Vol. 5 Issue 42 | October 18, 2019

Vol. 5 Issue 42 | October 18, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. Fortnite: “The End” was just the beginning.

What it is: Earlier this week, Fortnite brought its two-year storyline, “Chapter One” to a close in dramatic fashion. Millions of gamers watched live as the fictional island where Fortnite takes place was sucked into a virtual black hole. This black hole remained the only view of the game that players had for over 36 hours, after which a rebooted version of the island, packed with new features, reappeared on screens.

Why it’s more than a little bit brilliant: The folks at Epic Games continue to find ways to reinvent Fortnite. They seem to have a powerful intuition for when the game is growing stale, and changing course before players get bored. Unexpected twists like the game going dark for two days aren’t just wrinkles in gameplay that put Fortnite above the competition of other battle royale style games. This “black hole” was a group experience that players were and will continue to talk about for weeks to come, and it invites longtime players into conversation with gamers who are just becoming old enough to become interested in the game, ensuring that a new generation of Fortnite lovers is always being born. You can remind your teen that Fortnite is owned by a company that’s interested in keeping as many eyes on it as possible, and talk through new features they’re excited about through the lens of what gives the game such powerful longevity.

2. The brands finally understand TikTok.

What it is: TikTok has gotten an infusion of “serious” press coverage lately. The Washington Post has hired a reporter just to cover TikTok, and the entire New York Times culture team devoted their weekend coverage to a TikTok immersion experiment. So perhaps it should be no surprise that brands are finally showing a strong presence over the video clip sharing app. As Vox reports, the Elf makeup brand beloved by teenagers is a perfect example of the companies that are perfecting the art of advertising on TikTok, having manufactured a piece of music that has been viewed over 1 billion times since late September.

Why it could mean TikTok is done for: TikTok has been lauded as a “return to Internet innocence” by tech observers. It focuses less on the curated “best” life of Instagram and instead emphasizes on-the-spot creativity, laughter, and “reality.” Teens love it in part because it’s a place they aren’t being aggressively marketed to. Marketing companies creating TikTok strategy teams goes against the whole point of TikTok. If advertising starts to make up a big chunk of TikTok’s content, teens will get turned off and turn to other entertainment alternatives. Just like most high school trends, once the adults in the room catch on to TikTok, it quickly loses much of its appeal.

3. The debate over facial recognition tech in schools is only getting more complicated.

What it is: More schools than ever are using facial recognition technology to identify potential threats and stop tragedy before it happens. These technologies are costly and require constant maintenance, as well as people whose job it is to monitor them. It appears, though, that it won’t be long before this tech is streamlined and becomes the standard in most high schools.

Why it’s more than just a preventative measure: Parents and administrators are in a tricky spot when it comes to navigating the ethics of surveillance tech. On the one hand, it’s easy to conclude that any technology that can prevent tragedy and violence on a school campus is a no-brainer. But the wrinkle here is that school administrators aren’t just using the tech for emergencies, and are beginning to use it to enforce school policies and catch rule-breakers for small infractions. Today’s teens are used to the idea that everything they post online is being recorded somewhere and could be used against them, but the concept of constant surveillance while they are in high school takes that “Big Brother” ideology to the next level. It’s important to keep the conversation lines open with your teen about how being watched can translate to being controlled, and if they feel like the administration at their high school has respect for them as a person with autonomy.

Resource Spotlight: Are you on the path to connection with your teen? Watch these three free videos that address common questions and concerns from parents just like you. They’ll be gone after October 24, so don’t wait! 

The Loneliest Cool Girls in the World

For Gen Z, staying home is the new going out. Young women, especially, are finding that staying home and documenting that “homebody” personal online can generate a certain kind of social capital amongst their peers. Teens don’t have to actually go anywhere to be considered popular anymore. They don’t have to jockey for invites or pack their schedules full of events. They can share a selfie taken in their bedroom mirror, spend weekend nights chatting in the group thread on WhatsApp, and still experience what passes for a “social life.”

Opting out of high school activities like football games and school dances might have meant you were as good as socially invisible in previous generations. Not so for Gen Z. The experts studying this phenomenon claim that “staying in” has become so cool that some teens pretend to stay home more than they actually do. They place a tongue-in-cheek emphasis on what a “loser” they are, which implies a disaffection for being cool and a lack of need for outside validation. By not needing this validation, they subvert the power structure of the high school “popularity contest.” Ironically, by refusing to play, they win. Well, sort of.

As parents, it’s a comforting feeling to have our kids close. So when teens opt out of extracurriculars, it’s tempting to want to embrace it. After all, why push them to get out of the house more when before we know it, their time living under our roof is going to come to an end? On the flip side, the more teens stay home during the high school years, the less practice they have at actual socialization with their peers.

If your child is naturally inclined to life as a #homebody, that’s one thing. But staying home on purpose to create an illusion of “not caring” about what goes on outside of those four walls is quite another thing. Anxiety and depression can tag along with social isolation. Especially for girls, there is pressure to present as a “brand” of human being. What young women might not realize is that the preferred brand of person is one who is sheltered, naive, and constantly available. That kind of girl might fulfill the idea of an older male’s fantasy for all the wrong reasons.

Talk to your teen about what a healthy social schedule outside of mandatory or school-related activities should look like. Make it an open conversation about the generation gap between the two of you. As you seek to understand how your teen feels about the outside world, make sure you’re not projecting it as a scary and unwelcoming place.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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