Vol. 5 Issue 1 | January 4, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. Sex Education

What it is: On January 11, Netflix’s new series Sex Education will be available to binge.

Why it’s a wake-up call: Sadly, most of Christian culture has been very tight-lipped on the subjects of sex and sexuality over the last few decades, except to tout abstinence and get teens to make purity pledges. Which is why a show about teenagers called “Sex Education” may be very intriguing. As the trailer makes clear, they have lots of questions about sex and their changing bodies, but have we made our kids feel comfortable enough to broach the topics with us? Or are they going to their peers for advice? If you haven’t yet started having the sex talks (yes, plural!) with your kids (check out our Parent Guide for help), it’s quite possible that their views of sex, sexuality, p*rnography, and more are already being shaped by myriad other voices.

2. Depression & Social Media

What it is: A large study out of the UK has found a link between increased use of social media and depression, especially in girls.

Why it’s a reminder: This is yet another study with bad news for social media. But it makes something else clear: Girls are not only using social media more than boys, they are also much more negatively affected by it. Social media may not cause poor mental health, but it’s definitive that it’s not good for it, even in small amounts. So what does this mean? As much as teens are dependent on and will defend social media, they still need our guidance to know how to use it well and to recognize when it’s become too important or altogether unhealthy. Check out our new Social Media Conversation Kit and Parent Guide for conversation starters and practical tips.

3. Ninja’s Best Year

What it is: Popular Fortnite streamer and professional gamer Ninja reportedly made nearly $10 million dollars in 2018, thanks largely due to income from YouTube and Twitch.

Why it’s misleading: What a dream, right? Make millions by doing something you love and would do even if you weren’t earning money from it. Even Ninja (aka Tyler Blevins) said it was the best year of his life. But before you and your gamers sign up for the Fortnite World Cup, it’s important to look at the whole picture. He spends 12 hours a day every day streaming and hasn’t been on a vacation since his honeymoon over 8 years ago. When he’s not online, he and his wife/manager are thinking about how many subscribers and money they’re losing. As with many “alternative” vocations that exist in our influencer age, there are always trade offs, many of which we might not be willing to make if we understood what exactly was involved.

Family Night Will Save the World!

As mentioned above, mental health is increasingly deteriorating. Just this week alone, we came across 8 new articles talking about, chronicling, or seeking to explain and improve mental health. Is it worse now than in generations past? Or are we just talking about it more? Are we worse at coping than other generations? What’s causing it? What improves it? How can we be there for those who are struggling? How can we get better at admitting when we’re struggling? All things we need to consider and seek answers to.

But one thing has bubbled to the surface as true: Real, human interaction cannot be replaced by modern technology. Sure, texting, emailing, social networking, and the like can be quite useful and part of our interactions with others. But as soon as we begin outright substituting it for face-to-face, heart-to-heart, messy interactions, we begin losing part of ourselves. We were made for relationship and community, and it’s through community (the Church) that God is bringing about His glory and the renewal of all things.

Don’t get us wrong—online communities can be positive influences and even fill voids when physical community can’t be found. But if we and our kids continue to interact solely via screens, not only do we lose practice and get worse at face-to-face interaction, creating a downward spiral, we also will experience more and more of the negative side effects.

This means that being for family, community, and physical interaction may be much more powerful than being against phones, the internet, chat apps, and social media. So as hard as it might be to carve out time for family night, it may be the best thing we could do for our teenagers. By designating a place and time for conversation, non-screen activities, and being together (which admittedly won’t always be pleasant, and that’s ok!), we model the community their hearts long for and hope to find elsewhere. Yes, it’s harder and more demanding to cultivate this kind of community, but it’s infinitely more rewarding. (Need ideas for livening up family night? Check out our Parent Guide!)

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:

“Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ.”

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Technology

Devices

1. Could you stay off your smartphone for a year? Vitaminwater thinks that too much creative energy and passion is lost to the habit of mindlessly scrolling on one’s phone, so the company is offering $100k to those who can avoid all smartphones and tablets for 365 days. To enter the contest, one must post on Twitter or Instagram by January 8 using #nophoneforayear and #contest and detailing what they would accomplish over the year if they didn’t have a smartphone. There are only a few days left, but maybe it’d be a fun way to incentivize your teens to consider going phoneless?

Apps/Websites

2. If you’ve ever wondered where your teens get their information, it could be an anonymous question/answer app like Ask.fm. Their core user base ranges in age from 13 to 25, and young people like its format not only because of its anonymity, but also because their parents aren’t on it (unlike most other social media platforms these days). This allows them to ask both inane, silly questions and deeply personal inquiries. But it makes us wonder who’s responding, what qualifies them to answer, and if this is really where we want our kids going for answers. We highly recommend reading the above linked article (or listening to the podcast linked in the article), then asking your kids if they’ve ever used Ask.fm or something similar. If they have, ask why they felt more comfortable going there over anywhere else.

Pop Culture

Film/TV/Streaming

2. ICYMI, Netflix’s original, R-rated horror film Bird Box has had unprecedented success, with the company reporting that 45 million accounts watched it in its first 7 days. Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s good, as reviews from both critics and fans are less than stellar, but in this case, it means it’s meme fodder. In addition, the #BirdBoxChallenge, in which people film themselves completing tasks with blindfolds, is sweeping the internet. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before it escalates to people doing extremely dangerous things while blindfolded in the hopes of going viral.

Trending/Memes

3. Stay Hipp has released their list of the most memorable memes of 2018. Do you remember all of them? Do your teens? Look over the list together, then talk about which ones had the most influence, both positive and negative. Do they notice any themes or trends? What do the memes say about our culture?

Music

4. Both Billboard and Spotify have released their year-end charts. Any guesses which artist was most popular in the US in multiple categories? (Hint: It’s not Taylor Swift.) If you guessed Drake, you get a gold star! Be on the lookout for our upcoming Parent Guide to him and his music. Anything else about the lists surprise you? (Note: To view Spotify’s actual lists, you have to sign in to Spotify, so we linked to an article about them instead in case you don’t have an account.)

Teen Culture

Mental/Emotional Health

7. In April, the music world was rocked by the devastating news of Avicii’s suicide at the age of 28. As shocking it may have been to fans and the general public, a newly available documentary, Avicii: True Stories, details his cries for help over the years. Though the documentary released six months before his death, it provides a chilling look into his mind and mental health, perhaps offering many of us the chance to learn from his life and death. Is fame all it’s cracked up to be? Do we demand too much of our celebrities? How could the people in his life have listened to him and cared for his soul better?

Luckily, many people in Gen Z are seemingly starting to become more aware of what is and isn’t good for their mental health. Actress Lili Reinhart (Riverdale) and singer Shawn Mendes are both taking breaks from social media, Reinhart from Twitter for her mental health and Mendes from all platforms for the holidays. Of course, simply taking a break here and there may not be enough, but we’re encouraged by Gen Z’s willingness to talk openly about mental health and, for some of them, to admit when something isn’t working then do something about it.

Tip of the Week

8. As the last year of this decade gets underway, we take time to reflect on the past year, thinking about the lovely, the ugly, the unexpected, the missed opportunities, and the adventures that comprised our 2018. Then we move swiftly into our resolutions, vowing to right all the wrongs and fill all the gaps from the previous year and end the decade on a high note. Similarly, our teenagers may take some time to reflect on the posts they made, the photos they took, the music they listened to, and the DMs and texts they sent or received. And if they make resolutions at all, many of them will resolve to “get the perfect body” or “have their best football season yet” or “gain more followers”—something about being better in a way that society and their peers seem to value.

Both types of resolutions can lead to perfectionism, self-focus, stress, and anxiety. Not exactly a recipe for a great new year, is it? Our yearly reset needs a reset! This year, we hope you’ll take some time as a family to calmly reflect on the year, celebrating the good while learning from the bad. But as Oswald Chambers said above, the only solution to our anxiety and to our desire to improve each year is to center our resolutions on truth and on Christ, resting in the knowledge that He has redeemed our guilt, our shortcomings, and even our strivings. See our Parent’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions for more.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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