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Some Folk Who Shouldn’t Poke?
Exploring the PG-13 Rating for Facebook's New SuperPoke!
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
12/11/2007


The clock turned to 12:47 p.m. and the indigo glow of the computer's flat panel lit the face of the 13-year-old who was entranced with the content before his eyes. A smirk appeared on his face as he pondered for a moment about what "poke" to send the girl he met that day. So many to choose from: spank, spoon, drunk dial, grope, dry hump...

What kind of web site is this?

These "pokes" are now available for any student, 13 and older, who's a member of www.facebook.com and uses the hot, new application, SuperPoke!

If you are not familiar with Facebook, here's a crash course.
  • Originally developed for Harvard University students by Mark Zuckerberg in February of 2004.


  • Present membership of 55 million includes representatives from all Ivy League schools, most colleges and high schools, some large corporations, and now, individual users age 13 and up.


  • From May of 2006 to May of 2007, use of Facebook by 12-17 year olds increased 149%.


  • In one year, this "social utility" moved from the 60th to the 7th most-used website in the world.
SuperPoke!, is one of the latest "applications" offered by Facebook that makes the site so wildly popular with young people. "Poking" (sending a special message to your online friends) has been around for a while. The newest generation of "poking," SuperPoke!, (which can be set to private) includes the jargon mentioned above, plus other phrases like wink, bite, lick, cock block, pinch, etc. Basically, you just


choose which of these SuperPokes you'd like to send to your friends and then they will receive a message like, "You have just been "dry humped" by Craig!" Then you have the option of SuperPoking them back. (If you don't know what many of these obscure words or phrases mean, just jump on our own Slang Dictionary and take a peek.)

Facebook borrows a rating of PG-13 from the Motion Picture Assoc. of America (www.mpaa.org) for its SuperPoke! application. But does PG-13 adequately rate the messaging system? In other words, should youth leaders feel comfortable with their 13 year old students using this kind of communication? I think most youth leaders would say, "No."

It's easy to see that this problem exists because Facebook, only open to those with an approved college email address at its inception, is now open to anyone 13 or older. The devices used to attract students in college have proven to be just as appealing to students as young as 13.

There's a myriad of ways in which youth leaders can respond. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind while calculating your reaction.

  • Don't freak out! This is just another example of the world doing a GREAT job at being the world. Overreaction to the situation may only flame interest in the minds of your students.


  • Equip parents with the information. Thousands and thousands of Facebook users are teenagers. Parents will welcome the increased confidence and relevance with which they can dialogue with their kids (notice that I said "dialogue." Parents should probably be encouraged to not "freak out" as well).


  • Spark conversations about standards. Whether privately or corporately, you can engage your students in discussion about the benchmarks in their life. Regardless if SuperPoke! is PG-13 or not, is a secularly derived rating of "PG-13" a good standard by which to live our lives?


  • If Poke they must, teach them to Poke like the Apostle Paul. "Finally children, whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy, Poke on these things" (Phil. 4:8). Remind your students that their online communication carries the same weight as their verbal communication, both positively and negatively.


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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