Tip of the Week
#Culture: What's the Meaning of Memes?
If you use any kind of social media, you've seen a meme. Basically, they're images taken out of context with funny captions that spread around the internet with people riffing on them as they travel. If one sticks around for a while, it can become a kind of inside internet joke that people will recognize, even if you're using the image in a new way. Sometimes, memes comment on current events, sometimes they highlight a universal truth, and sometimes they reveal a fact about the poster. Really, the applications are limitless, and they're often hilarious. So, in general, parents have seen memes and probably laughed at them, but then why are kids' memes so confusing?
They're meant to be. Unless you watch, listen to, or play what they play, you aren't supposed to understand the references or why they're funny to your kid. And that's fine. For the most part, memes are harmless fun and a shorthand kids use to communicate. The biggest risks with memes come when they convey hateful or stereotypical ideas, mature content, or misinformation . Social media is home to all types of memes, so if your kid uses Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or any other social app, they will likely see these, depending on who and what they follow. TikTok even has its own world of insider memes. Younger kids who play games like Roblox or Minecraft have their own worlds of memes that are readily available online—but they're not all appropriate for kids. Also, since lots of kids get their news from social media, they sometimes see a hot take on current events in a meme and take it for the truth. And iffy memes kids pass around can affect their future; just ask the Harvard freshmen who got their acceptances rescinded for sharing racist memes.
Ultimately, like any other piece of content from the internet, we need to stay involved and help kids make sense of the stuff they don't understand—or think they do, but don't. Know Your Meme can help you decipher them as well. And if you see a meme that looks offensive and your kid says, "You just don't get it," you can tell them that their teachers and future colleges won't either. If it seems like it might be offensive, it probably is.