Kanye Wants to Create “Jesus Tok” | August 21, 2020

Three Things This Week

1
A Very Corporate Battle Royale
What it is: Epic Games, makers of Fortnite, created a way for Fortnite players to give money directly to Epic, cutting Apple and Google out of the handsome royalty they typically get from every purchase made through their app stores. In retaliation, both companies took Fortnite out of their app stores.
Why you might be forced to care: As of now, Fortnite still works with no issue on any device where it’s already being played. But on August 27, Fortnite’s new “season” will release and users will need to install a “patch” from their device’s app store to update the game and make sure it keeps working. Teens who have been playing on Apple and Google devices may be on the hunt for a new device to use. The hashtag #freefortnite has been trending as Epic works to win users over to “their side,” just in case all of this isn’t resolved by the new season’s release. Expect to hear more about this over the next few days.

2
Pasta Takes a Dark Turn
What it is: Statements like “I had pasta tonight” and “I finished my shampoo and conditioner at the same time” have become coded language on TikTok that mean the poster is depressed and may be thinking of self-harm.
Why there’s light, even in the darkness: For the most part, TikTok captions have never been written with adult viewers in mind, but for the app’s mostly teen audience. These cries for help are frightening, especially when you consider how easily they might fly under a parent’s radar. But at least these teens are asking for help. Posts captioned “I had pasta tonight” are typically love-bombed by friends, acquaintances, and even strangers leaving words of encouragement, resource links, and “reasons to stay.” If you’d like help on how to address mental health issues with your teens, check out our Parent’s Guide to Suicide & Self-Harm Prevention.

3
Instagram Is a Political PowerPoint Now 
What it is: Gen Zers have started using Instagram Stories as the latest tool for spreading political and cultural information in a format that’s easy on the eyes and simple to share.
Why it’s definitely not harmless: As some observers are pointing out, the vibrant and engaging appearance of these “story slides” have made them the perfect vector for misinformation and conspiracy theories to breed and multiply. Facebook and Twitter updated their policies to remove accounts linked to extremist groups, but that won’t necessarily stop the spread of this kind of content. Your teen has most likely been trained to consume media in a way that involves internalizing what they see and making it personal. When accounts they trust share “news” that’s actually not, it can be hard for them to disengage their personal feelings about who shared it from what was actually shared. Help your teens understand that just because someone they like posted something, that doesn’t make what was posted true.

Spotlight
Have you checked out our new book Engaging Your Teen’s World yet? After a little over a week it’s already #24 in Christian Family & Relationship on Amazon! Get practical help on setting boundaries with devices, and having crucial conversations about sexting, video games, gender, and so much more.

Jesus Tok

As we wrote a few weeks ago, Kanye West is everywhere these days. He’s making albums, running for President, signing clothing deals, and even creating cartoon characters. But apparently, the self-made man has a new vision: Jesus Tok. While watching TikTok videos with his daughter, Ye was “disturbed by a lot of the content” on the platform, but fascinated by the technology. He went on to say, “We pray we can collaborate with TikTok to make a Christian monitored version that feels safer for young children and the world in Jesus name.”

Critics were quick to point out that if Ye wants to rid the world of disturbing content, he might start by putting his own house in order. One pointed out how his wife Kim Kardashian continues to post sexually explicit content on her Instagram account. Another drew attention to Ye’s 2018 song “I Love It,” which includes the line, “You’re such a f***in ho, I love it.” Others responded by saying that that was just the old Kanye, and that now, in Christ, he is a new creation.

There are aspects of West’s vision for a cleaned up TikTok that we appreciate. We admire his desire to create safe spaces online for children, free from tempting content. Maybe for younger kids, this is the best answer; but simply redirecting the next generation to the “Jesus version” of content isn’t a sustainable long-term strategy. As they grow up, they also need to be shown what it means to be in the world, but not of it. They need to be offered a deeper vision for human flourishing than just the Christian version of whatever’s already on TikTok. Unfortunately, when Christian companies have tried this kind of thing in the past, the result has often only felt like a cheap knock-off.

So instead of taking the easy route with yet another Christian entertainment bubble that will one day burst, help your kids to love that which is good and hate that which is evil, equipping them to resist disturbing content on their own. Our goal as parents isn’t to permanently insulate our children from the world, it’s to train them up in the way they should go. We do this by preparing the child for the path, not preparing the path for the child.

For more on this, check out this podcast by our friend Tim Elmore, as he provides deeper insight into what it takes for parents to prepare Gen Z for the path of life!

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

Is This Really Good News? | August 14, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. WAP
What it is: Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion released a collab and corresponding music video that have stirred up a lot of controversy.
Why it’s contentious: The song is, well, vulgar (to say the least; “WAP” is an acronym we can’t repeat), and the video is worse. It first began making waves when people tweeted their frustration (language) that Kylie Jenner was in the video, but that soon turned into some men criticizing (language) the song’s outright sexuality. Pointing to a double standard between what’s acceptable for male hip hop artists and their female counterparts, many have jumped to the artists’ defense (including this equally vulgar op-ed from TeenVogue). All of this has brought the song to everyone’s attention, and young music fans may seek out the song or video out of curiosity. They need us to point them to the beautiful picture of sexuality God paints for both men and women in the Bible and dissect how this is not liberation, no matter what culture says.

2. Vaping = COVID?
What it is: A new study published in a peer-reviewed journal has found that young people who vape are five times more likely to contract the novel coronavirus.
Why it makes sense: The study looked at data from over 4,300 participants between the ages of 13 and 24, also finding that those who both vape and use traditional cigarettes are nearly seven times more likely to contract the virus and five times more likely to experience symptoms. Multiple factors could contribute to this increase: Vaping produces an aerosol, which is the primary form of transmission of the virus; one must touch their face when vaping; teens may still be sharing vaping devices; and the obvious fact that it damages the primary target of the coronavirus, the lungs. Though we’re in the middle of a pandemic that has upended many areas of our lives, it’s more important than ever to talk about the risks of vaping with our teens.

3. #InfluencerChallenge
What it is: Need a laugh? If your teen suddenly begins making “influencer” videos, watch out! The joke may be on you 🙂
Why it’s hilarious: This challenge (the hashtag has over 71 million views on TikTok at the time of writing) involves pretending to be an influencer filming a message on one’s phone in front of a friend or family member while actually recording their reactions with one’s camera flipped. One South African teen who participated has gone viral after sharing her family’s reaction, and her video highlights just how silly and fun it can be for the whole family. So if your kids haven’t already done this to you, considering trying it on them and capturing their reactions on film. It could be just the sort of laugh the whole family needs right now! Afterward, it may be fun to watch others’ videos of the challenge together.

Spotlight

Connecting with our teens has never been more difficult. Between social media, video games, streaming services, and new apps coming out daily, there have never been this many road blocks between us and amazing conversations with the next generation. We have the key to helping you unlock these conversations! Join us for our free 3-part series “The Path to Teen Connection,” in which we will show you how to tackle these distractions and give you the key to unlocking meaningful conversation with the next generation. Video 1 of this series goes live Tuesday, August 18th. Sign up for free today!

Is This Really Good News?

Christian TikTok sensation Cash Baker lost hundreds of thousands of followers and probably a few endorsement deals over a series of videos in which he spoke out against the LGBTQ+ community, called Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism false religions, and said his non-Christian friends and family might “burn in hell for all eternity.”

In one of the videos, he says, “I know it’s going to make a lot of people hate me for preaching the gospel. But guys, I’m just trying to preach the truth and what the Bible says, guys.” But is he preaching the whole Gospel or just his version of the gospel? Does that matter? What about Jesus’ strong command to never judge someone else? Or all the Scriptural warnings about pride and self-promotion? Or how about the biblical idea that others will know us by our love? Were Baker’s actions loving? Do they draw people toward or away from Jesus?

As Bill Henson puts it, “A gospel that excludes has no power to reach already banished persons.” The Gospel is a loving invitation into a transformational relationship with Jesus Christ, not a weapon used to exclude, judge, and condemn others. If Cash’s attempts at evangelism missed the mark, what can our teens learn from his desire to spread the Gospel to his platform of followers?

First, evangelism is about relationships, dialogue, and conversation, not power or coercion. It’s easy to lecture someone from afar; it’s a lot harder to enter into a long-term relationship in which both parties are “converted” to being more and more Christ-like. Often our evangelistic efforts can feel imperialistic when we try to force our views on others instead of entering into dialogue with them. So instead of speaking first, let’s teach our teens to listen instead. Maybe the Great Commission looks less like trying to force people to believe exactly the same way we do and more like sharing the love, grace, and compassion of Jesus with those with whom we might disagree. Otherwise, we all run the risk of sounding like clanging symbols.

One of the great challenges we face as parents is to encourage and equip our teens to share the Good News in a pluralistic world, while also helping them respect others who might hold radically different beliefs than they do. Help them see their task isn’t to save people (that’s God’s job), but rather their role as disciples is to be the hands, feet, voice, and heart of Christ to a world so desperate for healing and salvation. If you’d like help taking this conversation to the next level, check out our Conversation Kit on Evangelism!

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.

Lip-Sync Heaven | August 7, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. Lip-Sync Heaven
What it is: After rumors of a ban, President Trump gave TikTok 45 days to leave the U.S. or sell its U.S. operations (Microsoft jumped at the chance). Meanwhile, Instagram launched its copycat Reels, Snapchat announced its own copycat, and Triller (a similar app) topped the iOS App Store this week.
Why it matters: This just means that the teen-beloved lip-syncing video format is going nowhere. It’s safe to say the format has become not only the zeitgeist of this social media age, but also how young people express themselves. So while their preference may be to keep TikTok, they will seek out a new platform if TikTok does cease to exist. As parents, we need to expect that our teens’ and tweens’ desire to participate will only increase, making conversations about the pros and cons, the risks, how to stay safe, and how to represent Christ well even more paramount. (Check out our Parent Guides to TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram for help!)

2. Content Authenticity Initiative
What it is: Adobe released more details on its Content Authenticity Initiative, revealing it will be released on a limited basis by the end of the year.
Why it’s promising: Seeking to create more transparency around digital images, attribution, and manipulation, Adobe wants to create a universal metadata system that allows creators “to claim authorship and empower[s] consumers to assess whether what they are seeing is trustworthy.” They are currently partnering with Twitter, as well as in talks with other social media platforms to ensure widespread adoption of the system. It’s a step in the right direction for helping digital citizens figure out if what they’re looking at is authentic, has been altered or manipulated, and whether it can be believed. Talk to your teens about what they think this will change if it works. Will they utilize it to help them better recognize when a person has altered their body? Will it mitigate the threat of deepfake technology? Why or why not?

3. Seven Ways to Misery
What it is: Psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein illuminates seven harmful thought patterns that children and teens often default to.
Why they’re conquerable: The new school year is upon us, and whether your students will be learning digitally, in person, or some combination thereof, this year presents very unique challenges on top of all the usual ones. Trying to navigate the new technological and social unknowns is difficult enough and can easily take priority over dealing with emotional and mental health, leading to even more stress, anxiety, and burnout. But as Dr. Bernstein points out, it’s that much more important this year to help them recognize these distorted ways of thinking and offer them healthier perspectives and self-talk. Carve out 10 minutes to read his article and assess not only your students’ mindsets, but also your own. Then think about how to implement his suggestions as school starts.

Spotlight

Our brand new book, Engaging Your Teen’s World, is available for preorder! It unpacks principles for strengthening your relationship with your teen despite unique challenges presented by culture, media, and technology. The best part? If you buy the book today, you get 3 months of All Axis Pass membership completely free! Pick up your copy now.

Just Read

Sunday, August 9th is National Book Lovers Day! Research suggests reading can rewire your brain, building empathy, compassion, and a larger worldview. A great story invites you to see the world with a fresh set of lenses and can even change what you believe from a spiritual perspective. We often create a distinction between sacred and secular works of literature, but a proper understanding of the world helps us see that if a book is good, beautiful, and true, there is no reason why it cannot point us toward the divine.

When you find a book you not only love, but a book that changed your life, you want to share it with others. So we asked our staff to list the works of fiction that impacted their spiritual lives the most. Here’s a list of 10 books our staff recommends your teen read in order to expand their mind, open their heart, and cultivate their love for God and their understanding of the human condition.

For ages 13+, we recommend:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  4. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  5. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

For 16+, we recommend:

  1. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  2. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe
  3. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

For very mature young philosophers, we recommend:

  1. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

If your children read or have already read one of these books, ask them how the book changed their perspective of the world and their place in it. Which character did they identify with the most and why? One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a love of learning and a love of reading. Encourage them to grab one of these books in the final days before school starts and simply read something for fun, not because they have to.

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.

Getting into Good Trouble | July 31, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. Microsoft Family Safety
What it is: Microsoft launched its own screen-time-management software this week.
Why it’s different: Though initial reports seem to show it’s much like Apple’s Screen Time or Google’s Digital Wellbeing, it has one important feature: It syncs across platforms (Windows, iOS, and Android), as well as across devices including the Xbox. Both Xbox and Playstation have already offered some time-limiting controls, but this is the first time an app will sync between phones, computers, tablets, and a gaming console, making it easier for parents to monitor their children’s online activities, create content filters, and set the duration of their screen time. Of course, it’s not just a benevolent move since they’re hoping to get more people into and dependent on the Microsoft ecosystem—and ultimately push them to be Microsoft 365 subscribers—but it may be worth checking out whether the system is a good solution for your family.

2. Teenager Therapy
What it is: A podcast by teens for teens that has captured the attention of thousands of high schoolers across the U.S.
Why teens like it: Started by five teenagers in 2018, the episodes consist of them simply relating their experiences, offering advice, or just talking about “anything in order to keep our audience company.” Glancing through the list of 94 episodes reveals no topic is off limits—they’ve covered everything from being a foster kid to productivity to sexuality and everything in between. Especially during the pandemic, teens have turned to them for comfort, for advice, and even as someone to turn to when they feel they have no one else. It might be worth listening to a few episodes as a way to gauge what your teen might be interested in, as well as how to approach and talk about those topics (or even assess what gaps you might need to fill in or bad ideas you might need to correct for your teens).

3. TikTok Pregnancy
What it is: A 17-year-old girl who found out she was pregnant chose to keep her baby.
Why she chose life: The story went viral this week after her mom made a TikTok explaining how she found a pregnancy test wrapper on the bathroom floor and immediately but calmly talked to her daughter about it. Once the pregnancy was confirmed, she told her daughter that her three options were abortion, adoption, or to keep the baby, then let her daughter ask questions and weigh all the pros and cons. The daughter ultimately chose to keep the baby, saying, “I felt that keeping the baby was the right choice for me, knowing how supportive my family is, especially my mom.” Though Axis is deeply saddened that abortion was one of the options she provided, we do think this shows how the mom’s decision not to react out of fear or condemnation, to be supportive, and to speak life to her ultimately helped her daughter choose life also. (Check out our blog for a more in-depth analysis!)

Spotlight

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Getting into Good Trouble

Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis was laid to rest in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the early 1960s, Lewis became a leader in the fight to end segregation in the American South. He was a Freedom Rider, he spoke at the now famous 1963 March on Washington, and he courageously led the “Bloody Sunday” march in Alabama. But more than anything, it was Lewis’ faith in a loving God that motivated him to work for racial reconciliation.

In confronting the evils of systemic racism, he once wrote, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” And though his courage and determination to end injustice led to his arrest 45 times, he was also known for his mercy as he publicly forgave and even became friends with a former KKK member who had beaten Lewis nearly to death in 1961. As former president Bill Clinton said at his funeral, “When he could have been angry and determined to cancel his adversaries, he tried to get converts instead. He thought the open hand was better than the clenched fist.” And we needn’t agree with everything Lewis stood for to appreciate his lasting legacy.

Odds are, most teens probably don’t know much about Congressman Lewis. But maybe that needs to change. In a time of partisan polarity and rising hatred toward the “other,” Lewis’ legacy of creating converts instead of participating in “cancel” culture lives on.

Our children will have their own battles to fight. They have within their power the ability to create lasting cultural change. In Lewis’ words, “Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year…Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part.” As parents, what part are we playing to help them fight evil and injustice without becoming evil and unjust themselves? How are we training them to live out their faith by speaking truth, loving justice, and joining God in the renewal of all things? What part can we all play in making America a good, kind, righteous, compassionate, merciful, and equal nation under God with liberty and justice for all?

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.

“You’re voting for WHO????” | July 24, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. Another Strike Against Body Image
What it is: This week, both NBC News and Rolling Stone (language) report that dieting and weight loss trends on TikTok are having a harmful effect on young women’s body image, sometimes even triggering disordered exercise and eating.
Why it’s not surprising: Though teens have flocked to TikTok because of how different and fun it felt compared to politics-ridden Facebook or overly polished Instagram, it’s still a social media platform that relies heavily on content made by teens. And as we’ve seen with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even smaller social platforms, young people’s insecurities and temptations always find their way into social media. So even if Gen Z is more socially aware than previous generations of teens, they’re still going through the same developmental stages that all adolescents go through. More than a cause for alarm, this is a reminder that we need to join the conversation culture is having with them about beauty, self-worth, and body image. (Check out our Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders for help with this!)

2. Reels
What it is: Instagram has confirmed that it will release its TikTok-copycat feature, Reels, early next month.
Why it’s the future: Like TikTok, the feature will allow users to post 15-second videos that can be set to music or other audio. Users can create these videos the same way they create Stories, but there will also be a new tab at the bottom for viewing them in a feed. Since TikTok may be banned, possibly within the next few weeks, the company is hurrying to release the feature in order to capture TikTok’s users as they look for a new outlet. But, as TechCrunch reports, Snapchat, YouTube, Byte, Dubsmash, and others are all testing similar features in the hopes of grabbing some of the market. No matter what happens, it’s clear this format has taken hold and will be coming to your teen’s phone in one way or another very soon.

3. Creating Normalcy in Uncertain Times
What it is: Recognizing the rise in anxiety and even fear over the last few months, Ana Homayoun, author of Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, offers five ways to help teens feel seen and heard during these uncertain times.
Why they’re helpful: Regardless of our leanings, all of the uncertainty caused by a global pandemic, school closures, physical distancing, police violence, protests, riots, political squabbling, and much more can be overwhelming, confusing, and hard to navigate for anyone, but perhaps even more so for teenagers. They still need to be developing a sense of autonomy, learning new skills, and connecting socially. And though all of this will look different right now, it’s not impossible. Take a few minutes to read through her tips, then brainstorm how you can adapt them to fit your family, school, or youth group.

Spotlight

Have you read the Axis Blog yet? Check it out here for more free weekly insight into your teen’s world!

You’re Voting for WHO????

Most of us grew up with the understanding that there are three things we should never talk about in public: politics, religion, and money. But then 2020 came along, and everything turned political. Red and blue lines are drawn around every subject, from wearing a mask to gun ownership to going back to school to healthcare. It seems no matter where you turn, most conversations end up being political these days.

Making matters more complicated, Gen Z is far more likely than previous generations to hold different political opinions than their parents. Raised with a heightened awareness of social justice issues like school shootings and racial injustice, the next generation is more diverse, pluralistic, and willing to embrace a more progressive attitude toward public life. In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Gen Z reported their “disapproval” of President Trump. And unlike their parents, who still primarily trust traditional news outlets for their daily dose of political insight, 68% of Gen Z say they use social media platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube as their go-to places for news.

As parents, it might be tempting to dismiss our teens’ political views based on their lack of life-experience or their apparent naivety. We might even feel the urge to control their beliefs. But that would be a mistake. If we are easily agitated because they aren’t conforming to our way of seeing the world, we must ask ourselves why. Is it because we’re afraid? Or do we struggle to be in relationship with people who don’t believe the same things we do? Whatever the reason, be encouraged that there are many other parents in this situation. If you and your teen are butting political heads, we strongly recommend reading Angela Hatem’s article, “How to Parent a Teenager Who Has Different Political Views.”

And keep in mind that our job as parents isn’t to indoctrinate our children; it’s to educate them. It’s easy to tell them what to think, but it’s a lot harder to train them how to think. As awkward as it might be, help them foster their own independent ideas and critical thinking skills, while modeling the practice of interpreting all inclinations through the lens of the Gospel and inviting them to do the same. Then do your best to put into practice some of the suggestions from Hatem’s article. It could be that in our increasingly hostile culture, one of the best life skills you ever teach your child is how to live in harmony with someone with whom they strongly disagree.

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 We a People of Hope? | July 17, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. The New Fake ID
What it is: Coronavirus masks are creating new opportunities for teenagers…to score booze, that is.
Why it’s a temptation: Teens are posting TikToks of themselves dressing up as grandmas, then covering their faces with coronavirus masks and heading to liquor stores to purchase alcohol. Many attempts have been successful, with some even noting that they weren’t ever asked to show ID but rather if they needed help carrying their purchases. Teens who hear about the trend (and they will even if they’re not on TikTok, since the videos are typically shared on other platforms, too) will want to join in, partially because they might get alcohol, but perhaps an even bigger draw is the fact that it’s a chance to do what everyone else is doing and possibly go viral. So if they suddenly take an interest in costumes, this may be why.

2. Call Me by Your Name
What it is: Over the weekend, Lil Nas X took to Twitter to tease a track (language) from his upcoming album, and it’s a vast lyrical departure from “Old Town Road.”
Why it will require conversation: The tweet consists of a 38-second video of himself singing along to a snippet of the track, with lyrics that are graphic and explicit. Considering them, along with the possible inspiration for the name of the song (the 2017 film about a romance between a 17-year-old boy and his father’s older male research assistant), as well as Nas’s own LGBTQ+ identification (language) and desire to use his art (language) for LGBTQ+ advocacy, it’s clear this track and album will have a message. It will require lots of calm, thoughtful guidance from parents and other caring adults, especially for teens (or even elementary-aged children) who are big fans of Nas. As you begin thinking about how to broach the subject, keep in mind that tackling LGTBQ+ topics rashly or harshly could alienate teens who either have LGBTQ+ friends or are questioning their own sexuality. (Check out our Parent’s Guide to LGBTQ+ & Your Teen for more on this.)

3. Roblox Brings Us Together?
What it is: In an effort to see how the pandemic has affected teens’ online behavior, gaming platform Roblox conducted a survey and found that though they’re spending more time online, they’re often spending that time having conversations with their real-life friends.
Why it’s good news: They found that 52% of the 2,926 13- to 18-year-olds surveyed spend the same amount of or more time with IRL friends on Roblox, voice or chat apps, and other gaming platforms. 40% even said that they had improved their online friendships since the start of physical distancing protocols. Perhaps even more enlightening is the fact that 30% of these teens said their parents are showing more interest in their online lives, including playing the game with them, something that an earlier survey found that 68% of teens wished they would do. Of course, the survey was conducted by Roblox—a for-profit corporation—and it consisted only of current Roblox users, so the data may not hold true across all platforms and communities. But it does remind us that our kids still need social interaction and that taking an interest in our kids’ interests can go a long way toward building camaraderie and trust.

Spotlight

It’s officially Christmas in July here at Axis! What does that mean for you? Every All Axis Pass purchased this month comes with a FREE copy of our book Smartphone Sanity! Join the Axis community and start building amazing relationships with the next generation today.

I Hope

Experts warn a second surge of COVID-19 deaths are imminent. Racial tensions continue to dominate the news cycle. Economic insecurity is trickling down into every sphere of life. It seems everything these days is up for grabs. Despair, darkness, and depression are dominating the cultural landscape and our interior lives. And yet, as followers of Christ, we are called to be people of hope in a hurting world, which, in hard times like these can only seem like “foolishness to the Greeks.” But is it?

If there is one lasting legacy you can leave with your children during this kairos moment in their lives, it might be this: We are a people of hope. But hope and good old-fashioned optimism are radically different things. While optimism is focused on a good future outcome or a pleasant change in our current circumstances, hope is a quiet confidence in the present based on what God in Christ has done in the past. As long-time missionary and theologian Leslie Newbigin once wrote, “I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.” Amen to that.

For Newbigin and for us, hope is defiance in the face of fear. It is the often courageous task of staring reality in the face and still claiming that though evil, suffering, and death remain, they have already been defeated. Hope is standing in the valley of dry bones and daring to believe God will breathe life into them once again. Hope is mustering the courage to go to the tomb in the early hours before dawn, just in case. Hope is living as resurrection people in a dying world. Hope is joining God right here and right now in the renewal of all things. If Hell is hopelessness, then maybe a little bit of heaven is the realization that all over this tired old world, “hope springs eternal.”

In the poetic words of Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Sometime this weekend, carve out 30 minutes or so to start a conversation with your kids about hope. Where do they see signs of hope in the world? How can they embody hope to friends and family living in despair? Why is hope so much more powerful than optimism? And if you feel so inclined, please share those stories with us! We all need a little pick-me-up these days. Simply email us at support@axis.org to share your stories of hope with our team.

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.

TikTok May Be on the Clock | July 10, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. Whats Poppin
What it is: Out of seemingly nowhere, a new rap artist named Jack Harlow has reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a remix of his song “Whats Poppin.”
Why it’s problematic: Despite how it seems, his success isn’t inexplicable. The 22-year-old’s track and music video first dropped in January (language) and eventually became the background music for many different TikTok trends (like this Glo-Up trend). Little by little, the song worked its way up the charts, but the release of a remix featuring DaBaby (who currently has the number 1 song), Tory Lanez, and Lil Wayne on June 24 gave it the jump it needed. Like similar songs, a quick run-through of the lyrics (language) reveals the track is full of vulgarities, mainly focusing on how he has “options” and can get any woman he wants. Though TikTok has changed the way teens listen to music (sometimes only in snippets long enough for TikTok videos), it’s important to continue talking to them about how what they listen to affects them.

2. TikTokalypse
What it is: After U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview this week that the government is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps like TikTok due to privacy concerns, fans of the app reacted by calling it the “TikTokalypse.”
Why it could cause a teen revolt: If this happens, the U.S. wouldn’t be the first country to impose bans on Chinese apps (India did so last month, despite being the app’s largest market outside of China), but it is possible that American teens will not take the ban well. With 69% of users being between the ages of 13 and 24 and with 4- to 15-year-olds spending an astounding 80 minutes per day on the app, it’s clear that American youth love the app and will be very upset if it’s banned. But make no mistake, a ban will leave an opening for other companies to create their own copycat apps, so you can be sure young people will be turning to them to fill the void.

3. Our Kids Online
What it is: A documentary filmed by parents who wanted to show the difficulty of navigating handheld devices, as well as offer practical, helpful ways to keep children safer online.
Why it’s worth every penny: A virtual screening of the 1.5-hour film will be hosted by START (Stand Together And Rethink Technology) on July 30 at 6:30p Mountain Time, during which the filmmakers and other experts will be available to answer questions and provide solutions to particular problems. If you have kids, tweens, or teens who are online or have access to tablets, phones, computers, or even gaming consoles, you will find this documentary extremely helpful. Consider joining the live screening for $10 (or for free if you share the screening on social media!).

Spotlight
After receiving a resoundingly positive response to the last two months of our webinar series, we are excited to announce that we will be hosting 6 new webinars in July! We will be tackling topics like sexuality, video games, and how we parents, church leaders, and school leaders can help disciple the next generation to lifelong faith in Jesus. We hope you’ll join us!

Safety School

Every smart student has a back-up plan when it comes to the college selection process. Sure, your teen’s dream might be to attend Yale, Duke, or Harvard, but high costs and even higher admissions standards might force them to ultimately choose a more realistic option. Enter the “safety school.” A safety school is a college or university that your child is almost assuredly going to be accepted into based on their test scores and GPA. Frankly, if all else fails, they can always attend this next best school.

But COVID-19 has turned the entire college and university selection process on its head. Quarantines have prevented many students from taking standardized tests, 60% of rising seniors say they haven’t been able to visit their school of choice, and 23% of students report they haven’t been able to save money for college because their part-time jobs were furloughed. Adding to the uncertainty, universities themselves have been hit hard by the global pandemic due to the financial fallout from canceled sporting events. Even endowment-rich Stanford University recently announced it will shut down 11 varsity sports for the coming school year due to financial concerns. And once schools do reopen, fears of COVID clusters spiking once students return to campus is a lived reality for administrators, parents, and students alike.

So as you and your teen research next steps when it comes to higher education, what is your back-up plan? Have you sat down as a family and created contingency plans in case that scholarship isn’t awarded or that campus isn’t open? And if schools limit in-seat courses and force students to attend online classes only, how will you help them replace the social and communal benefits of campus life? Most students gain more than a degree if they go off to college: They learn how to manage their newfound freedom, their worldview is broadened by mixing with a wide range of students and professors, and they learn basic life skills like time management. Regardless of your children’s ages, starting conversations with them now about their future educational expectations is one of the most critical things you can do to prepare them for the next step in their life’s journey.

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 to Pray by Coach K | July 3, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. Kanye’s Big Week
What it is: Producer, rapper, and fashion-designer-turned-Christian Kanye West seems to have his hands on all things pop culture these days, with a new net worth over $1.3 billion.
Why it’s a mixed bag: Just this week, West dropped “Wash Us in the Blood” with Travis Scott, inked an apparel deal with the Gap, and teased a new children’s cartoon with Kid Cudi. West is an enigmatic icon despite the breadth of his talent and his relentless desire to create, innovate, and make a name for himself. But where do you draw the line between entrepreneurial genius and megalomania, between admirable old-school hustle and shameless self-promotion? West once called himself, “The greatest artist that God has ever created.” We admire Kanye’s pursuit of excellence, but as Christian parents, help your kids realize the path to true greatness is actually counterintuitive. It’s not about becoming more, but choosing less. As Jesus reminds all of us, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.”

2. Hamilton Comes Home
What it is: After conquering Broadway, Hamilton hits the small screen on July 3.
Why it’s perfect timing: The film production of the critically acclaimed theatrical hit is being released on Disney+, complete with the original cast starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. This screen version will give viewers who could never see the show on Broadway their first glimpse of this riveting historical tale. If your teens struggle to appreciate history because it has been taught as an endless procession of dry dates and boring facts, watch Hamilton this weekend to be reminded that history is in fact a story filled with unique individuals whose personal flaws and heroics have shaped the nation we are today. And as you watch, notice how the writers turned boring conversations about politics into engaging, personal plot lines centered on a compelling story. As you start conversations with your kids about everything from sexuality, history, and politics, how can you do likewise? Learn to incorporate the art of telling a great story as you train up your children in the way they should go.

3. Kids, Race, and Unity
What it is: Alicia Keys hosted a star-studded cast of future leaders and influencers on Nickelodeon to help the next generation break the cycle of racial injustice.
Why it’s worth watching: Talking with younger children about race is difficult, especially if they are young and innocent enough not to even notice racial issues. But it is never too early to create safe spaces to discuss racism. If your children are wondering why people are marching, why our Black brothers and sisters are so angry, and what to do about it all, watch the special on YouTube. Children often feel like they are too young to make a difference, or simply don’t know where to start in helping to tackle such a huge problem. This special will help them with the practical steps they can take to end injustice in their sphere of influence.

Spotlight

How do I talk to my teens about racism? What does the Bible say about racism? In what ways do the roots of U.S. history still affect us today? How should we address this complex issue as Christians? Our brand new Parent’s Guide to Racism in the US will help you begin to navigate these questions with your teens.

Coach K’s Prayer

One of the hallmarks of spiritual maturity is humility and understanding that the more we know, the more we truly do not know. As we grow in wisdom and stature before God, we realize the way we see things may not be the way others see them. Our world is not the world. What we experience isn’t what other people experience. If you’ve never dealt with systemic racism, police injustice, or bigotry, it’s often hard to accept that these issues are a lived reality for so many of our fellow citizens. Unfortunately, our privilege often blinds us to others’ suffering.

As author Kevin Patterson writes, “The thing that makes systemic oppression so difficult to discuss is that when you do, you have to acknowledge your role in it. Often this means having to admit that you’re part of the problem. It’s not a comfortable experience when you learn that you further or benefit from the oppression of others.” That’s why, now more than ever, it is time to listen, to learn, and to respond with sincere humility to the problem plaguing our nation.

One such example came this past week when Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski released a powerful message in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As the most prominent person at prestigious Duke University, as well as the most recognized coach in college basketball, when Coach K speaks, people listen. In the video he humbly admits, “Over the last couple months, I have had the opportunity to see more, to listen more, to think more, and to understand at a deeper level.” The question is, have we?

If you are still struggling to see systemic racism and social injustice, watch this impassioned plea by Coach K as he asks our nation to pray this simple prayer: “Lord, help me choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.” Amen.

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.

Gen Z Is Speaking (or Singing) Loud and Clear | June 26, 2020


Three Things This Week

1. #BullyMillennials
What it is: Gen Z has a new target, and this time (language) it’s people much closer to their age: Millennials.
Why it’s nuanced: Tired of older people lumping them in with the generation just before them, Gen Zers are making it clear that not all young people are the same. As BuzzFeed News points out (language), “Gen Z sees millennials as a generation too willing to define [them]selves by [their] interests and identities. That comes through in a loyalty to brands, or ‘90s nostalgia, or political figures, rather than movements, philosophies, or ideals.” A 20-year-old TikTok star they interviewed explained that more than making fun of Millennials, it’s about making fun of Millennials’ ways of coping with the raw deal both generations believe they’ve inherited: “Because we grew up with this lack of hope…we’ve learned to accept and make a joke out of it.” For those struggling to fully understand their Gen Zers, a few minutes researching the movement and asking for their perspective on it could be enlightening.

2. This Week in Gaming
What it is: Despite the E3 Expo, video games’ largest conference at which developers often reveal big updates and releases, being canceled due to coronavirus concerns, the world of gaming is not on pause.
What to know: First, Minecraft released its Nether update this week, expanding the underworld and giving players new challenges, foes, and a new reason to log on. Second, in an attempt to be “sensitive about the issues” gamers are dealing with, Fortnitehas removed all police vehicles from the game. In addition, they’re adding tons of new features, hosting more concerts, and they will be hosting movie nights on Party Royale Island starting Friday (June 26). And finally, ICYMI, Mixer, Microsoft’s Twitch competitor, will be no more as of July 22. Instead, they will be partnering with Facebook Gaming (also a Twitch competitor) in an effort to compete with Twitch, as well as to make their new xCloud streaming service as successful as possible.

3. “I Just Wanna Live”
What it is: 12-year-old Keedron Bryant recently signed a deal with Warner Records after going viral in late May on social media for his song “I Just Wanna Live.”
Why it’s powerful: The song, which was performed by Bryant but written by his mother Johnnetta, was written in response to the killing of George Floyd and paints a picture of the life Keedron lives as an African American male in today’s racial climate. After his original Instagram post received over 3 million views and gained attention from figures such as Barack Obama, Lebron James, and Lupita Nyong’o, Bryant signed the deal and released a full studio version of the track, donating all proceeds to the NAACP. While it may seem crazy that a 12-year-old can sign a deal with a major music label because of one video, it shows that today’s young voices are wanting to be heard and that people are willing to listen. It’s heartbreaking to read such intense lyrics and know that they are coming from the mouth of a 12-year-old boy, but it’s important to see how seriously Gen Z is taking the issue of racism in our country.

Spotlight

“I’m bored!” We have all heard that phrase more times than we want to count, but it’s likely you’ve heard it even more recently. Check out our new Parent’s Guide to Boredom as we help you face this issue with a fresh perspective.

Summer Streaming

The three most populous states (Texas, California, and Florida) recorded outbreaks in Coronavirus cases this week, leading many experts to warn of “apocalyptic” surges in the virus. In California, COVID-19 is spreading through private home gatherings, and suddenly more young people are testing positive. If these trends continue, the U.S. is well on its way to a second round of stay-at-home orders. Instead of pool parties and sleepovers, your teen’s summer might be filled by streaming the latest, if not greatest, shows on Netflix. Here are six shows sure to capture their attention as the summer doldrums set in.

  1. Outer Banks: Set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, this cringe-worthy mash-up of Dawson’s Creek and The Goonies isn’t going to win any Emmys, but that won’t stop teens from bingeing it. The show depicts a crew of working-class teens searching for an ancient, shipwrecked treasure on the sun-soaked coast.
  2. Legacies: The second spin-off from The Vampire Diaries focuses on Hope Mikaelson, a werewolf-witch-vampire hybrid that battles monsters all while growing up, falling in love, and dealing with acne. You know, just normal, everyday teenager things.
  3. Blood and Water: Already on Netflix’s top 10 most-streamed shows in the U.S., France, and the U.K., this mysterious drama follows a crew of scheming teens in a wealthy South African prep school as they seek the real connection between two rival classmates. Timely conversations about race, human trafficking, and class privilege make this show especially poignant this summer.
  4. The Inbetweeners: Although this raunchy British sitcom released in the U.K. several years ago, it’s finding a new audience among American teens, thanks to Netflix. A painful take on toxic teen masculinity and sexual insecurities, the show is a comedic attempt to highlight high school issues like binge-drinking, skipping school, and bullying.
  5. The Kissing Booth (season 2): Releasing on July 24, Elle Evans juggles her long-distance relationship with bad boyfriend Noah (played by Jacob Elordi) as he heads off to Harvard in this romantic sequel to the wildly popular teen drama. Although it is rated TV-14, scenes of sexual assault and sexuality highlight this story of a young girl’s first taste of love. Accordingly, the mantra that romantic love is synonymous with sexual expression is the key theme most teens will learn from this series.
  6. Warrior Nun: Inspired by the Areala manga novels, this ten episode supernatural series hits Netflix July 2 and centers on an orphaned teen girl who wakes up in a morgue with superpowers, only to be recruited into an elite society of demon-fighting nuns.

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.