Three Things This Week
1. Teen Anxiety, Depression, & Suicide
What it is: The suicide rate among teen girls has doubled to a 40-year high while suicide rates among teen boys are up 30%.
Why it’s eye opening: Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the U.S., affecting almost one-third of adolescents. In fact, children of economic privilege are among the most stressed out kids in America. Why? Maybe it’s partly the endless homework, the stress of standardized tests, and the increased academic competition for scholarships and university admittance. It’s possible we’ve created an academic culture that tells our kids they aren’t good enough and more is always required of them, leading to anxiety. To better understand how you can help your students, watch our newest training “The Science of Depression, Anxiety, and Self-Harm” with expert Jerusha Clark. Then check out our entire Conversation Kit on suicide, designed to equip you to have transformative conversations with your teen about this difficult topic.
Why it’s harmful: More than one-third of high school students admit trying e-cigarettes, and currently the Juul is their device of choice because of “its miniscule size and ability to be used stealthily.” Among eighth-graders, “vaping is one of the most popular, most common forms of substance use,” and students who vape are six to seven times more likely to pick up smoking. Walk into any school bathroom and odds are you’ll find a crew of kids passing around a juul, partly because they think it’s safer than smoking. But it’s not. “Juuls contain Nicotine. In each pod, there is 59 mg/mL of Nicotine, which is the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.” Ask your students if they’ve been tempted to juul, and if they’ve thought through the potential lifelong consequence of nicotine addiction.
3. Destiny 2
What it is: The latest action-shooter video game is gaining popularity among teens for its online, multi-player mode.
Why it’s a poor substitute for reality: Last year, our Axis traveling teams met so many students who admitted to spending hours each day immersed in the first Destiny game, and now the sequel offers more missions to accomplish and villains to defeat. If your teen has logged a significant number of hours solving problems and fighting evil in the virtual world, talk with them about ways your family can solve real-world problems and fight real-world evil. Games like Destiny 2 should provide inspiration and remind us of our mission as believers to combat darkness in the real world, but they often turn into day after day spent in front of a screen embracing vicarious adventure in a virtual world.
Upcoming Webinars: Disciplechip, Gender, and Pornography. Register here.
Motivated by the Harvey Weinstein case, Alyssa Milano started a social media campaign using the hashtag #MeToo, encouraging women to share their own stories of sexual harassment or assault. Milano wrote, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Tens of thousands of women responded. “It should radically change us all to know the majority of women we encounter have experienced some form of sexual violation.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t just a Hollywood problem—it’s endemic in teen culture as well. From catcalls in the hallways, “locker-room” talk, and campus rape culture, “misogyny and sexual harassment are stunningly common in young people’s lives.” A 2008 study found as many as four out of five children and teens had been sexually harassed at school. Making matters worse, 76% of students reported they have never had a conversation with their parents about sexual harassment. Here’s some guidance if you’re unsure where to start.
First, ask them what they think sexual harassment and misogyny are and if they’ve witnessed it at school. Second, ask if they’ve ever experienced sexually degrading comments or unwanted physical touch and how they responded. Finally, create a proactive family plan that gives them specific steps to take if and when something like this happens. Harassment often leads to silence and shame because our kids blame themselves for being victimized. It’s not their fault. It is never their fault.
Here’s one simple plan you can implement with your children today to empower them to know what to do if and when they witness sexual harassment or assault.
- Have a zero tolerance policy. Don’t ignore it or laugh it off. Harassment often starts small with a joke or crude comment. End it right there.
- Document the incident. Write down what happened, “save any offensive pictures or texts,” and report the incident to a trusted adult.
- Report the abuse immediately. Make a list of trusted adults in your child’s life that they can go to at school, work, or church if they experience assault or harassment.
- If you see something, say something. In most abuse cases, there are victims, perpetrators, and bystanders. And typically the outcast or marginalized student is the easiest person to abuse. Empower your teen to take action to defend the weak and vulnerable among them by speaking up and stepping into the situation on their behalf.
The #MeToo movement is bringing a dark topic into the light, but social media outrage isn’t enough. Keep talking about sexual harassment with your teens, even if it is uncomfortable. Then implement this practical plan in your home by “speaking out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.”
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