Vol. 5 Issue 18 | May 3, 2019

Three Things This Week

1. Gen Z’s First Family?

What it is: In the upcoming 2020 Presidential election millennials and their Gen Z counterparts are poised to be the largest eligible voting bloc, and a Democratic mayor has their attention.

Why he’s changing the conversation: This week Pete Buttigieg and his spouse are on the cover of Time Magazine as his very public faith is sparking new conversations about Christianity, politics, and homosexuality. In his words, “Christian faith is going to point you in a progressive direction.” Today’s teens apparently agree. Buttigieg is offering a socially justice-minded younger generation a potentially new interpretation of faith and politics. Start a conversation with your kids about how your own faith shapes your political and social views. If Jesus is Lord, how should that impact our social and political postures related to issues like immigration, war, racism, economic disparity, same-sex marriage, or abortion?

2. Poison Control

What it is: The Journal of Pediatrics reports an alarming increase in the amount of teenage girls attempting suicide by poison.

Why it’s alarming: Poisoning attempts by girls ages 10-12 have increased 268% in the last seven years. 29,000 girls ages 16-18 poisoned themselves in 2018. While men and boys are more likely to employ violent means when attempting suicide, girls and women are far more likely to ingest pills or other forms of poison. Whether it’s childhood trauma, screen time, social media anxiety, or performance pressure, the reality is today’s kids are migrating to self-harm in alarming numbers. It’s past time we debunk the myth that talking about suicide and self-harm will lead to suicide and self-harm. It doesn’t. Start the conversation today with your kids. Our Parent’s Guide to Suicide & Self Harm Prevention is a must read. And because it’s so important, get your free copy today with this coupon code: CTFREE

3. BMA’s 2019

What it is: Wednesday night Drake nearly swept the Billboard Music Awards with a record setting 12 wins while Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and BTS were the top performers.

Why it’s more than a show: Unlike the subjectivity of the Grammy’s, BMA’s are awarded based on key performance indicators like song sales, number of streams, and radio airplay. Basically, if you really want to know what Gen Z is listening to, pay attention to the BMA winners. CNN ranks the top five moments from this year’s event. These award shows develop a larger than life of their own with a pre-show red carpet live stream, the performance itself, and the post-show social media reaction. If your teens watched any or all of the festivity, who or what made the largest impact on them, and why?

What’s Old is New Again

After spending a few April days in Paris I was inspired to pick up Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises. Several pages into his disturbing tale of American expats living in post-war France, I was struck by how much Hemingway’s “lost generation” has in common with Gen Z. The cynical disillusionment, FOMO, callous sexual encounters, and a growing discontent with the vapid pursuit of pleasure link these two generations across space and time.

No matter our generation or age, stories are the currency of human connection. They cultivate empathy, shape our identity, and convey universal meaning to the human condition. If “fiction reveals truth that reality obscures”, what other timeless works of literature might have something incredibly relevant to say to today’s generation? Here’s five classics to read with your teen this Summer that surprisingly discuss very modern issues.

    1. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. 125 years prior to the #MeToo movement, Hardy’s tale of female vulnerability, abhorrent masculinity, and sexual assault seems almost ripped out of today’s headlines.
    2. 1984 by George Orwell. In an age when lies are told so often lunacy is accepted as the new normal, Orwell’s prophetic dream has become an unfortunate reality.
    3. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Mental illness, sexism, and depression. Honestly was this written yesterday?
    4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Integrity, compassion, courage, racial healing, and kindness: Just a few of the virtues all of us need more of in today’s binary world.
    5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: Paralleling today’s “insta-world”, Wilde’s protagonist is universally envied for his physical beauty, yet he’s miserable and lonely on the inside. His “attempt to hide his innor isolation with a projection of outer beauty” might also describe the selfie-generation

Gary Alan
Editor in Chief
The Culture Translator

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:

“It is no bad thing, celebrating a simple life.”

J.R.R. Tolkin, The Fellowship of the Ring

Technology

Devices

1. If your teen still using Facebook? Did they even have an account to begin with? The former reigning supergiant of social media is taking some strident measures trying to reclaim the throne. This week, Zuckerberg & Co. announced a feature called “Secret Crush,” where users are able to choose eight “crushes” from their existing friends list. If one of the people chosen also chooses you as their crush, the jig is up and the crush is mutually revealed to both users. A social network infamous for failing to protect users from hackers, scammers, and their own worst tendencies gets into the online dating game. What could go wrong.

2. Also on the docket of Facebook news, Facebook’s “Portal” device was reviewed by the Buzzfeed Newsroom, and the results were not good for Facebook. The Portal has fun filters, like Snapchat and Instagram, and feels intuitive and carefree for the user. Despite assurances that the Portal encrypts its data and won’t spy on you during moments when you aren’t aware, members of the Buzzfeed staff were creeped out by the device’s presence — in fact, they asked the reporter who was reviewing it to remove it from all public spaces. Facebook’s not going away just yet, but if the millennial and Gen Z demographic feel this way about their pet project, they may never regain the power they once held.

3. And speaking of controversial Zuckerberg-owned properties, Instagram joined Facebook this week when they became the next platforms to try banning “far right” personalities. How you feel about this move will probably depend on how you feel about the people who were banned; Alex Jones and Infowars made the list, as well as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. While this action might ruffle some feathers when it comes to free-speech protections, it is also likely that this ban might make your teens safer from misinformation when they are online

Pop Culture

Social Media

4. This week in teens eating poison: A YouTube vlogger named Eve Donnelly has taken the ASMR trend to the next level with an experimental art video where she ingests poisonous substances like rocks, glass, and deodorant. She calls this “KMS” (an acronym for Kill Myself) ASMR. The ASMR trend refers to videos that gently stimulate and soothe your nerves, and many anxiety-prone Gen Z’ers enjoy watching them. Try asking your teen about why so many members of their generation seem intent on these “challenges” that involve self-harm.

Trending/Memes

5. Remember the old-school video game Sonic the Hedgehog? This week marked the release of a movie trailer for a film all about the spiny blue mammal and the internet went wild — and not because they loved it. Gaming fans everywhere were bemused, baffled, and even kind of mad about the uncanny depiction of Sonic and the use of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” in the background. (Who makes these soundtrack decisions? Call us.) If this sounds in line with your teen’s interests, he or she might have participated in an energetic social media campaign to convince the movie’s director to fix the animation, or at least get rid of Sonic’s creepy teeth. Lo and behold, it worked, and the film’s production team has promised a less horrifying Sonic the Hedgehog is in the works.

6. You might have heard your teen and their friends exchanging the phrase, “I’m baby.” New York Magazine is writing about it now, so we can only assume this slang term was in vogue with Gen Z approximately 4 months ago and everyone else is just now catching on. While “I’m baby” sounds vaguely sexual and, to be honest, a little bit weird, this explainer assures us that it’s just a silly, innocent way of saying, “I’m the cute one.”

7. Game reviewer and comic vlogger PewDiePie has had enough of the “Subscribe to PewDiePie” meme campaign being co-opted by white supremacists. In a sincere appeal to followers, he was uncharacteristically direct as he asked his 95 million (mostly Gen Z!) subscribers to stop the meme, which has now been co-opted by both the Christchurch, NZ mosque shooter and the synagogue shooter in California. The meme was supposed to be a joke in good fun, but became a rallying cry for racist and violent posters in message boards to share with one another. In this instance, it looks like an influencer is at least trying to do the right thing.

Teen Culture

Latest Statistics

8. If your teen is saying “no thanks” to the meat-based options you’ve been providing for dinner, you’re not alone. The company that provides food to over 3 million college students has surveyed Gen Z’s eating habits and found that 79% of their consumers want to cut back on their meat consumption. Reflective of this trend: Burger King will have a “meatless” burger option in all of their stores by the end of the year. Given this generation’s fixation with saving the planet and living more kindly, it makes complete sense that going vegetarian or vegan, at least part of the time, is vastly appealing. If this is something that your teen seems interested in, have a conversation about alternate sources of protein and make sure they are getting the nutrition they need from venues besides animal protein.

Gaming/eSports

9. For many students, working on a video game like Fortnite might sound like the dream occupation. But making games for a living — especially the biggest video game of all time — isn’t exactly the gig they might envision. Staff at Epic Games, who produce Fortnite, report work weeks that last from 70 to 100 hours long. These employees experience “crunch” periods, during which they are cranking out brand new content almost daily, for weeks or even months. And since so many people want these jobs, it is easy for workers to feel less than valued. If your teen is interested in working in the game industry, talk to them about their expectations, the competition, and the difficulties they might anticipate

Tip of the Week

10. It’s been over two years since the debut of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series. While a huge hit with teens, parents and school administrators were especially concerned about the messages that the suicide-focused narrative was sending to younger viewers. This week, Netflix announced that fans could expect season three of the show to debut this year, sometime after July. But that wasn’t the only 13 Reasons news this week. A newly published study confirmed what many critics had long suspected; the show has a demonstrable link to spikes in teen suicide in the months after it was released.

Netflix has pushed back on the results of this study, pointing to research they did in preparing the show’s second season and claiming that a disclaimer they added that airs before certain episodes makes the show safe to watch. But the fact that they are only “considering” the study’s results reflects the streaming service’s dilemma: admitting how toxic the show has been to real families may have strong legal implications for their company. Stay informed about this show and pay attention to if your teens are watching it, especially Season One and extra especially if your teen has expressed the desire to self-harm in the past. And check out the Parent Guide to Suicide and Self-Harm Prevention if you need to talk to your teen about these issues. Use the code CTFREE to get this guide for free.

Keep the Faith!

The Axis Team

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