+
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
We are a small, independent media company on a mission to share the best of humanity with the world.
If you think the work we do matters, pre-ordering a copy of our first book would make a huge difference in helping us succeed.
GOOD PEOPLE Book
upworthy
Youth Collaboratory

Sex trafficking of youth still happens today. Here's why it's difficult to escape.

True
MANY

Imagine waking up to smoke filling your room. What would you do? The answer might seem obvious at first — you'd look for the nearest exit.

But it's not always that simple.

What if your partner, pets, or your children were also inside? Would you still be so quick to look for a way out, or would you first focus on finding a way to help them get out too — even if that meant doing something dangerous?


What if all the exits were engulfed by flames, making your escape even more dangerous than simply staying put and calling for help?

Photo by Олег Жилко/Unsplash.

Or what about if the downed powerline you can see from the window, which caused the fire in the first place, made it risky to step outside? What if your only exit was through a window, which would require that you fall three stories before reaching the ground?

Now imagine there were other voices chiming in. What if someone you loved told you not to worry — that it was just dinner that they burnt in the oven? What if someone you trusted asked, “What smoke? I don't see any. Are you sure there's smoke?" Would you still be looking for an exit?

It's easy to think that if we were in a dangerous situation, we'd know exactly what to do.

But there are lots of factors that can change our actions — and sometimes, knowing what to do or when to leave isn't as immediately clear-cut.

This is why, for survivors of abuse, especially when they're under the age of 18, the question is rarely as simple as, “Do I leave?"

Young people who are sexually exploited — manipulated, forced, or pressured into performing sexual acts for money or other resources like food, shelter, or support — are especially vulnerable, as their survival is often bound to the same person who's exploiting them.

Minors have an additional set of challenges, as they often have fewer resources and greater vulnerability as they aren't yet adults.

Photo by Alex Iby/Unsplash.

For those youth, “Do I leave?" is just one question among a million they'll be faced with. They'll need to know where they'll go next, if it's safe to leave, who they can trust, and if they have the resources to survive, assuming that they realize they're victims in the first place.

While help exists for survivors, each one of us has a part to play in supporting them. If we were all better informed about their struggles, we could more readily step up to build communities of support around them.

So, like with the smoke-filled room, maybe the better question to ask is: what obstacles prevent victims from safely leaving their exploiters? Here are 13 reasons why they might struggle to get help:

1. They might not see themselves as victims at all.

The psychological tactics that an exploiter might use can make it difficult for victims to realize they're being exploited at first. This process, called “grooming," ensures that an abuser has earned their victim's trust and dependency before escalating the abuse.

They do this through offering affection, gifts, shelter, food, or any kind of resources that a victim might need physically or emotionally. It's only when their victim is dependent that the abuse escalates — and by then, it's likely that the victim is bonded to their abuser.

2. In some cases, exploitation is already normalized.

While youth sex trafficking happens in every state in the U.S., there are some communities where sexual exploitation happens more frequently — particularly in under-resourced areas. Victims in those communities may see it as a survival strategy, rather than a form of violence and exploitation.

“A lot of times these exploiters are coming out of similar communities," Lenore Jean-Baptiste, Community Engagement Specialist at the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, explains. “[Some victims have] seen exploitation, but they called it 'pimping' . . . it becomes normalized [and assumed] this is the way it is."

If you grew up in an abusive home environment, too, it can be difficult to recognize the violence as it's taking place because you're already desensitized to it.

3. The culture at-large doesn't make this any better, either.

Girls and women especially are sexualized at increasingly younger ages. When they are encouraged at an early age to view their bodies as objects and their sexuality as a form of currency, Jean-Baptiste says, and conditioned to believe they do not have autonomy over their own bodies, they're more vulnerable to exploitation.

“The oversexualization of them and their bodies becomes glamorous," Jean-Baptiste explains. “They're tailored and groomed by an over-sexualized society."

As a result, she says, they're less likely to recognize the abuse as it's happening, and less likely to consider leaving.

4. Victims might be fleeing abuse or neglect, so they feel safer with their exploiter.

Many youth victims of trafficking are actually runaways. In some cases, the exploitation might initially feel more secure than the chaotic or even violent situations that led victims to run away in the first place, especially if their family members were the first to sexually exploit them — or are the exploiters in the situation.

“It's really common to hear that they've been made to exchange sex for a place to stay or food to eat — or that someone who offers them a couch to sleep on [only] later ends up abusing or assaulting them," Luke Hassevoort, Assistant Program Manager at Common Ground, explains.

“They're not viewing themselves as victims, because they're viewing the situation as survival," Jean-Baptiste says. “[Often times] they leave [home] to save their lives."

Survival should not require exploitation, though — and victims need to know that safety nets exist to protect them.

Youth Survivor, Youth Living Out Loud, program of Wraparound Milwaukee.

5. Victims might feel like their trafficker is the only person that's ever been accepting.

A history of abuse, neglect, or bullying can also create a vulnerability that traffickers can take advantage of, Jean-Baptiste says. By offering the illusion of love, acceptance, and nurturing that victims didn't have at home, traffickers create a bond that makes it very difficult for victims to leave.

This is especially true for youth trafficking victims who identify as LGBTQ+. Things like harassment, family rejection, and social isolation can drive LGBTQ+ people away from their communities, and can make traffickers seem like saviors rather than abusers.

Many communities have LGBTQ+ centers, though — which you can locate online — to find acceptance, resources, and support that a trafficker can never provide.

6. They might be reluctant to access services and support.

While being shuffled around, many youth aren't properly supported by educational, healthcare, juvenile justice, and welfare systems — sometimes all of the above, making it feel as though there's nowhere reliable to turn.

According to the National Foster Youth Institute, 60% of all child sex trafficking victims were, at some point, part of the child welfare system, and have fallen through the cracks.

This trauma can leave victims reluctant to reach out to social service providers. They might be afraid of seeking out help because they don't want to be placed back into the same system that they didn't feel protected them in the first place.

Traffickers may also position themselves as saviors that rescued them from the system, making victims feel trapped and indebted to them.

7. They might not trust law enforcement either.

Youth of color and those from under-resourced communities may have witnessed police brutality or racist altercations, making it difficult to see law enforcement as trustworthy.

Homeless youth, for example, might have been impacted when a police officer disrupted an encampment where they were staying, pressuring them to leave or disperse. For a young person with very little safety, this can feel destabilizing and even violent.

This could lead youth to view their exploiter as safer than law enforcement, leaving them reluctant to get help as their trafficker escalates the abuse.

Many law enforcement agencies haven't been properly trained to support exploited youth, either. They may not self-identify to law enforcement for many reasons including fear of arrest, fear of abuse from their trafficker, or immigration status.

Traffickers can even prey on this fear to keep victims from reaching out, feeding them a narrative that there's no one that can help them or be trusted. “A lot of times traffickers can use those kinds of stories and experiences to make individuals feel fearful," Jean-Baptiste explains.

[rebelmouse-image 19534910 dam="1" original_size="6000x3246" caption="Photo by Matt Popovich / Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Matt Popovich / Unsplash.

8. They may not have anywhere to go.

Homeless youth are incredibly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Without the support and resources needed to survive, the idea of leaving their traffickers can feel impossible and even dangerous, particularly if their family members are their exploiters.

In that instance, family members may use the trust they've established to pressure youth into sexual acts to "provide" for the family — which, even when recognized as exploitation, can be difficult to leave without an established safety net.

This is further complicated by the reality that they may not be connected to their communities. This is especially true for homeless and foster youth. “Bouncing from place to place can make it tough to build lasting relationships [or] connect with a new school or neighborhood," Kendan Elliott, Program Manager at MANY, explains.

9. Their dependency on their exploiters might make it seem like there aren't other options.

Homelessness and poverty are both risk factors for trafficking, so it makes sense that escaping exploitation can be an uphill battle. Traffickers will use their resources to make their victims completely dependent on them, by offering things like food, emotional support, and shelter.

This can make exploitation appear to be better than any life victims had lived prior to being trafficked, or any kind of life they could build on their own when starting from square one.

[rebelmouse-image 19534911 dam="1" original_size="2510x1650" caption="Photo by Ev/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Ev/Unsplash.

“When you are faced with the choice of staying in a situation you know is messed up — or leaving with no money, no place to go, and no one you can call — what do you do?" Elliott explains. “It doesn't feel like a choice."

Victims can and do build extraordinary lives after exploitation, though. And local organizations offering housing options and other resources can help them take the first step.

10. They might have a disability that makes it challenging to recognize or escape exploitation.

Disabilities, both physical and mental, can complicate any form of violence.

For example, research has shown that girls with intellectual disabilities are at increased risk for sexual exploitation, because they are less likely to know what constitutes abuse — especially because exploiters are already very manipulative to begin with. They're less likely to self-identify as victims as a result.

Youth with physical disabilities are also more vulnerable to exploitation by their caretakers because they are dependent on them. They are more prone to isolation, which makes them easier targets with less of a support system to reach out to, and they may not be physically able to ask for help or leave.

Youth with mental illness are much more likely to be targeted as well, because traffickers can exploit their emotional vulnerability, lower self-esteem, or sense of isolation, to make victims even more dependent on them.

11. Their exploiter might have lured them into addiction.

Some traffickers use drugs to entice victims, and traffickers use their dependency to escalate and sustain the abuse. Alcohol or drug dependence only further complicates what is already a difficult situation to leave, giving traffickers one more resource, or threat, to hold over their heads.

Photo by Jair Lázaro / Unsplash.

12. They fear that no one will believe them.

“Boys and young men, trans girls and women, and youth of color overall are more likely to be identified as 'prostitutes' than victims of sex trafficking and exploitation," Elliott explains. “This is also the case with youth who have previous involvement with the foster care or justice systems, or have previous law enforcement contact (sometimes due to unmet mental health needs)."

Boys and young men can be and are exploited, but because masculinity is often associated with sexual aggression, many people don't realize that boys can be victims. Similarly, youth who are dependent on drugs or alcohol might fear that they will be viewed as “addicts" and punished, rather than helped.

In these cases, youth fear that their behavior will be seen as consensual or even criminal, and so, not only may it take longer for them to self-identify as victims, but it can also take them longer to reach out for help leaving their traffickers.

That said, all victims are exactly that — victims — regardless of the community they come from.

13. They've likely been failed by adults in their life before.

Getting help in the first place assumes that youth trust that there's someone who can help them.

One of the challenges in trying to estimate the number of youth that are trafficked in the United States is that, for some youth, they were never reported missing in the first place. Coming from places where adults just weren't invested in their well-being, it makes sense that youth might not trust that there are adults that care.

But support does exist — and there are people committed to helping victims find it.

[rebelmouse-image 19534913 dam="1" original_size="4608x3456" caption="Photo by Eye for Ebony/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Eye for Ebony/Unsplash.

“[There are] resources and [people] who can help them on the journey of recovery," Hassevoort says. That's why both Jean-Baptise and Hassevoort emphasize becoming familiar with the organizations in your own community.

“Community organizations can provide temporary assistance through [things like] motel vouchers," Hassevoort continues. As these organizations continue to expand, Hassevort notes, many offer critical tools, like counseling, art therapy, mind/body practices, and even job training and education.

But the real process starts with first breaking down the psychological barriers that leave survivors feeling as though they can't leave. Because the reality is, no matter how many attempts it takes, there is a better life waiting on the other side, and people who won't stop fighting for survivors until they find it.

“I have a colleague who often critiques the image of a trafficking victim with their wrist bound in chains," Hassevoort says. “She says that, in reality,the chains are on your mind, not [only] your wrists."

Breaking those chains takes time, but thankfully, you don't have to do it alone.

There is help and there are people who . . . do care," Jean-Baptise affirms.

If you believe that you or someone you know might be at risk or is being victimized, the National Human Trafficking Hotline can help.

You can text 233733, use the chat feature on their website, or call them at 888-373-7888. They can connect you with local organizations and support to figure out your next steps.

If there's any possibility that an abusive person has access to your phone or internet history, clear your internet history, and consider borrowing someone else's phone instead, or ask to access a phone at a place like a local library.

[rebelmouse-image 19534915 dam="1" original_size="5315x2990" caption="Photo by Kayle Kaupanger/Unsplash." expand=1]Photo by Kayle Kaupanger/Unsplash.

Taking those first steps can be scary, but your life and safety are worth it. Because as Jean-Baptiste puts it, “You deserve to be happy in every area of your life."

And you're worthy of that safety no matter what — there's nothing you have to do to earn it. You're already deserving exactly as you are.

When we are educated and vigilant, we can make a difference in our communities! Learn more about how to get involved, and help us work towards a future where youth are no longer victimized.

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.


They were also there to shoot scenes for a documentary. And while they were hoping to capture some cool moments on camera, no one expected a huge chunk of a glacier to snap clean off and slide into the ocean right in front of their eyes.


science, calving, glaciers

A glacier falls into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

ocean swells, sea level, erosion, going green

Massive swells created by large chunks of glacier falling away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

It was the largest such event ever filmed.

For nearly an hour and 15 minutes, Balog and his crew stood by and watched as a piece of ice the size of lower Manhattan — but with ice-equivalent buildings that were two to three times taller than that — simply melted away.

geological catastrophe, earth, glacier melt

A representation demonstrating the massive size of ice that broke off into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

As far as anyone knows, this was an unprecedented geological catastrophe and they caught the entire thing on tape. It won't be the last time something like this happens either.

But once upon a time, Balog was openly skeptical about that "global warming" thing.

Balog had a reputation since the early 1980s as a conservationist and environmental photographer. And for nearly 20 years, he'd scoffed at the climate change heralds shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

"I didn't think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet. It didn't seem probable, it didn't seem possible," he explained in the 2012 documentary film "Chasing Ice."

There was too much margin of error in the computer simulations, too many other pressing problems to address about our beautiful planet. As far as he was concerned, these melodramatic doomsayers were distracting from the real issues.

That was then.

Greenland, Antarctica, glacier calving

The glacier ice continues to erode away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

In fact, it wasn't until 2005 that Balog became a believer.

He was sent on a photo expedition of the Arctic by National Geographic, and that first northern trip was more than enough to see the damage for himself.

"It was about actual tangible physical evidence that was preserved in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica," he said in a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress. "That was really the smoking gun showing how far outside normal, natural variation the world has become. And that's when I started to really get the message that this was something consequential and serious and needed to be dealt with."

Some of that evidence may have been the fact that more Arctic landmass has melted away in the last 20 years than the previous 10,000 years.

Watch the video of the event of the glacier calving below:

This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

IMDB,Condé Nast/Wikipedia

The pop star said that this could help create safer environments for young performers.

Even in the healthiest of work environments, child actors are thrust into adult life before they’ve really had a chance to grow up. They don’t have the coping mechanisms for dealing with the stresses of fame, nor do they have the skills or authority to advocate for themselves when they are being abused.

The obvious answer to this problem is to provide protections for these kids. But let’s face it: exactly how to go about creating these protections isn’t so obvious. Hollywood is only just beginning to address these long-seated issues.

However, Ariana Grande, certainly no stranger to the highs and lows of finding fame at a young age, recently suggested that one solution would be “mandatory therapy” for younger actors.

Grande, who got her big break on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious” when she was just 14, reflected on her time on the network while guest appearing on Penn Badgley’s Podcrushed podcast.

This interview comes not too long after the shocking revelations made in the docuseries “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” where former Nickelodeon stars accused former producer Dan Schnieder of a litany of abuses, including but not limited to sexual harassment and racism.

Grande did not appear on the docuseries, footage from “Victorious” was often used as an example of inappropriate content for children.

@discoveryplusuk It’s got everyone talking. #QuietOnSet #TheDarkSideOfKidsTV#nickelodeon #danschneider #90skids #arianagrande #amandabynes ♬ original sound - discoveryplusuk

"I think that’s something that we were convinced was the cool thing about us,” she reflected during the podcast. “That we pushed the envelope with our humor and innuendos. We were told — and convinced as well — that it was the cool differentiation. It all just happened so quickly and now looking back on some of the clips I’m like, ‘Thats… Damn, really?’”After “reprocessing” a lot of her experience around that time, she came to the conclusion that there should be “mandatory therapy” 2-3 times a week included in a young actors contract.

“There should be an element that is mandatory of therapy, a professional person to unpack what this experience of your life changing so drastically does to you at a young age,” she said, adding that this should probably be used for celebrities of all ages.

In addition, she thinks that “parents [should be] allowed to be wherever they want to be.”

"A lot of people don’t have the support that they need to get through performing at that level at such a young age. But also, dealing with some of the things that the survivors who have come forward [have]... There’s not a word for how devastating that is to hear about. So, I think the environment just needs to be made a lot safer all around.”

You can watch the podcast episode in full below:

The generational caption debate is a big deal.

If you’re a Gen Xer or older, one surprising habit the younger generations developed is their love of subtitles or closed-captioning while watching TV. To older generations, closed-captioning was only for grandparents, the hearing impaired, or when watching the news in a restaurant or gym.

But these days, studies show that Millenials and Gen Z are big fans of captions and regularly turn them on when watching their favorite streaming platforms. A recent study found that more than half of Gen Z and Millenials prefer captions on when watching television.

It’s believed that their preference for subtitles stems from the ubiquity of captioning on social media sites such as TikTok or Instagram.


This generational change perplexed TikTokker, teacher and Gen X mother, Kelly Gibson.

Always leaning! #genx #millennial #caption #learning

@gibsonishere

Always leaning! #genx #millennial #caption #learning

"I have three daughters, and they were here. Two of them are young millennials; the other one is an older Gen Z," Gibson explained in a video with over 400,000 views. "All of them were like, 'Why don't you have the captions on?'”

The mother couldn’t believe that her young kids preferred to watch TV like her grandparents. It just did not compute.

"My Gen X butt was shocked to find out that these young people have decided it's absolutely OK to watch movies with the captions going the whole time," she said jokingly.

But like a good mother, Gibson asked her girls why they preferred to watch TV with captioning, and their reason was straightforward. With subtitles, it’s easier not to lose track of the dialog if people in the room start talking.

"They get more out of it," Gibson explained. "If somebody talks to them in the middle of the show, they can still read and get what's going on even if they can't hear clearly. Why are young people so much smarter than us?"

At the end of the video, Gibson asked her followers whether they watch TV with subtitles on or off. "How many of you out there that are Millennials actually do this? And how many of you Gen Xers are so excited that this is potentially an option?" she asked.

Gibson received over 8,400 responses to her question, and people have a lot of different reasons for preferring to watch TV with captions.

“Millennial here. I have ADHD along with the occasional audio processing issues. I love captions. Also, sometimes I like crunchy movie snacks,” Jessileemorgan wrote. “We use the captions because I (GenX) hate the inability of the movie makers to keep sound consistent. Ex: explosions too loud conversation to quiet,” Lara Lytle added.

“My kids do this and since we can’t figure out how to turn it off when they leave, it’s become a staple. GenX here!” Kelly Piller wrote.

The interesting takeaway from the debate is that anti-caption people often believe that having writing on the screen distracts them from the movie. They’re too busy reading the bottom of the screen to feel the film's emotional impact or enjoy the acting and cinematography. However, those who are pro-caption say that it makes the film easier to understand and helps them stay involved with the film when there are distractions.

So who’s right? The person holding the remote.


This article originally appeared on 1.11.24

Image by Stacey Kennedy from Pixabay

Graduation is a big milestone that can come with grief for some communities.

It's been nearly 12 years since a young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with an AR-15. rifle and two handguns and opened fire, killing 20 first graders and six faculty members before turning the gun on himself.

Survivors of the Sandy Hook shooting—kids who watched their friends and teachers being murdered in their classrooms—are now graduating from high school, and they have complicated feelings about the milestone and the 20 classmates who aren't joining them.

A private graduation ceremony was held at Newtown High School on June 12, 2024, with 335 graduates including around 60 Sandy Hook survivors. Some of them shared their thoughts with journalists in the days leading up to graduation.


“I think we’re all super excited for the day,” Lilly Wasilnak, 17, shared with the AP. "But I think we can’t forget ... that there is a whole chunk of our class missing. And so going into graduation, we all have very mixed emotions — trying to be excited for ourselves and this accomplishment that we’ve worked so hard for, but also those who aren’t able to share it with us, who should have been able to.”

"The shooter actually came into my classroom," Emma Ehrens, 17, told CBS News. "So I had to, like, watch all my friends and teachers get killed, and I had to run for my life at six years old."

According to the AP, Ehrens was one of 11 kids who survived from Classroom 10. She was able to escape with a group of students when the shooter paused to reload his gun. Five students and both teachers in the room were killed.

“I am definitely going be feeling a lot of mixed emotions,” Ehrens said. “I’m super excited to be, like, done with high school and moving on to the next chapter of my life. But I’m also so ... mournful, I guess, to have to be walking across that stage alone. … I like to think that they’ll be there with us and walking across that stage with us.”

The survivors who are graduating this year are dealing with both the exciting what ifs of their futures and the tragic what ifs of their past as they remember their slain classmates.

"Just growing up with having the fear, and the what ifs of what could have happened if I stayed? Because I was, like, I was going to be next," Ehrens told CBS News.

"So even going to prom, you think, well, what if they were my prom date? Or, you know, what if they were my significant other? What if they were able to walk the stage with me," survivor Ella Seaver added.

“As much as we’ve tried to have that normal, like, childhood and normal high school experience, it wasn’t totally normal,” Grace Fischer, 18, told CBS. “But even though we are missing ... such a big chunk of our class, like Lilly said, we are still graduating. ... We want to be those regular teenagers who walk across the stage that day and feel that, like, celebratory feeling in ourselves, knowing that we’ve come this far.”

That desire for normalcy conflicting with their not normal childhood is part of what makes graduation such a bittersweet experience for these young people. They had so much taken from them at such a young age, and that trauma doesn't just disappear. Some of the students expressed that they are looking forward to moving away from Newtown and building a life in which the school shooting doesn't define them.

Sandy Hook was unique in that the victims were so young and there were so many of them, but the survivors aren't alone in their experience. In the years since the Sandy Hook massacre, the U.S. has seen dozens more school shootings, and there are thousands of school shooting survivors dealing with related traumas. Many of those survivors have become outspoken anti-gun-violence advocates, pressuring officials to enact stronger laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

But for now, the Sandy Hook graduates are celebrating a big life milestone, just as they—and their 20 missing classmates—should be.

Watch six of the Sandy Hook survivors share their stories on Good Morning America:


via the_geriatricmillennial/TikTok (used with permission) and Karolina Kaboompics/Pexels

A mother deactivated her daughter's smartphone.

The number of teens and tweens who have smartphones is on the rise and we’re starting to see the effects that “great rewiring” has on them. Recent research shows that smartphones can have a very negative effect on girls’ mental health.

After giving her 11-year-old a smartphone about a year ago, Kailey Wood, known as The_GeriatricMillenial on TikTok, deactivated it because she’s seen “firsthand just how detrimental" they are. "So much so that last night, I finally said, 'I'm done with this,' and I deactivated my 11-year-old's phone," she says in a TikTok video. "And I don't know when I'm gonna give it back."


She initially gave her kids phones to keep track of them around the neighborhood, but now she “regrets” the decision. The 37-year-old mother of two from Buffalo, New York, shared her story in a TikTok video viewed over 1.4 million times.

@the_geriatricmillennial

Taking away my 11 year old daughters phone agter having one for a year because its feeling like more negative than positive lately. No opinions needed, parentinf kids in the digital age is hard enough but would love to hear what other parents are doing to maintain their kids independence while also being safe #momofteens #momoftweensgirls #momofdaughters #parentingadvice #teenswithphones #millennialmom #momsover30

Wood was tired of her daughter being in constant conflict with her friends, so she took the phone out of the equation. “Young girls get jealous and don’t think before they text, so they unintentionally hurt their friends' feelings,” she told Upworthy. “Snapchat and Instagram document their whereabouts and friends feel left out. When that happens, sometimes emotions fuel mean comments and DMs. They’re all totally normal feelings, but if I can prevent drama and conflict longer, then that's what I’m going to do.”

Wood struggled with the decision because smartphones made it easy for her to contact her daughter when she was at her friends’ houses. They also gave her peace of mind because she didn’t have the phone numbers of some of her friends’ parents.

However, she couldn’t take the constant jealousy and bickering between her daughter and her friends. “I just decided it’s gone too far. I’m done with this; we’re going to have to figure out a new solution,” she said in the video. "Phones and social media ... those are a part of the teenage experience now. But at what expense?"

Wood believes that to stop the problem, parents should “band together” to prevent children from getting smartphones until they are at least 14.

Replying to @Eboneytwoees

@the_geriatricmillennial

Replying to @Eboneytwoees

Since the video went viral in April, Wood has had a slight change of heart. She has reintroduced the phone but with a new set of strict rules. “No socials, limited screen time and she’s not allowed to bring it out of the house. So if she goes out, she only has her Apple Watch,” she told Upworthy. “Phones this age at sleepovers or hangouts just take away from the time together.”

The good news is that she has also recruited the parents of her daughter’s friends and they have implemented the same rules.

Wood believes that her strategy is all about making a difficult time in life a bit easier. "My goal is to avoid any social conflicts that social media or group chats unintentionally cause,” she told People. “Being a tween/teen already comes with enough pressure and drama, which leads to more depression/anxiety,"