the best children’s programs there is. It has certainly stood the test of time, being Australia’s longest running children’s TV show.

A set of three rectangular, grey painted, timber panels with a square, circle and an arch cut out in the centre.

The square, circle and arched windows. One was chosen each day to look through when it was time to watch a video clip. http://www.nma.gov.au/collections/highlights/play_school_collection

playschool_45

Playschool presenters celebrating 45 years of the show. http://televisionau.com/2011/07/play-schooling-for-45-years.html

Mr Squiggle was also very clever. His character was created by  Norman Hetherington and the show aired from 1959 to 1999. In addition to Mr Squiggle, there were a number of characters including Blackboard, Gus the Snail and Bill the Steamshovel – all marionette puppets. There was also a series of different female assistants through the years who interacted with the puppets and helped Mr Squiggle with his drawings. At the start of every show Mr Squiggle came down from the moon in his rocket ship, greeted his assistant and was shown a series of squiggles sent in by children for him to turn into pictures with his pencil nose. The pictures were almost always upside down so as to leave the audience in suspense as long as possible and Mr Squiggle had to tell his assistant to turn it the right way up to reveal the picture. Blackboard always grew impatient whilst Mr Squiggle was drawing and urged him to “Hurry Up!” I loved trying to guess what Mr Squiggle was drawing each time. For those children who sent in squiggles there would have been a real excitement as they waited to see if their squiggle would be picked each time to be turned into a picture.

Mr Squiggle with assistant having just completed a drawing. http://www.thevine.com.au

Actually, I guess it wasn’t only children’s shows I watched on the ABC. I also watched things like The Aunty Jack Show, The Goodies, Doctor Who (although it was far too frightening to watch really) and probably a whole lot of British comedy, most of which was entirely unsuitable for children. Why my parents thought this was ok I’m not sure. Maybe because TV was so new and there was only one in the house and they wanted to watch these programs. My kids borrowed a Goodies DVD from the library a while ago. While some of it is still funny, as an adult I can recognise the racism, sexism and crudity I was unaware of as a child. I wonder if my children see it? Perhaps it goes over their heads or they’re so desensitised to that stuff now that they fail to notice.

Doctor Who and Darleks in the 1970s http://www.vulture.com

The Aunty Jack Show. http://www.milesago.com

Despite our technology-soaked society, I find it interesting that my children still enjoy watching similar programs to those I watched and enjoyed as a child, although their choices are so much wider than mine and they undoubtedly watch more TV than I did with ABC4Kids broadcasting children’s shows at least twelve hours per day. Children’s programming has definitely broadened its perspective but generally I find kid’s TV, at least on the ABC, is still well produced for children. It will be interesting to watch how children’s viewing habits change in the future and what impact this will have on programming. I guess the best programs will survive anyway, if only on YouTube .

References

National Archives of Australia. (2005). A Star is born. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/snapshots/find-of-the-month/2005-february.aspx

National Museum of Australia. Playschool Collection.  Retrieved October 20, 2014 from http://www.nma.gov.au/collections/highlights/play_school_collection

Television.au. (2011)  Playschooling for 45 Years. 19 July. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from http://televisionau.com/2011/07/play-schooling-for-45-years.html

Pinterest

We were asked this week to make a Pinterest board with pictures of things that appeal to youth. This has been my first attempt at creating a board though I have seen many created by my eighteen year old daughter and she has promised to help me. Pinterest is one of her favourite things. She uses it more than Facebook and finds it a lot more satisfying.

She suggested I try not to stereotype youth but instead to examine the broad range of things that interest them as they search for meaning and try to work out who they are and where they fit into the world. How do I do this, I wondered? She suggested I look at doing Indi, Hipster, bohemian, etc searches and see what I could find. This proved to be a bit overwhelming. So many images. And always in my mind the question, do these images reflect things that actually interest youth or are they the things we as adults impose upon them? Because we have certain ideas. We have stereotypes of youth. Some include seeing youth as rebels, because youth is such a crazy time of experimentation, of discovery, of pushing the limits to see how far we can go. Such a time of excitement, of uncertainty, of fun and freedom, of longing to fit in, of longing to stand out. So many questions. So many places to look for answers. But like the teenagers themselves, deciding what direction to take is the hardest thing and the thing that causes the greatest anxiety because it will hugely influence where I end up…

I’m actually finding this task so much more difficult than I first imagined. The sheer amount of material on Pinterest is overwhelming me and I’m finding it very difficult to decide what pins to include. There is indeed a huge diversity of things that teenagers like just as there is a huge diversity of teenagers themselves. Even just looking at the teenagers in my own home, there would be vastly different things pinned on their own pages if I gave them the opportunity to pin their favourite things. Even my two boys, aged 16 and 14 would be very different. Perhaps I’ll explore this in a later post if I have a chance.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve come up with – neither an exhaustive or an authoritative list, but a few ideas to kick around:

Keeping up with technology…or not

Keeping up with technology, particularly with a big family and one income is impossible. The pressures to do this, however, can be enormous and come not just from the kids themselves who see their friends with not only one, but several of the latest devices, but also from schools with many making it a mandatory requirement for starting high school to have an Apple device of some type. That they don’t specify what it has to be gives some scope I guess but it’s still hard to work out what they really need and can best manage.

I have three children with iphones. Peter, who also has an ipad mini which we bought him at the start of senior school, has an iphone 3G (really old technology but works fine as a phone and ipod). Both Isabelle and Brendan have an IPhone 3GS, pretty old techology I know, considering Apple’s just released the iphone 6. In a big family, sometimes you have to have what your parents can afford and make the best of it. All of these devices, apart from the Ipad mini, I bought second hand on Ebay and although they run an older operating system and can’t manage some apps, they seem to be ok for most things. Sometimes the kids complain but not often – I guess it’s a whole lot better than having nothing.

When Apple released the iphone 6, ‘in what has become a pop culture rite, Apple fans worldwide stood in line for hours, and days, to be among the first to snag the new phones Friday’ (Blair, 2014, par.3). The comment by one of those who began queueing on Thursday was, “I can’t resist it,” said David Hearne, 27, of Seaford, Del. “It’s amazing. It’s gonna be sexy.” This obsession with owning the latest technology whatever the price is hard for me to understand. I remember as a child, when the VCR first came out, my mum saying that there is always a segment of the population who will pay anything to have the latest thing and the market prices are set accordingly. For us, as a single parent family, it was always much later that we had the ‘latest’ technology in our home. I’m still the same. I’m happy to wait till the prices come down, or even pick something up second hand that someone else has moved on from if it does the job required. Sometimes my children are less than impressed by this.

An Apple store employee shows off the new iPhone 6 on Sept. 19 at the Eaton Center in Toronto.

An Apple store employee shows off the new iPhone 6 on Sept. 19 at the Eaton Center in Toronto. (Photo: Ryan Emberley, Invision for Apple, via AP)

A huge percentage of teenagers own smart phones, many on expensive plans. ‘While dad is walking around with a stone aged flip phone, his children are sporting the retail priced $600 gadgets that in reality they are too immature and irresponsible to take care of’ (Daniel, 2013. par.2) Not so in my house, where my children have second hand phones and a $10 a month pre-paid plan that doesn’t include internet access but seems to be plenty to meet their needs (phone calls and texts are so much cheaper on this type of plan – 11 c a minute rather than $2.30 or so a minute). They generally don’t run out of credit and seem to be able to contact me and their friends as much as they need to. They have to learn to be careful and manage their phones but I don’t actually think that’s a bad thing. I’m on a similar plan having just switched over from a phone carrier swallowed up by Vodaphone. I could have swapped over but the cheapest plan they had was $30 per month. We’ll see how we go with prepaid. If it turns out to be not enough, I’ll look around again but I actually think we’ll be fine.

I know my kids feel pressure to have more up-to-date technology and I’m sure it’s a struggle for them at times because for many teens and even pre-teens today, “the measure of success and popularity is often being based on who has the BEST or the most technological gadgets in their pocket” (Daniel, 2013, par. 3). And I guess they’d really like to have the latest technology, after all it’s a lot of fun and it’s great to be at the forefront, rather than waiting months or even years for the ‘latest’ technology.

I read another student’s blog (Shenfield, 2014) and was interested to see that even Steve Jobs had kept a tight rein on his childrens’ access to technology. When asked whether his kids loved the new ipad, he said, “they haven’t used it …We limit how much technology our kids use at home” (Shenfield, 2014, par.3). Reassuring to see we’re not the only mean parents in the world.

References

Blair, N. (2014, September 22). Millions snap up iphone 6 on opening weekend. USA Today. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/09/21/iphone-6-opening-weekend-sales/15994503/

Daniel, S. (2013).  Teens and Technology – Is Your Teen Keeping Up With The Joneses?  Professors House.  Retrieved from http://www.professorshouse.com/Family/Teens/Articles/Teens-and-Technology/#sthash.jqPZOo0H.dpuf

Shenfield, R. (2014, September 16).  It’s Okay to Switch Off: Embracing Low Tech.  [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://27thandmaple.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/its-okay-to-switch-off-embracing-low-tech/

My Teenagers, Texts and the Internet

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.