Teens Are Ditching Their Phones…No, Really | April 3, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. To Phone or Not to Phone
What it is: Hoping to keep some level of normalcy in their daily lives, most teens are turning to their devices to maintain some sort of social life. But some are choosing to leave their devices behind, at least for a time.
Why it’s monumental: According to the article, “research suggests that high school students are more dependent on social interaction for well-being than any other age group,” so they may be more prone to depression during this time than other age groups if they can’t find that interaction. But being even more dependent on their devices comes with its own challenges, including increasing anxiety from information overload and constant notifications of doom and gloom. So they’ve taken to going on walks sans phones to get away from it all, and they’re discovering how healing it can be. Despite all the atrocity, many are discovering the beauty of slowing down and just being.

2. SGN
What it is: Something that could also be a boost to well-being is actor John Krasinski’s new YouTube channel, Some Good News.
Why it’s a light in the dark: Today’s news shows make it clear that outrage sells, so it can be hard to stay updated when doing so fuels our anxiety, anger, and fear. But despite the headlines, people everywhere keep calmly, quietly, and creatively doing good for their communities. Krasinski explains that after asking Twitter to share stories that made them smile, he was overwhelmed with responses, so he decided to create SGN to share them with the world. The channel can be a welcome reprieve for us all, a reminder that God is at work even in the darkest of times and that His goodness is much more powerful than the dark. Let it also be an encouragement to creatively become the light in our communities.

3. A Gamer’s Paradise
What it is: Forced confinement has caused many to turn to video games to pass the time, with Verizon recently reporting a 102% increase in gaming traffic compared to a normal day.
Why it’s something to monitor: Other platforms like Steam and Twitch are reporting record numbers, while Nintendo, Xbox Live, and Discord experienced outages as they struggled to expand capacity to meet the unexpected demands. And as great of a pastime it can be for gamers stuck at home, parents need to keep enforcing time limits and be aware of new game releases teens might be interested in checking out. Some to research are: DOOM Eternal (rated M, released on PC, PS4, XB1); Animal Crossing: New Horizons (rated E, released on Switch); Half-Life: Alyx (rated M, released on Steam VR); Call of Duty: Warzone (rated M, released on PC, PS4, XB1); and Ori and the Will of the Wisps (rated E, released on PC, XB1). (BTW, we made a free video to spark family discussion about video games during quarantine.)

A Natural Remedy

For 2 years, 13-year-old Anne Frank and her family lived in confinement, quarantined from life due to the spread of a deadly ideology. Hidden in a secret attic above her father’s business, the family lived in constant fear of being exposed. Yet even in the midst of her social isolation, Anne found hope in the natural world, a world she could no longer personally enjoy. In her diary she wrote:

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. For then and only then can you feel that everything is as it should be and that God wants people to be happy amid nature’s beauty and simplicity…I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer.

Even before the onset of COVID-19, most of us lived the majority of our waking moments detached from the natural world, choosing instead to lead a life of self-inflicted incarceration, enslaved by the very technology and screens promising so much freedom.

But as our children are learning (see above), there is a rich life waiting for us out there, free from phones and pixels, radiating the grandeur of God. Even now, in the midst of so much suffering, the world is being reborn. The darkness is fading, the light is winning. Buds are appearing on what looked like lifeless trees, tender shots of grass are emerging from the cold sod, birds have returned and are nesting. It’s as if God’s good creation is gently whispering, “We have hope, so should you.” And if we just go out into it (locally, of course!), we may not only hear creation proclaiming the glory of God, but we just might find relief, respite, communion, and rejuvenation in this time of mutual isolation.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

How Are You Doing? | March 27, 2020

In times of uncertainty, stories of kindness, of bearing each other’s burdens, and of praying for one another can be the very things that restore our hope in humanity and ignite our faith to new levels. In light of that, we want to know how you are doing. We want to hear about your wins, struggles, prayer requests, and questions. Please share your stories to social media using #covidparenting and tag us (@AxisIdeas) as we all come together.

Three Things This Week

1. Zenly
What it is: A Snapchat-owned, location-sharing app that usually encourages people to get out and explore launched a “Stay At Home” challenge and leaderboard this week in an attempt to make being home cool.
Why it might help: Young people are already used to being on their devices and even choosing to be on them rather than going out. But if they’re like most teenagers in our modern world, being told to do something may suddenly make them want to do the opposite. So for those who are struggling during social distancing or a mandatory stay-at-home order, they may find apps like Zenly a welcome gamification of the situation. The app doesn’t reveal one’s home location to other users, just what percentage of time they’ve been at the location they marked as “home,” but it’s important to check out the app with them to make sure it’s safe, then talk with them about the risks of sharing their location with any app.

2. Sheltering (Mostly) Sans Screens
What it is:Statistics show that this pandemic is causing us to turn to our screens, not just for work or school, but also for social media and streaming entertainment of all varieties. But should we be?
Why this is an opportunity: “If we don’t actively decide what we want a day to hold, we’re at the mercy of a hundred things other than what matters most,” writes Jedd Medefind in a helpful piece about how our newfound limitations might impact us. And since it’s not just our kids but all of us who find ourselves in unknown territory, we have a beautiful chance to lead by example in setting a good routine for our families—one that makes space for reflection, dreaming, solitude, family time, learning, service, the outdoors (if possible), and healthy amounts of screen time. Read the article together as a family, then talk about each other’s hopes and fears, as well as ideas for a good family quarantine routine.

3. Monitoring Mental Health
What it is: Whether you’re under mandatory stay-at-home orders or simply being required to socially distance, you’re probably concerned about how your children’s mental health will be impacted by being cooped up.
Why it’s valid but can be mitigated:93% of Gen Z and Millennials report being impacted by COVID-19 (up from 63% last week), and we’re sure the statistics are similar for Gen Alpha (those born after Gen Z). Their daily lives have been disrupted, and they’re likely inside and away from fresh air and friends, relatives, teachers, etc. more than they ever have been. This can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness, and anxiety, even in young kids who don’t know how to interpret, express, or deal with those feelings. Besides asking your children questions that help them assess their mental state, check out this pediatrician’s practical tips for counteracting the mental effects of social distancing. And because this situation is just so unknown to us, remember that counseling may be even more important than ever (and is available online!).

Spotlight: Helping you to have tough conversations is our speciality. And the sex talk is one of the toughest conversations for parents! But you don’t have to do it alone. We are on the 3rd video of our 3-part video series called “Sex Talk 2.0”! If you haven’t had a chance to watch yet, jump in today and start watching Video 1 now.

In the Crucible of COVID-19

If this virus is teaching us anything, it’s that we all use entertainment as a means to escape reality. Now that many of our favorite forms of entertainment are suspended, it’s easy to see just how much we desire distraction. Some sports fans are so desperate to fill the void they’ve resorted to watching marble-racing videos. Yes, marble racing. One race has already garnered over 34 million views! (Go ahead, watch it, it’s actually pretty exciting!)

But this pandemic is also teaching us something even more profound if we’re willing to listen. And it’s this simple truth: Human suffering is both universal and transformative. In a strange way, we’ve all been given the gift of pain. As Christians, we are not saved from pain, but rather we are saved through pain. By Christ’s own wounds we are healed. And because we serve a suffering God, we can see God in our own suffering and in the suffering of others. In The Crucified God, theologian Jurgen Moltmann explains, “When we feel pain we participate in His pain, and when we grieve we share His grief.”

In fact, the central motif of suffering, of dying and rising again, runs throughout the entire biblical narrative. One example from John’s Gospel reads, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If we are to be born again, we must first die. Pain is a poignant teacher forever reminding us that before we rise up, we most assuredly will go down.

In this time of suffering, we not only join in solidarity with all human suffering, but in God’s own suffering in and for the world. We’re all in this together. Everyone is hurting. Instead of escaping your pain, how can you use it as a tool toward transformation? How can you model this path of dying and rising for your children? What needs to die in your life (identity, possessions, job title, salary) for you to truly be born again?

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

Coping with Coronanxiety | March 20, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. The Sports Void
What it is: With more and more sports suspending seasons and canceling tournaments, sports fans everywhere are looking for something to fill the void, and esports may be just the thing.
Why it’s similar: Since playing video games and watching others play doesn’t require one to be in close proximity with others, it’s quite possible that esports will become a big interest for teenagers stuck at home. Sure, watching shows or making TikToks may also become more important, but like sports, esports aren’t scripted, don’t have predetermined outcomes, and are built around the players’ personalities. So they may be more enticing for teenagers who were hoping to watch the March Madness drama unfold or who closely follow their fav NBA stars. If your teens are suddenly asking to play more or spend more time on Twitch, Mixer, or even YouTube and TikTok (#esports is rapidly growing on the platform), this could be why.

2. Pandemic Pressure
What it is: If you’re like us, you’ve probably seen lots of reminders that this time in quarantine is a gift, a chance to finally do all the things! And as well-intentioned as they are, they can also cause a lot of anxiety and dread.
Why it’s misguided: Reminding ourselves and our kids not to waste all of our time on social media or binge-watching—let’s be real—shows we’re not even half-interested in is admirable. But saying that now our wildest goals and dreams can be realized because we have a *month* off is pressure. No matter what a tweet says, you cannot write an entire book in a month. So if you or your teens are feeling like you must accomplish something epic to prove you’re not a failure, remember that this type of advice gets us focusing on the wrong thing: ourselves. As this wonderful post from Rooted Ministry reminds us, utilizing the time to accomplish something is not the same as redeeming it.

3. Digital Vigilance
What it is: With everyone turning to the internet during this time of social distancing, our kids could be more at risk for targeting by online predators.
Why it’s time to be aware: Perhaps even more than usual (is that possible?!), our digital-native kids will be seeking to connect with others via social media, dating apps (for older kids), and even video games. Many of them will be more likely to talk to strangers in the hopes of staving off boredom and loneliness, which is a perfect opportunity for predators to swoop in. We don’t remind you of this to worry you, but to remind you to be vigilant and prepared, always talking with your kids about their online activity and how to know who to trust. It’s also important to enable restrictions on their devices so they can’t download apps without your permission. (Check out our Parent Guides to iOS, Android, and Internet Filtering & Monitoring for more!)

Spotlight
We know that sometimes it’s hard to remember what people even did before the internet and streaming, let alone during times of isolation when they had so much time on their hands, so we brainstormed and came up with 14 Things to Do with Teens If You’re Quarantined. (Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog while you’re there so you never miss a post!) And as promised, here’s the link to The Culture Translator on Google Podcasts.

Coping with Coronanxiety

It’s not easy being Gen Z. For a generation that is almost always online and already prone to anxiety or depression, a global pandemic can be debilitating. A sudden crisis like Covid-19 can overload their maturing emotional operating system, leading our children into bouts of hysteria. Unfortunately, things look like they will get much worse before they get better.

So, as a family, what can you do to reduce the noise leading your kids to new levels of stress and angst? In addition to “social distancing,” here are six practical things you can do right now to cope with this ongoing crisis.

  1. Limit Exposure: If your teen is glued to social media for the latest, breaking alerts, give them a limit for how much time they can spend online each day during this crisis (utilize Apple’s Screen Time or Android’s Digital Wellbeing for this!).
  2. Check the Source: If you or your child are only getting news from Twitter, Facebook, or even your favorite news outlet, find other credible sources that tend to be less biased, like the CDC or WHO.
  3. Go Outside: Simply taking a walk in the woods can alleviate stress by connecting us with God’s good creation. Notice the trees and the buttercups, are you not cared for more than these? As environmentalist John Muir wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
  4. Just Read: Nothing invites your children out of their own mood or self-centered story and into the larger world like a great book. Encourage them to read The Diary of Anne Frank or Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place to help them realize others have suffered far more than they are currently suffering.
  5. Zoom Zoom: Schedule a video chat so your kids can stay connected with their buddies.
  6. Pray: Spend 10 minutes each morning or evening praying as a family. To help guide your time, check out The Daily Office app for daily Scripture and prayers to pray together.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

To Fear Is Human, To Love Divine | March 13, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. You Asked, We Delivered: Audio!
What it is: Don’t have time to read this email every week? We’ve got you covered with our brand new podcast!
Why it’ll save you time: You can now listen to The Culture Translator every Friday via podcast. In about 5 minutes, you can hear about what’s going on in your teen’s world each week, then either read the show notes or simply find this email in your inbox if you’d like to dig deeper into a topic by checking out the links. The Culture Translator Podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts here, on Spotify here, and coming soon to Google Play (we’ll share the link next week). Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss anything, and share it with your friends!

2. Silly Billie?
What it is: To kick off her world tour, Billie Eilish shed layers of clothing on screen while asking questions about what gives her value and worth as a woman.
Why it should get us talking: The 18-year-old singer is known for wearing baggy clothes to maintain mystery and keep others from objectifying or judging her. Her words in the video (transcript here) were met with thunderous applause and have gone viral, with many praising her for empowering women and rejecting body shaming. But is it so simple? On the one hand, stripping down to her bra for millions to see seems to weaken her argument. On the other, does objectification happen because of what someone sees (i.e. how much skin) or how someone sees it? There’s much that could be said, but it’s clear that our teens need us to join this complicated conversation, so that they’re not just being mentored by their peers and so that we can help them seek God’s wisdom above all else. (C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on modesty or our Parent’s Guide to Modesty are good food for thought!)

3. Preparing for a School Closure
What it is: As more and more schools close their doors to prevent COVID-19’s spread, it’s a good time to make sure your kids will be properly protected while using their devices.
Why it’s timely: With so many teens stuck at home—or worse, inside in colder climates—for days or even weeks at a time, unable to see their friends or do their normal activities, they’ll turn to their devices to keep in touch and make sure they don’t miss what’s going on in their communities. All that extra device time only increases the chances of encountering harmful content or engaging in inappropriate behavior. But there are protections we can and should use! Thankfully, Protect Young Eyes recently reviewed 14 different monitoring and filtering options available to parents, comparing and contrasting all the features and options to help us figure out what’s right for our children. (Also, here’s a list of indoor activities that are mostly non-screen-based, if you need ideas!)

March Sadness

There will be no March Madness this year. The NCAA announced the tournament cancellation this week, citing concerns about COVID-19. Joining the NCAA, the NBA suspended their season after multiple players tested positive for the virus. Whether it’s movie theaters, schools, sports arenas, or even churches, governing authorities are moving closer to banning any large assembly of people due to growing concerns over the spread of this deadly bug.

If we’re honest, this is all pretty terrifying. With the growing media frenzy and heightened global awareness, it would be easy for all of us to live in fear. But God has not given us a “spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” In fact, the most frequent command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” Scripture seems to be giving us a hint that we’ll often have very good reasons to be afraid, but we must resist the tendency to allow our lives to be dominated by fear. We must do this not only because fear is debilitating, but because fear manipulates us into a life of isolation, cruelty, and hatred toward anything or anyone we see as threatening. As author Frederick Buechner reminds us, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

As you navigate this global health crisis with your children, choose a spirit of love and not fear. Instead of suspicious self-preservation, choose servanthood. Find ways your family can care for those who are at the highest risk for infection. If you have an elderly neighbor or know someone with an autoimmune disease, ask them if you can run errands for them or help them stock up on groceries. Be wise. Be careful. Yes, definitely wash your hands, and then, go wash someone’s feet.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

Join the National Day of Unplugging | March 6, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. No Place Is Safe
What it is: Apple users will now be getting push notification advertisements on their iOS devices, thanks to new changes to their App Store guidelines.
Why it feels wrong: Even though we’re surrounded by ads, there are still some places we consider to be off limits, “safe,” even sacred, and we feel that using them for monetary gain is an unforgivable offense. Push notifications are one of those places, perhaps because they’re supposed to help us and tell us what we want to know, not what someone else wants us to know. So opening them up to app developers as yet another marketing frontier feels…personal. Luckily, users must opt in to receive them, but it’s not far-fetched to think that developers could find ways to make it hard to do so. This will be something you’ll want to talk with your teens about and show them how to opt out, as well as purposefully opt out of on any devices your younger kids have access to. (Check out our Parent’s Guide to iOS for more about parental controls.)

2. Fleets
What it is: Twitter announced a new “fleeting tweet” feature on Wednesday in an effort to remain relevant to their current users, as well as to potentially reach new ones.
Why it’s iterative: Currently only being tested in Brazil, the company hopes that having tweets that disappear after 24 hours (and can’t be retweeted, liked, or publicly responded to) will encourage more content generation and more time spent on the app. The layout and function of it are highly familiar (see: Snapchat Stories, Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories…) and, despite being impermanent, can still be screenshotted into infamy. Citing the “performative” aspect of tweets, they hope fleets will feel more informal and relaxed. But as we’ve seen with fleets’ predecessors, these, too, can easily become all about how many views (as opposed to likes and retweets) they get. But if fleets become successful, it’s quite possible that teens’ fav apps could reverse adopt some of their unique features.

3. Botnet
What it is: Can a faux social media platform filled with bots “who are obsessed with you” offer us a safe place to be vulnerable and honest? Botnet, a new app that simulates the good parts of being famous, thinks it can (language).
Why it’s an interesting experiment: As this writer put it (language), the app functions “basically like a diary. While the bots give you the impression of there being interaction, you’re actually just writing down your thoughts in a closed system that no one but yourself will see.” You can pay $1 to turn on the “dad joke” bots or the “troll” bots, but ultimately, the creator, Billy Chasen, wanted the app to be a happy place, so none of it reflects the reality of what happens to celebrities in the actual digital world. But maybe that’s ok? Chasen wonders if having “one place you can vent, you can be yourself” could be good. We wonder if it might help us interact with real social media in less attention-needy ways. What does your teen think about the concept?

National Day of Unplugging

Portable technology truly altered our world, especially once it became small enough and powerful enough to bring the Internet with us everywhere we went. As part of an effort to help younger generations be more intentional in their use and adoption of such technologies, Axis often speaks to middle and high school students about how our devices have impacted our lives, both for better and worse. Some are skeptical or feel like we’re attacking them (we’re not, but their reaction is understandable), but most of them truly begin to get it.

Yet when we get to the end and encourage them to intentionally choose regular times to turn their phones off in order to interact with their immediate surroundings, they often look extremely discouraged. When we ask why, it’s not because they refuse to unplug; it’s because they can’t because their parents will be angry if they can’t get a hold of them. Some of them even say they see the need to unplug and reconnect as a family, but that the rest of the family won’t get on board.

We adults and parents can help change that. One way to do so is to participate in the National Day of Unplugging. Tonight (March 6), starting at sundown, people across the US will be forgoing their devices for 24 hours in order to “connect with ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities in real time.” We highly encourage you, your families, your small groups, your churches, your schools, or even your youth groups to participate. Knowing that so many other people will be doing the same thing at the same time can be really empowering and encouraging, as well as be enough to break the rhythms we might feel powerless to break.

If you can’t join in so last minute, that’s ok! Set aside your own day or event in the next few weeks, planning plenty of other activities to fill the time and to remind yourself, your family, and your community of all the other good things with which God has blessed us in this life. And consider making it a regular event, since we all need regular “resets” the upset our habits and open our eyes and hearts to the deeper truths.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

Are Gen Zers Voting with Their $$$? | February 28, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. Snackpass
What it is: This new app for connecting college students with food and beverage vendors could also become their favorite dating app.
Why it’s exploding in popularity: It has been on some college campuses for a few years, but recently got new funding to help it reach 100 new campuses in 2 years. Essentially, it works by making ordering from food vendors near a campus super simple and quick while offering discounts and freebies. Users can also gift items to other users, and they’ve started using the app’s direct messaging to ask others out. For those who are in or about to go to college, it’s yet another app that can be a great tool but could also cause a lot of problems concerning money (easier to spend money when it doesn’t feel like spending money), eating out constantly, and even relationships. Anyone remember when college prep was actually about college?!

2. Juul Is So Last Year
What it is: Vaping brand Juul was cool…until adults and the government caught wind of it. So as we slowly get around to enacting new legislation to curb use by minors, teens have already taken their business elsewhere.
Why it can be frustrating: Disposable vape pens like Puff Bar, Stig, and Mr. Vapor have proliferated, filling the void left by all the restrictions against Juul. These disposable “pod mods” are compact, cool looking, easily hidden, and much more potent that traditional cigarettes, with one pod containing as much nicotine as two or three packs of cigarettes. Since laws and government enforcement never move as quickly as teen whims and interests, parents and other caring adults have to be the first line of defense. We must talk about vaping and its risks without fear-mongering or using scare tactics. This article has some helpful suggestions, as does our Parent’s Guide to Vaping.

3. Raising Thoughtful Citizens
What it is: Gen Z cares about what’s happening politically, so much so that 49% of voting-age Zers (18-23) plan to donate to a political campaign in 2020.
Why it’s surprising: The proportion of Gen Xers (37%) and Boomers (25%) who plan to do the same is much lower, despite those cohorts having more money. Of course, intent is not the same as action, but it seems that Gen Z is reminiscent of young people in the 1960s and ‘70s in their political concern. It’s a great opportunity for families, churches, and schools to guide their fervor by teaching them to seek more than one perspective, ask good questions, weigh ideas against God’s Word, and pray for God’s guidance in their lives. Most policies and candidates aren’t as clear cut as they seem, requiring them to learn wisdom, patience, and humility as they reach voting age.

What Goes Up…

TikTok has been a frequent subject of discussion in this newsletter, simply because of its sudden rise to popularity and its simultaneous ability to baffle most people older than 24. And while lovers of the app cite its playfulness, randomness, and uniqueness as reasons why they prefer it to other social media platforms, there hasn’t been a whole lot of data on how the apps pros might give way to a bevy of cons. If we look at other platforms as a reference, we know it often takes a while for that initial shine to wear off. But TikTok is once again proving to be different.

As some TikTokers are already finding out, the app is unprecedented in its ability to skyrocket a person to success in mere days or even hours. But that fame can be wiped away just as easily, leaving the user confused and alone, with no support system to turn to. One 16-year-old named Sam was willing to open up to Voxabout his experience and its impact. He said that it wasn’t negativity or bullying that drove him away from the app, but rather “what happened when the views and ‘Likes,’ which he’d amassed over the course of nearly a year after a few viral video hits, started to drop.”

From a teenager’s perspective, becoming an influencer looks like an easy, fun way to make a living without relying on a traditional (i.e. boring) desk job, so it’s no wonder more than half of 13- to 38-year-olds would become influencers if given the chance. But very few of them see what happens when the camera’s not on or when the elusive likes simply stop coming. For Sam, that meant a lot of anxiety and doubt: “It’s scary because it’s this spiral of not ever feeling like you’re enough, and that leaves this mental scarring.”

Like with any fame, the negatives are rarely salient but can be devastating without proper preparation, support, prayer, and community. And since the positives are always up front and center for anyone who’s on social media, it’s important that we also lovingly help aspiring teens think through both aspects and make healthy, godly decisions based on all the data, not just what they see.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

Why Teens Don’t Take Your Advice | February 21, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. Tylenol Heals All Wounds
What it is:A new study suggests that taking acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) could ease emotional pain.
Why it’s a slippery slope: Teenagers taking over-the-counter meds for a day or two for, say, sore muscles is no big deal, right? So should we be worried if they start using them to relieve their broken hearts? According to the study’s author, “Experiencing a socially painful life event, like a relationship break-up, is one of the strongest predictors of developing depression in adolescence,” so there might be positive long-term effects of easing that discomfort. But as one therapist points out, “Many people who ended up addicted to opioids in the US started out looking for a quick fix.” Before teens hear about the research and decide to test it for themselves, talk with them about the pros and cons, as well as how turning solely to meds—in lieu of also addressing the spiritual and relational components—can go south quickly.

2. Wasted Wisdom
What it is: Ever had a moment when you felt you and your teenager/student really connected, only to find they didn’t take any of the advice you gave them? (No? We’ve totally never had that either…)
Why it happens: An insightful article by author and psychologist Lisa Damour gives adults a glimpse into the teenage psyche (gasp!) to understand what’s going on. She suggests this often happens because we’re not giving teens what they want, meaning they don’t always tell us their woes and problems to get answers. They know that most of their struggles can’t actually be solved; instead, they come to us because “having a problem is not nearly so bad as feeling utterly alone with it.” In addition, constantly rushing in with solutions can come across as “a vote of no confidence when they are mainly seeking our reassurance that they can handle whatever life throws at them.”

3. Rhett & Link
What it is: This week, in two podcast episodes, two extremely popular and influential YouTubers known as Rhett & Link revealed they are no longer Christians.
Why it’s shattering: As this thoughtful article from Church Leaders points out, social media makes anything influencers and celebrities do feel much more personal than in the past: “When your child’s favorite social media personality…shares a major decision, this is having significant impact on how she thinks, processes, and acts.” If your kids are fans of the duo, this could be extremely shocking and faith-shattering for them, but they may never tell you about it. We highly recommend listening to the two episodes (Rhett’s and Link’s), reading through some of the comments (many are from young people!), and reading Church Leaders’ article. As the author says, situations like this demonstrate that “we need a new kind of discipleship: One that intentionally elevates belonging, relationships, and much-needed conversation.”

We. Are. Dust.

We cannot truly celebrate the end of anything without first starting at the beginning. That’s why on Wednesday, Christians around the world will gather in worship to “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day period of penance ending in the celebration of Easter. Scholars believe this season pre-dates the established Church, with evidence first-century disciples formalized a time of intentional self-reflection, taking seriously Jesus’ command to “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” Lent is a season of pain and promise, dying and rebirth.

Lent is an opportunity to align our souls more deliberately with the Spirit of God. But joining Jesus on the journey to Jerusaleum isn’t easy, especially in a world of instant gratification, limitless distraction, and mind-numbing entertainment. So this year, be intentional about preparing your homes and hearts for Easter by participating in the Lenten journey. Here are six practical ways your family can take on the mind of Christ this liturgical season.

  1. Attend an Ash Wednesday service: Find a liturgical congregation to attend, receive the imposition of ashes and then spend the rest of the day awkwardly walking around with the sign of the cross on your head meditating on your finite existence.
  2. Fast and pray: Choose a day each week (not Sunday!) to fast. Instead of having dinner as a family, come together to pray.
  3. Sacrifice: Select something meaningful to give up during Lent (social media, TV, etc.). The absence of certain luxuries can create the space to contemplate God’s will in new ways.
  4. Serve: It’s one thing to deny yourself a luxury or habit, it’s quite another to pick up something else in its place. Choose an activity or service project to embody your love for humanity during this season.
  5. Repent: We live in a dehumanizing, hyper-sexualized, violent culture malforming us into its own image. How are we complicit in creating this culture and what might we need to turn away from as we reclaim our divine image in Christ?
  6. Read: Start a family for Lent. Bread and Wine, a collection of meditations is a great book to use. Or, to learn more about practicing Lent with your family, check out our Parent’s Guide to Lent.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

When Memes > Policies | February 14, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. Tinder Meets Snapchat?
What it is: The new app Hoop has recently exploded in popularity, thanks to the developers’ ability to gamify sharing the app with friends.
Why it’s popular: The app bills itself as a way to “make new friends on Snapchat,” and it does this by allowing users to swipe through others’ profiles to find someone they like (sound familiar?). If they want to connect, they can request their Snap username to start talking on Snapchat (there’s no actual messaging via Hoop). But unlike Tinder, a user can only request so many usernames before they run out of the in-app currency (“diamonds”), which can be earned by opening the app every day, getting others to download the app via one’s “Hoop link,” and a few other activities. Thanks to this mass sharing, it’s only a matter of time before teens hear about Hoop. Check out Smart Social’s guide to Hoop for more on the pros and cons of the app.

2. Infodemic
What it is: As COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) continues to spread, social media has been overwhelmed with information about the epidemic, making young people extremely anxious.
Why we have to talk about it: Because of this massive spread of info—much of which isn’t even true—the WHO dubbed it a social media “infodemic” and partnered with Google, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and others to curtail the spread of hoaxes and unreliable data. Even Instagram is trying to reroute users searching for #coronavirus to credible sources. This intense focus on the virus, coupled with the endless memes and jokes about it, has caused young people to feel like it’s a bigger deal than it actually is. Their uncertainty about what it is, how it’s spread, how prevalent it is, and how to prevent infection only adds to the hysteria. Help your teens by bringing it up, asking what they know, searching for credible information together, and praying against anxiety while asking God to protect others and give authorities wisdom.

3. Vote Your Conscience Fav Meme
What it is: Political ads are nothing new, but they’re getting more creative in 2020. Most recent are Michael Bloomberg’s, um, strange sponsored Instagram posts.
Why they matter: Bloomberg’s campaign, like President Trump’s, is spending millions on social media advertising as part of his presidential bid. But his Instagram posts are clearly geared toward younger voters, not highlighting his policies or even attacking his opponents, but rather using humor and randomness to gain support. When asked if he’d be willing to run a sponsored post for Bloomberg, the teen who runs meme account @bigdadwhip said, “I would be down—bread is bread,” adding that he could also say he “helped a presidential candidate.” Who we vote for or even help campaign for president should be based on much more than money, personal appeal, or sponsored posts. We adults must be intentional in teaching Gen Z to take their votes seriously by researching each candidate and their policies before supporting them.

What Would You Do?

What would you do if your daughter said she was attracted to girls and not boys? What would you do if, as recently happened to Dwayne Wade, your son came home and told you he wanted to be a girl? It’s easy to think that this won’t happen in our homes, but it’s becoming more and more plausible as the number of high school students in 6 states who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or non-heterosexual has doubled since 2009 (the study didn’t look at a nationwide representative sample). Unfortunately, suicide attempts among this group are four times higher than their heterosexual peers.

Of course, we must consider why rates of suicide are much higher for them. Simply identifying as LGBTQ+ does not necessarily put young people at higher risk for depression and suicide; it’s what happens once they do. The stigma, identity crisis, bullying, violence, and familial rejection many face increase their likelihood for self-harm. That’s why one part of Wade’s response was wise: “When our child comes home with a question, when our child comes home with an issue, when our child comes home with anything, it’s our job to listen and give them the best information, the best feedback that we can, and that doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.” He and his wife have created an environment in their home in which their child felt safe and loved enough to come to them with his deepest, most intimate issue.

Can the same be said of us? Imagine how vulnerable your child would feel if he or she came to you with such a weighty admission, especially if they know their sexual orientation is against your core beliefs. In that moment, earn their trust by giving them what they need most: your unconditional love. We need to think through how we would respond in such situations before they ever happen so that we can react calmly and lovingly while continuing to have an influence in their lives. We earn the right to disciple them regarding their gender identity or sexual orientation by first making them feel safe and loved. Alienation never leads to transformation.

We want to be clear here: We, like you, want the next generation to flourish and have abundant life in Jesus. But that life, or honestly life itself, might never be chosen if we do not model the radical, unconditional love of Christ when they need it most.

Culture creation that allows dialogue requires immense trust in God. It requires letting go of the need to fix, change, or control others’ beliefs or actions. It requires trusting that God’s Spirit can work behind the scenes in people’s hearts as we create a culture where they are free to question, doubt, and explore faith at their own pace. This shifts the burden to change people back to where it belongs—with God alone. (No Perfect People Allowed by John Burke)

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.

Why Is My Kid So Burned Out? | February 7, 2020

Three Things This Week

1. The Bible Is Boring
What it is: Ever heard a teenager say that when explaining why they struggle to read it? It’s been a common sentiment among teenagers for generations, but one teenager who’s been there has some advice.
Why it’s worthwhile: Our modern culture is not only loud, it’s everywhere, constantly begging us to “watch this” or “listen to that” or “play now!” And when most of that culture is designed to satiate basic desires while also leaving us wanting more, the slow, difficult, and even “boring” task of reading God’s Word seems pointless. But the truth is that the life Jesus calls us to—indeed, even the Gospel itself—is counterintuitive. It doesn’t satisfy in the way the world satisfies; it reaches much deeper, offering us lasting, true satisfaction. But it doesn’t come without a cost. We must sacrifice every part of ourselves to serve Him and love Him more, and part of how we do that is by reading God’s Word. Read the article with your struggling teens as a first step on the path to helping them find a passion for God’s Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.

2. Media Discernment
What it is: Each year, the Super Bowl is an obvious reminder that there are tons of ideas being subtly propagated through the media take in, including and perhaps especially through advertisements. Our friends at CPYU have some great questions to teach young people to ask whenever they engage culture.
Why it’s helpful: As we disciple the next generation, our goal should not be to make them mindless automatons who simply follow the rules we give them. Basically, rather than teaching them what to think, we should train them how to think for themselves. CPYU’s questions gently teach children and teenagers to see beyond flashy images and emotional tugs to what’s beneath without us doing it for them. Though the questions are geared specifically toward ads, they can be adapted to fit any cultural artifact at hand. So the next time you’re watching TV together and come across something questionable, begin asking them these questions and see what follows!

3. Generation Burnout
What it is: The “always-on” Generation Z is starting to feel the effects of the pressure, and as they reach their 20s and the workplace, it’s manifesting as burnout.
Why it needs to be reversed: Burnout is not a mental disorder but rather “a dysfunctional relationship between a person and their job” and is characterized by exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced professional efficacy. Why are they experiencing this so young? As Elite Daily notes, more than ever, employees are expected to be “on” at all times, especially entry-level workers who don’t feel they have the clout required to push back. And since Gen Z is more stressed than any other generation, the endless pressure reaches a breaking point, and they check out. Read the article with your Gen Zers, then ask if they feel similarly and brainstorm ideas for how to combat the pressure and have healthy boundaries.

Super Bowl Time

On Sunday, 102 million people gathered in ritualistic tradition to celebrate one of the high points of the cultural year. The Super Bowl is a global holiday, commemorating what we as people love most: sports, entertainment, and unfettered consumerism. This annual liturgical act is just one of a number of “feast days” that make up the pop cultural calendar. An almanac of events and celebrations (New Years Eve, awards season, Valentine’s Day, March Madness, Spring Break, 420, Independence Day, Halloween, etc..) that come together to tell a specific story about what it means to be human.

But how we tell time, the rituals we keep, and the holidays we commemorate form us into certain kinds of humans. Far from innocuous, these holidays function like sign posts, pointing us toward what the world believes will bring us ultimate human fulfillment (wealth, fame, success, power, and sex). So the question is: What kind of people are all these rituals forming us to be?

As Christians who long to be faithful witnesses to the countercultural way of Jesus, we must continue to challenge the cultural norms, practices, and traditions that tempt us to root our lives in pop culture’s story instead of the story of Christ. As theologian Stanley Hauerwas writes, “To live like Jesus is Lord is going to make my life dysfunctional in relationship to a good deal of American practices.” That’s why following the Christian calendar is not only so important, but utterly subversive. How we tell time and what we choose to commemorate is one simple way to resist the dominant cultural narrative.

If you aren’t as familiar with the Christian calendar, it starts by telling time radically different from the pop cultural calendar. Instead of telling the story of fame and fortune, it announces the story of Jesus. First, the year begins with Advent (not on January 1). It then moves into the 12 days of Christmas, followed by Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and the long, mundane season known as Ordinary Time.

As the Christian calendar moves from one spiritual season to another, and as we journey closer to the penitent season of Lent, invite your family into a new way of telling time. By shaping your life around a different narrative, you have the ability to invite your kids into a new world, a world centered on Christ and not themselves.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Editor’s Note: Axis links to many different sources within this e-newsletter; a link does not equal an endorsement. We cannot guarantee the content of each site (especially its ads). Please be forewarned. Also, we highly recommend something like AdBlock.