Vol. 5 Issue 17 | April 26, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. We Love the Earth

What it is: To celebrate “Earth Day,” Lil Dickey, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Ariana Grande released a climate change song and CGI video that already has over 44 million views on YouTube.

Why it’s time to change the conversation: Aiming to be this generation’s “We Are The World,” the video misses the mark with crass lyrics and sophomoric humor (warning: language). Whether it’s Lil Dickey or the Extinction Rebellion, it’s tempting to dismiss the environmental conversation based on its loudest voices, but that would be a mistake. What if Christians joined the conversation? How would it change? As believers, we’re called to care for God’s good creation, to steward her limited resources, and join God in the renewal of all things. “One cannot fully worship the Creator and at the same time destroy His creation.” Help your teens navigate this divisive conversation not by worshipping the earth, but by worshipping the creator through their care of His beautiful creation.

2. Summer Blockbusters

What it is: Rising temperatures and the end of school can mean only one thing, blockbuster movie season is coming.

Why it’s same ol’, same ol’: Hollywood has a well-worn formula for luring students to theaters during summer break: larger-than-life franchises (Avengers: EndGame and SpiderMan 5), spinoffs (Men In Black: International), and remakes (Toy Story 4 and The Lion King). And while these movies are visually entertaining, they often lack vibrant, transformative storytelling that surprises, confronts, and convicts audiences. “Entertainment gives you a predictable pleasure…art leads to transformation.” Thankfully, the film industry doesn’t live by blockbusters alone. This summer, encourage your teens to catch smaller indie films like Gaza or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind that might break their heart and change how they see the world.

3. Beyonce’s Homecoming

What it is: Queen Bey recently released two major projects with a double-length live album and a new Netflix documentary highlighting her headlining performance at last year’s Coachella Music Festival.

Why everyone loves her: Both projects are called Homecoming, but the documentary provides an “intimate, in-depth look” at the eight-month-long process that made her two-night Coachella concert seem so perfect. Mixed in with the messages of female empowerment (warning: strong language) and black cultural exposure is a peek into Beyonce’s struggle to balance motherhood and work, long hours of practice and peak performance. In some circles, Beyonce is almost worshipped as a goddess. If your daughter watched the documentary, what did she think? Why is Beyonce so inspirational to teens and moms alike? Are we seeing the real Beyonce or is this all just perfectly staged?

Bonus! Resource Spotlight: Did you know anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues impacting teens today? The drive to be perfect, sports, home-work, social media, college-prep, and relationships can all be a burden too heavy for our kids to bear. To help them manage all the things, our team just released a documentary on anxiety designed specifically for you to watch with your teen. Watch the free preview today, it’s incredible.

It’s Sunday, But Monday Is Coming…

On Sunday morning, Christians throughout the world gathered to celebrate the Risen Savior and His defeat of the powers and principalities of darkness and death. At the same time, hundreds of Christian worshippers in Sri Lanka were murdered in their pews by suicide bombs. The juxtaposition was startling. How do we proclaim Jesus is Lord in a world still filled with so much evil? If Easter was God’s grand announcement that everything’s going to be ok, why are we still so afraid? When we read the Easter story, it appears we’re in good company.

In the early dawn that first Easter Sunday, the disciples are hiding behind locked doors in fear. The women, the only ones brave enough to go to the tomb, approach in the cover of darkness out of fear “because the one who they ventured to visit had been executed by the state,” and maybe they were next. Upon looking into the tomb they saw an angel in white and became even more afraid. In fact the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel has the story ending with the women fleeing the tomb trembling and bewildered, saying nothing to anyone because they were terrified. It’s Easter morning, and everyone’s afraid.

2,000 years later, there’s still a lot to be afraid of. Our children are growing up in the age of anxiety. The same evil powers that put Jesus to death continue to haunt every human heart. But we are Easter people living not only in the old age of anxiety, but in the new age of resurrection. Those opening words from both the angel and Jesus that first Easter morning reverberate through the ages to us today: “Do not be afraid.” But terrorism still exists. Do not be afraid. There are wars and rumors of wars. Do not be afraid. The environment is in peril. Do not be afraid. Racism and militant nationalism are on the rise. Do not be afraid. My daughter is learning to drive. Do not be afraid.

Easter isn’t permission to pretend for one day that everything is fine. Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t remove us from the pain of this world, but it does defy it. Easter gives us the courage to face our fears knowing God has an answer. There’s still plenty of things to fear, but we need not be afraid. Living in the age of resurrection reminds us that God has an answer to all our pain, all our sorrow, all our anxiety, and all our fears. “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”Jesus is alive and on the move. Death and darkness, you better be afraid. Where now is your sting?

10 PREMIUM INSIGHTS

A broader look at the world that teens inhabit.
Skim our summary or click the links to read more.
Engage your teens in conversation about their world.

They said it best:

“Consider the possibility that a creature of infinite love has made a promise to us. Consider the possibility that we are the ones committed to, the objects of an infinite commitment, and that the commitment is to redeem us and bring us home. That is why religion is hope.”

David Brooks, from The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

Technology

Apps/Websites

1. Next time your teen pushes back on putting down their device at dinner, show them this freaky video of a monkey using social media. As The Outline’s Casey Johnston points out, probably nothing is as sobering as this chimpanzee looking at Instagram. The chimp scrolls, selects, absorbs what he sees, and continues scrolling. It’s reminiscent of how even toddlers and babies seem to intuitively grasp the way our tech works, and how much time of their lives will be spent on devices, even though we don’t know yet how that plays out on their brain development. It makes us never want to look at Instagram again! Well, maybe just one more time…

2. Speaking of tech addictions, the man who has been called the conscience of Silicon Valley is working to combat what he calls the “human downgrading” caused by apps and devices. A former Google employee, Tristan Harris has co-founded a think tank called the Center for Humane Technology, which aims to “dismantle” the things about our tech that distract and unmoor us from reality. It’s a nice concept, but it’s also easy to be cynical about the idea of a person who worked to create this digital morasse switching sides. We should be talking to our kids about what they think about tech ethics, especially because it seems more and more likely that they are our only hope to having a better sense of technology’s role in our physical lives.

Pop Culture

Film/TV/Streaming

3. Avengers: Endgame’s opening weekend is upon us, and it might be the only thing that your teen and their friends are talking about this weekend. As this chapter of Marvel’s decade-spanning story of interstellar fight scenes and CGI villains comes to a close, you might enjoy talking with your teen about what society deems “heroic” versus what kinds of character traits are most valuable. Or you could share a laugh about how fixated the entire country is on a film starring a talking raccoon and a gamma-irradiated mutating scientist. None of this is real—and yet it feels so important.

Social Media

4. For years, Instagram influencers racked up their follower counts by seeking out a very specific aesthetic in their photos. Clean lines, white space, and ultra-bright light dominated the app’s square grid displays. But as the majority of IG users wake up to the unreality of these clearly staged, “curated authentic” slices of life, the tide is receding and trends are tipping in the other direction. The Atlantic’s Taylor Lorenz observed this week that the Instagram aesthetic is over. But that doesn’t mean your teen will be relieved of their FOMO. In its place is a different aspiration: to appear even less “try-hard,” more “natural,” less posed and yet, still perfect. Instagram beauty standards are still a game no one can win. Take a moment this week to remind your teen that there’s no trend, no filter, and no photography angle that will make them more loved by the people who matter.

Trending/Memes

5. If you see your teen and their friends running at each other full-speed with their chins pointed forward, don’t be alarmed. Something called the “chin-in-hand” meme challenge is currently popular on the video sharing app TikTok. While it seems sort of degrading—the meme format involves the person holding the camera to call to another person, who responds by running toward the camera person and placing their chin in the person’s hands—there are apparently layers of meaning to this particular running Internet joke. It’s a perfect example of how context shapes the way teens (and also, the rest of us) communicate with each other, each of us adding our own layer of understanding to the signals that we send and the content that we create or share.

6. Do you love church memes? Does your teen? The most popular Christian meme account on Instagram has 300,000 followers and counting and is run by two pastors. In an interview with The Outline, one of the account’s owners says that making memes about church, the Bible, and ministry life helps him to process the unique emotions that can crop up as part of Christian subculture. For teens, memes are a form of critique—a way of testing out ideas that they may see as serious, taboo, or ridiculous. Some of the memes on @epicchristianmemes are pretty amusing, and their irreverence may not necessarily speak to a negative feeling toward Christianity, but a desire to stay connected to it.

Music

7. You may have caught a glimpse of Taylor Swift on Thursday night, co-opting the NFL draft to tease new music she’s releasing. After posting a countdown clock to her social media feeds several weeks ago and leaving “clues” for what her news could be on her Instagram, Swift came out with the news that she’s releasing a song and music video called “ME!” It seems like the single will have a positive message based on recognizing your individuality and “really celebrating it”—at least, that’s what Swift told Robin Roberts on TV. But is her “me” centered, carefully crafted personal brand getting a bit old? Ask your daughters what they think.

Teen Culture

Positive Things

8. While your wallet might feel otherwise, evidence is emerging to indicate that Gen Z is turning out to be frugal. This is especially true in Japan and Europe. From Bloomberg: “Surveys show that unlike millennials, many members of Generation Z are cautious about excessive consumption. After seeing their parents walloped by the 2008 financial crisis, they’re attracted to thrift stores, sustainable brands, and saving for a rainy day—even when they have steady jobs and rising wages.” So from what we know about them right now, Gen Z is less likely to consume alcohol to excess, more likely to have a savings account, loves shopping secondhand, and cares deeply about working toward a greater good? The kids might be all right.

Gaming/eSports

9. A game reporter writing over at The Verge declared that Fortnite’s Avengers: Endgame gameplay mode was one of “the best games [they] had ever played.” Why? “The limited-time game mode is all about feeling overly powerful—like a superhero—to spectacular effect.” The match is still battle-royale style, with the tweak of extended health/lifespan during the game as well as the ability to play as one of the Avengers’ marquee players or as one of their enemies, Thanos and the Chitauri. These “limited-time” gaming offerings make it easy for teens to feel justified in spending even more time than usual on gaming, so be prepared if it takes extra coaxing this weekend to get your teen to put down the controller.

Tip of the Week

10. The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced new screen limit guidelines for little ones—and their press release should be of interest to parents of teens, too. Wringing our hands over how much time everyone in our culture spends in front of screens does nothing on a practical level to help us engage with the offscreen world, but the WHO recommendations go a step further than previous warnings about kids and tech.

Experts are now calling out the amount of time children spend sedentary as a main concern, citing the importance of sleep routines, rhythms of rest, and active play. This calls to mind an obvious truth: We can’t simply put down our phones, we have to replace the time we spend online with something that engages us in a different way. That goes for infants, teens, and adults alike.

Teenagers, who are going through transitional physical changes as well as weighty emotional developments, are also experiencing developmental breakthroughs (not unlike the toddlers WHO’s guidelines address). Isolated time alone with devices is no doubt impacting how those breakthroughs are felt. But time spent engaging with a parent through reading together or simply having a conversation can be the key to grounding your teen back in reality. Next time you remind your child to put down their device, offer your own companionship or another human connective activity as a substitute. (And don’t let a rejection of your company stop you from offering the next time.) We really don’t know how screen time impacts long-term development of toddlers or teens, but we do know that all of us will certainly die one day—and not one of us will wish for more time spent liking celebrity tweets.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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