Three Things This Week
1. Big Bad Bully
What it is: October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Why you can help end it: Research shows that direct adult responses to bullying ends the behavior over time. If you see it, stop it! Bullying is the result of an unequal power dynamic, where the dominant person attacks a weaker individual. It happens in politics, on the playground, and in schools, the workplace, churches, and homes. Whenever you witness an altercation or public exchange, ask yourself these questions: Who has the power in this situation? Are they using that power to dominate, control, or manipulate? If so, you’re witnessing bullying. If your teen suddenly doesn’t want to go to school, is having trouble sleeping, or manifests signs of anxiety, its possible they’re being bullied. Watch our Conversation Kit on Bullying with your teens or youth group. Remember, hurt people hurt other people. Use the film to start these needed conversation with your students today.
2. TOP Drops Trench
What it is: Twenty One Pilots released their long-awaited fifth album today in anticipation of the duos’ Bandito Tour starting next week in Nashville.
Why it’s creative: Fans are already trying to make sense of Trench, the cult-like world Tyler created on the album. Watch the music videos with your teens. Which songs do they resonate with and why? What is the real meaning behind “Jumpsuit” or “Nico and the Niners”? What are Tyler and Josh asking fans to “wake up to”?
3. The Politics of Gen Z
What it is:A new study shows the political divide in America to be at an all-time high.
Why teens might be different: While much of public life is sharply divided along party lines, Gen Z seems to be primarily independent, and many students will soon cast their first votes in November. Specifically, today’s teens appear fiscally conservative, yet they are very concerned about climate change. They enjoy a highly individualistic capitalistic economy while also supporting gun control. Gen Z represents a hybridized version of many liberal and conservative values, and according to pastor Tim Keller, this might be a new model for Christian political engagement. Do you agree or disagree? Ask your teens which political issues they are passionate about and why. How can they help foster unity in the Body of Christ in an age where believers are so hotly divided along party lines?
This Week in TV…
As fall TV season gets into full swing, two notable releases are on teens’ radars.
First, the third season of teen fav Riverdale begins airing on the CW next week. Though based on the beloved Archie comics, the series isn’t something grandma would approve of. It uses sex, sensationalism, drama, and beautiful people to capture its younger audience’s attention, and nothing is as it seems in this campy adaptation. Unlike the original comics version, Riverdale reveals the dark, deeper issues bubbling below the surface in small town Americana. For more on the show and how to talk about it with your teens, check out our brand new Parent’s Guide to Riverdale.
Second, the entire second season of Netflix’s Big Mouth releases today. In case you weren’t aware the first time around, this highly sexualized animated series is filled with adult themes, but geared toward teens. Think Southpark, just ten times cruder. It highlights the awkward nature of adolescent life, puberty, hormones, and shame. Rolling Stone calls it “astonishingly filthy,” yet still endorses the series for its ability to force a cultural conversation about the acceptance of all forms of sexual expression.
We appreciate the desire to talk with teens about sex, but that’s not Netflix’s job; it’s ours. Our kids need to hear from their parents about what physical changes they’ll go through and how they’re normal, that their sexual urges aren’t sinful, and that God designed all of this as a good and healthy process in human development. Help them see that Christianity isn’t anti-sex. God created sex, designing it to function and flourish within the parameters of marriage, but it’s also dangerous and can be harmful when misused. Check out our related Parent Guides: Big Mouth (season 1), the Sex Talk, Dating, and Tough Conversations.
10 PREMIUM INSIGHTS
A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.
They said it best:
1. “In these pop-up museums the room and you are the centerpieces. That’s what makes it Instagrammable. You are immersed in the art.”
–Julius Lizardo describing what makes so called “pop-up” museums so appealing. Ultimately you are the subject of the artwork, and the point is to document your time as a piece of art on social media. However, Alixandra Barasch, an assistant professor of marketing at NYU, points out that, “ Taking a photo and choosing what to capture changes the nature of your experience… Having in mind to take photos can actually remove you from the experience [of art].” A young woman points out that it was seeing photos on Instagram that motivated her to go to an art museum at all, but if the purpose of going is still for our own vanity, does the power of the beauty of art still affect us? Similar conversations could be had about doing almost any activity, like hiking to a beautiful waterfall. Are you venturing out into nature to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the created world…or to inflate your ego by posting beautiful (but copycat) pictures on Instagram?
2. Those ideas lead in perfectly to Tim Wu’s thoughts on the merits of mediocrity. He wonders if we’ve become so image-conscious, so performance-motivated that people no longer do anything for fun or because they enjoy doing it. He praises mediocrity for the sake of pursuing an activity simply for the life it gives you, not because you are the best at it or because it earns you 50,000 more followers. Do your teens have any activities they do just for fun, even if they aren’t great at it?
3. One thing lacking from the iOS 12 update was new emojis, which is a huge omission given that emojis are an increasingly important part of communication!! No fear. iOS 12.1 is due soon, and it will have 70 new emojis so you can now indicate, pictorially, that you saw a redheaded bearded man getting bagels with a llama. What would we do without technology?
4. However, as we mentioned several weeks ago, iOS 12 did ship with some nifty new tools, most notably Screen Time, which allows you to set limits on your and your family’s time spent on certain apps. Here’s an overview of how to use some of the new features. Keep in mind, they aren’t foolproof, but they provide good backstops and reminders of how much time is actually being spent on your devices. They’re a good way to combat the ease with which we can fall into endlessly scrolling through feeds or using attention-grabbing apps.
5. Venom was released this week. It has received generally poor reviews. What do your teens think of the superhero genre? Are they tired of it? What do they think about Venom’s role as an antihero of sorts? For more discussion about antiheroes and why they matter, check out our Parent’s Guide to Antiheroes.
6. Another film that comes out this weekend is The Hate U Give, which is based on a YA novel, so the story is specifically focused on teens. It will probably give your teen a lot more to chew on than Venom, though it’s likely to be a lot more uncomfortable. Are your teens interested in seeing it? Why or why not?
7. In addition to the conversation topics we suggested last week, we also think it’s important to stress the importance of telling the truth in all situations. Our words have power and can destroy a person’s life. This article reminded us of the students on college campuses who were accused of sexual misconduct last summer but were not given a fair process of justice. There are two important things to note here. First, this underscores why having the conversations we listed last week is so important. Teens making good choices will have much less to worry about in regards to being accused of wrongdoing. Second, we do believe that it’s important for teens to understand the importance of a fair process of justice for everyone, both the accused and the accuser. To be fair and unbiased toward one should not come at the cost of justice for the other.
8. Over the summer, something has become increasingly clear. Study after study has been released that points to one simple solution to helping kids and teens be healthier, do better at school, and generally by happier in life: making sure they get enough sleep. The latest study also adds making sure they get regular physical activity and limiting screen time to a couple hours a day.
Tip of the Week
10. “It’s very, very difficult to dispel ignorance if you retain arrogance.”—Sam Wilson, US Army, in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War. If anything is apparent about the current zeitgeist it’s that humility is not a highly appreciated virtue. But if Wilson’s right, it’s humility that enables us to learn. When we can admit that we don’t know everything— that we don’t have all the answers—then we can learn new things about others, ourselves, and the world. In learning we then have the opportunity to grow in wisdom, in mercy, in empathy, in justice. But if we dig in and we staunchly refuse to lower ourselves off of our self-appointed pedestals, we smother the opportunity to learn from others and from the past. Talk to your students about humility and what they think it looks like in everyday life.
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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