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Affirm Me
The Risks Kids Take for Approval
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
1/2/2016

Dynamic ImageWhat does a girl do when she needs encouragement? She could seek the validation of a family member. She might also take a friend out for coffee.

Of course, she could just fire off a “frext” message….

Sexy Screen Support
The concept of “frexting” isn’t as new as the term itself. Essentially, it’s the exchanging of sexy pics between girls who are friends with one another for the purpose of encouragement or approval. For instance, if a girl breaks up with a guy, all she has to do is dress up in lingerie, snap a pic, and shoot it to her bestie with a snarky line that reads, “See what he’s missing?”

Cue girlfriend to say, “His loss, hot mama.”

First appearing on Adulting Blog, frexting was defined as “Friends + Sexting = Frexting.” Frexting is the latest evolution of sexting; it allows senders to show off their sexy side to a friend who is hopefully responsible enough to appreciate it and keep it private.

The key word there is hopefully.

There are expectations and prescribed etiquettes, but potential “frexters” are taught to believe, “This is a surprisingly fun and empowering thing to do.”

Until it’s not.

What if the friend changes her mind or proves untrustworthy? What if the relationship dissolves? Any number of realities could transpire, turning a young person’s need for affirmation into something far more desperate.

Does this mean all young women are frexting? Not at all. But this is yet just another symptom of young people in our culture seeking affirmation in the wrong place. Frexting is one of the most recent, risky ways young people glean validation from peers, but it’s not the only one.

Scary Screen Support
The app, After School, was originally released in October of 2014 to offer teenagers a safe – but anonymous – place to talk about the daily events of life in high school. Students could download the app based on their high school enrollment and begin sharing about their lunch, their friends, their fears, their romantic interests, their grades, or whatever else captured their attention. However, within a very short time, the app was under national scrutiny due to the way some teens were using it to cyberbully and threaten their peers.

The app’s creators didn’t abandon their technological offering just because some teens used it inappropriately, but it did force them to re-launch the app with improved safety and monitoring features, which is exactly what they did in April of 2015. The app is now used by millions of teens on more than 22,300 campuses across the nation. However, the creators of the app – and some teens like Mya Bianchi – have found out the hard way that it’s impossible to completely nullify the dangers of social media interaction.

Cory Levy, one of After School’s creators, said the app gave young people the opportunity to “express themselves without worrying about any backlash or any repercussions.” Co-creator Michael Callahan agrees. “There’s a need for people to be able to communicate in a place where they wouldn’t be judged, where they could speak freely.”

That’s true. But that place will never be a screen.

Reducing Risk and Raising Reward
We live in an age where screens are rapidly replacing human faces, and where the smartphone is slowly becoming today’s conversation killer. There’s nothing wrong with digital interaction; it allows people to connect quickly, across great distances, and in fun ways. But the most impactful affirmation comes from face-to-face encounters with adults who love them deeply. Parents and youth workers fit this bill better than anyone. Here are a couple keys that we should keep in mind when it comes to supporting teenagers.

  1. Affirmation cannot be farmed out. It can’t be delegated as “somebody else’s job” nor can it be relegated to a screen. Teens are seeking genuine affirmation, and the best kind is that which comes from a strong, loving relationship. Adults like parents and youth workers have a corner on this supply. We need to order our lives and our relationships with our teens in such a way that there isn’t a deficit when it comes to affirmation. If we take the lead on this initiative, they won’t have to take a risk.

  2. Authenticity cannot be faked. The chances a teenager will get the unadulterated truth from a peer or a stranger is not great. Peers might tell them what they think they want to hear. Strangers might tell them any old thing. Again, parents and youth workers are poised to make a big impact on teens’ lives because we get the chance to tell them what few others are willing to tell them: the truth. So, when you’re given the opportunity to pour into their lives, don’t settle for placating them. Teenagers can spot fakes better than most. Just tell them what they need to hear in a loving and gracious manner. They’ll be glad you did.

The need to belong is powerful for everyone, especially teens. Let’s do all we can to make sure that our teenagers get that sense of belonging, affirmation, and support from us. This all starts with the simple investment of time.

So what are you sitting there for? Text that young person you’re thinking of right now and set up a time to connect with them face-to-face at Starbucks.


David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.



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Comments on this post

   David         1/5/2016 3:29:59 AM

Thanks Kelly. Our girls WILL get the affirmation they're looking for...the only undecided is which source it will come from. Thanks for doing what you do!

   Kelly         1/2/2016 2:01:16 PM

Great article David. Definitely another example of teen girls desperately seeking validation and approval from the wrong place. We see it all too often.














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