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1. Social Media Rules

What it is: The American Psychological Association has issued an advisory about social media use for teens.
Why it’s a shift in the discourse: The APA’s ten recommendations are the first time they’ve combined existing research into a set of guidelines that families and mental health providers could reference. Perhaps the most notable suggestion is #9 on their list, which suggests young people be trained in digital literacy and online citizenship before being allowed to use social media. Beyond that recommendation, most of the APA’s advisory’s focused on parental and caregiver monitoring of teens online. Some experts who spoke with NPR thought the suggestions were too burdensome for parents and that the onus should instead be on tech companies and government agencies to make online life into a safer experience for at-risk teens. Most people would agree that keeping teens safe online should be a carefully considered partnership between all the stakeholders involved, but that ideal seems miles away to many parents at the moment.
Start the conversation: What’s one thing you think could help set teens up to have a healthier, more positive experience on social media?

2. Whispers of Wealth

What it is: Teens are looking to nail the “quiet luxury” clothing trend, which aims to project wealth without big brand logos.
Where it’s coming from: The phrase “money talks, wealth whispers” has inspired the trend being called “quiet luxury.” It’s built out of the observation that people who have inherited wealth often tend to shy away from ostentatious displays, opting for high quality, staple wardrobe items that only those in the know would recognize as designer. (Hence alternative terms with the same meaning, “coded luxury” and “stealth wealth.”) Quiet luxury trendsetters include Gwyneth Paltrow, whose cashmere sweaters and luxe coats gave sophisticated vibes in her recent courtroom appearances, and model Sofia Richie, who seems to have used her recent multi-million dollar wedding as an opportunity to personally rebrand as a style icon. The tenets of quiet luxury include high-end basics, monochromatic outfits, and tailored fits, according to #quietluxury TikTok (whose favorite sound is the theme from “Succession,” a tragicomedy about wealth).
Start the conversation: How common is it at your school for students to try to look or seem rich?

3. Overlooking the Obvious

What it is: Jim Dalrymple writes on the Institute for Family Studies blog that the U.S. Surgeon General’s “anti-loneliness” campaign seems to willfully omit the nuclear family as a tool to combat isolation.
Why it’s interesting: Last week, we wrote about how pervasive loneliness has been declared a public health emergency by the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Murthy himself said that he relied on close family members (in particular, his father) to navigate a lonely personal period. But the tips from the doctor were decidedly not family-centric. Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services rolled out a framework that emphasized public policies, health care provider training, research funding, schools, and workplaces. One could argue that government programs shouldn’t be aimed to modify family behaviors. Maybe it makes sense that the framework only addresses what happens in public spaces, but it seems worth considering what role policymakers think families should be playing in the battle for our teens’ mental health.
Start the conversation: What would you say is most helpful for people who are struggling with loneliness?

Song of the Week

“See You Again” by Tyler, the Creator ft. Kali Uchis: originally released on his 2017 album “Flower Boy,” this song about an idealized love interest became popular recently because of a few TikTok trends. For one of the main ones, near the end of the song Tyler starts saying the word “okay” over and over, while Kali Uchis sings “la la” over and over; this became a trend where two teens would stand next to each other, lip-syncing the respective parts and acting out what they thought it might mean to be an “okokok” person versus a “lalala” person. In general, “okokok” people are seen as more introverted, reserved, confident, and protective, whereas “lalala” people are seen as more extroverted, loud, hyperactive, and bubbly. The trend has basically nothing to do with the main lyrics of the song, but it and others like it helped propel the song back into the limelight.

Culture: Translated (Mother’s Day Edition)

In his interview with NPR about the APA’s new guidelines for teens on social media, therapist Robert Keane pointed out that when it comes to technology, teens’ knowledge tends to outpace their parents. His assumption is that because the average teen knows much more about social media than their mothers or fathers do, it’s unrealistic to expect parents to be able to consistently protect their teens from harmful content on the internet. Keane says, “We’re in a crisis here and a family’s ability or a parent’s ability to manage this right now is very limited.”

Many parents might agree that help with content moderation would be welcome. But part of our whole mission at Axis is to equip and empower mothers and fathers to be able to stand in the gap for their teens, as opposed to outsourcing these tasks entirely to Silicon Valley and/or our government. As Dalrymple points out in his Institute for Family Studies article, mothers and fathers can be and often have been a powerful force against the very loneliness epidemic which can reinforce vulnerability to dysfunctional social media use.

Fathers play a massively important role here. But as we look toward Mother’s Day this Sunday, we want to specifically honor mothers for their strength, courage, and dedication to their families. Some mothers physically give birth to their children; others grow their families through adoption; and still others serve in roles like step-mom or bonus parent. We want to honor them all. Women are a force of fierce, protective, and powerful love continuously offered to the rising generation.

Even with trends like #quietluxury, the way a mother carries and talks about herself will shape and inform how her daughters in particular will carry and think about themselves. Mothers have a profound effect on how their kids view the world in so many ways, and we hope this Mother’s Day that moms of all kinds feel celebrated.

As always, here are some questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • What’s one thing you think parents should understand better about social media?
  • How can we be better about helping each other deal with loneliness?
  • What would you say the goal of Mother’s Day is?