Three Things This Week
1. Social Media Is…Good?
What it is:New stats from Pew reveal that the overwhelming consensus among US teens ages 13-17 is that social media is a largely positive force in their lives, though they’re willing to acknowledge some of its drawbacks.
Why it’s interesting: 81% of teens agreed that “social media makes them feel more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives,” while only 43% said they feel pressure to post content that makes them look good. So case closed. Let them have free reign! …..Or not. Pew’s research contradicts a recent study from the UK that found that only YouTube had a net positive effect on teens’ mental health (Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram had net negative effects). This could indicate that UK teens are less healthy…or that they’re more willing to be honest. It could also indicate that US teens want social media to be good for them, so they go easy on it. No matter the reason, we need to keep the conversation about social media and its effects going.
What it is: The newest high-end shoe brand that social media influencers can’t wait to get their hands on.
Why it’s crazy: Though it’s only been around for a short while, the brand has made waves, with influencers lining up for their invitation-only pop-up in LA, spending hundreds on a pair of their shoes. One problem: It doesn’t exist. Payless created a fake website and fake Instagram to “rebrand” their discount shoes and prove that people don’t know the difference between luxury and bargain. Their experiment is an opportunity to not only talk with your teens about the power of branding, image, and presentation, helping them avoid the pitfalls of consumerism, but it’s also a chance to talk about quality. Is there a difference between Payless’s $20 shoes and Jimmy Choo’s $1,000 shoes? Is it actually as big of a difference as the prices suggest? Is it ever worth paying more for “handcrafted” or better materials? Could there be a negative side to both bargain and luxury?
3. Are You Influential?
What it is: Speaker Josh Shipp’s newest FB video is something anyone who works with teens should watch.
Why it’s an important reminder: Let’s face it. Between teenagers’ rolling eyes, their incredulous gasps that you don’t know what “yeet” means, and our own insecurities and negative self talk, it’s easy to wonder why we even wanted to be parents/educators/pastors/youth volunteers in the first place. “What’s the point? I have nothing to offer, and they don’t even listen to me because I’m not ‘cool’ enough. Besides, why should they listen to me when I have no idea what I’m doing?!” We all go through periods of self-doubt, and his video speaks truth to encourage us, give us perspective, and remember that these teenage hearts are worth it.
Patience and The Promise of Advent
Sunday is the first day of Advent, a four week season of patient expectation as we await not only the promised Christ-child, but the eventual return of Christ the king. Advent also reminds us that things are not as they one day will be: that although war, poverty, sickness, and injustice remain, God is making all things new. Just not quite yet.
As Mary labored delivering Jesus, the world itself is laboring through birth pains as the present order passes away and a new creation is born. Our task therefore is to embrace the tension between patience and promise, to live with hope in the midst of despair, and to never grow weary of doing good because we trust in the God who will “rend the heavens and come down” to save us. One day. Maybe not tomorrow or the next, but someday soon. We hope.
So, for the next four weeks lean into the promise of Christ with patience. To help you do so, read this prayer with your family every Sunday of Advent as we await the Christ-child…
“In our secret yearnings we wait for your coming,
And in our grinding despair we doubt that you will.
And in this privileged place
we are surrounded by witnesses who yearn more than do we
and by those who despair more deeply than do we.
Look upon your church and its pastors in this season of hope
which runs so quickly to fatigue
and in this season of yearning which becomes so easily quarrelsome.
Give us the grace and the patience
to wait for your coming to the bottom of our toes,
To the edges of our fingertips…
Come in your power and come in your weakness
in any case come and make all things new.
8 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. “The three principal consumer communication devices—computer, TV, and telephone—are margining into one, and as they do, so too are the distinctions among once-separate business.”
–Raymond Smith, then CEO of Bell South, speaking about the information superhighway. His concept was correct, but the actualization of his vision was something he could not even conceive of: the smartphone and the internet. His words serve as both a warning and an inspiration. On one hand, he was completely right: Those things did happen. On the other, he was completely wrong; he thought Bell South (and eventually AT&T) would be leading that innovation. He didn’t dream that a relatively niche computer maker (Apple) would come to dominate the market. That’s the warning. Sometimes we might have the right idea/vision/hope, but because of our own experiences, biases, and limitations, we lack the imagination to see any possible solution but the ones we’ve been able to make for ourselves. But that particular bit of history is also an inspiration. His statement also shows that the realization of our hopes can come from unexpected places. In these tumultuous times, many tend to think we’ll be able to save ourselves or that the strong and powerful will. But it could be that our hopes will be realized in an unexpected place or person: the outsider, the weak, the unheard—just like our ultimate hope was realized in an unexpected and overlooked child who arrived in a manner no one was expecting or looking for thousands of years ago. As Advent starts in earnest this Sunday, we encourage you to wait with expectation, not for the triumphant actualization of all your dreams and longings, but for God to show you how He is working in unexpected ways in unlooked for places to bring about His Kingdom for all people, for all time.
2. Most people, even teens, say they want to use their phones a bit less. But it’s hard. Here’s a short video with some more tips and tricks to help you put your phone down and grab for it less. Let us know if any of them help!
3. ICYMI Disney released its first teaser for The Lion King. It looks incredibly…familiar. If you missed the opportunity before, you have it once again to ask your teens what they think about the dearth of creativity in entertainment. Why do they think that we’re all so eager to consume what is comfortable and familiar? Is it possible to learn and grow by only hearing stories we are accustomed to? What about themselves? If given the choice between a sequel or an unknown new story, what would they choose? Why? Are they okay with their answers?
4. Do your teens know about hygge? It’s a Danish concept of coziness and comfort, though some Danes are increasingly perplexed by how the term is being understood and used outside of Denmark. Notably, that it has lost its original meaning as a feeling and state of mind of contentment and well-being and instead is used as a catch-all term used to sell socks, candles and comforters. Have your teens ever experienced anything similar, where a cherished event, place, or feeling has instead been commercialized and used to sell more stuff? What about the season that is upon us? Are their fond feelings and sense of excitement about Christmas grounded in the reality of what the season is actually about or are they based more on the traditions sprung out of mail order catalogs and department store parades and gimmicks?
5. A new, concerning, privacy-related issue pertains to your babysitting teens. A company is working to expand the reach of its babysitter-rating “AI” tool. It uses data processing and some kind of machine learning to scan potential babysitters’ social media accounts and give them scores in different areas, including potential for drug abuse and bullying behavior. Of course, parents should vet their kids’ caregivers, but is this the best way to do so? What do your teens think about the invasiveness of this company’s process, not to mention the inaccuracies and biases that are built into computer programs? The company’s process also operates as a “black box”; teens would not know why they got a certain score. There’s also huge potential that it violates teens’ employment rights. As your teens head into the workforce, what education have they received on what is and is not allowed in relation to employment?
6. The first item in Fortnite news is probably an all-too-common worry for many parents: Are my kids playing too much? Could they even be addicted? Some parents are answering yes to that question and sending their thumb-twitching teens to rehab. It depends which experts you agree with if video game addiction is actually real, but there’s no doubt that obsessive playing is a battleground for many parents. However, it is survivable, and it is possible to set limits.
7. Second new concern for parents of Fortnite-playing teens is probably less common but still something to be aware of, both in Fornite and generally on the internet. Apparently some teens have started playing “strip Fortnite,” which is exactly what it sounds like: Remove an article of clothing for every kill. But the kicker is that they stream it via webcam. Lots of potential for abuse here and a reminder that teaching good safety guidelines for being on the internet is still a foundational skill that all teens need to learn.
8. As mentioned above, it’s the beginning of Advent this weekend, and in a year that has seemed increasingly hostile, uncertain, and disturbing, it can be harder than ever to wait for the fulfillment of the redemptive work begun by Christ so many years ago. But we can trust that God is faithful to His promises, and, like last year, we would love to start you off in this season with the simple-but-beautiful reminder of the words in this song:
The years unending seem
Here in this in between
“Peace on earth, good for men”
Seems like it came and went
The wars they linger on
The darkness overcomes
We need not stars but sun
Break in O Coming One
Sometimes we cannot tell
That You will make all well
But all shall be well
All shall be well
Editor’s Note: Hey, we’re trying a different format for the next month, which will mean fewer insights, but hopefully a more manageable read for you and an easier time starting conversations with your teens about key topics. We’ll send out a survey for feedback in January. Hope you enjoy!
Keep the Faith!
The Axis Team
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