Three Things This Week
1. Challenge Unacceptable
What it is: The #newteacherchallenge drew headlines this week as parents used the hashtag to prank their kids. The hashtag has 43 million views.
Why it’s pretty sad, actually: Participants pretend to be on a video chat with their child’s new teacher. They then call their child over to “meet their new teacher,” using a photo of a random celebrity, cartoon villain, or visually unusual person, and film their child’s reaction. Several parents who participated in this challenge thought it would be funny to see their child’s reaction if the new “teacher” was a person with a physical abnormality or disability. Some of the photos used were of prominent disability advocates, who have since penned essays on how it feels to be derided and presented to children as some sort of scary monster. Instead of letting your children think that people with disabilities are something to fear, be a part of showing them how every human being has incredible value, and has been made in God’s image.
2. Is the Cyberbullying Coming from Inside the House?
What it is: A new study of over 12,000 kids 11-15 showed that teens who perceive their parents as loving are less likely to engage in cyberbullying.
Why it’s important to understand: Just like regular bullies, cyberbullies operate from a love deficit. For people of faith, this isn’t necessarily breaking news – when we aren’t given love, we often act out of hurt, and it holds true for kids and parents alike. But an interesting wrinkle here is the perception (or lack thereof) that the teens surveyed reported. They were more likely to become cyberbullies when they perceived that they were less loved, not necessarily because they were neglected or had cruel parents. Let’s make sure that we are giving our teens a form of love that they can understand and perceive, by speaking their love language.
3. Survival of the Flexible-est
What it is: Family dynamics are becoming frayed as blended and remote learning carry into the new school year.
Why it’s about heart, not hustle: Many of us hoped that pandemic-related restrictions would be a thing of the past with the dawn of a new academic year. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we’re seeing. Instead of a light at the end of the tunnel, back-to-school season may feel like an oncoming train. Juggling careers, extracurriculars, and homework in addition to providing a healthy and stable home life for teens always felt like a lot. Add in a continually disrupted and unpredictable learning schedule, and it might feel impossible. There are learning resources aplenty, but parents need encouragement, balance, and creativity. Remember that teens are absorbing our attitudes more than their algebra lessons, and none of what’s happening is their fault.
Spotlight: So many parents across the nation are feeling blindsided by a strange, stressful new school year. We’re here to help! We went straight to the parents on staff here at Axis, as well as homeschool parents who know a thing or two about at-home learning, and gathered their best tips on how to navigate this new school year. We hope their words of encouragement bring fresh perspective and hope for what God may bring during this time.
Lessons from MTV's Video Music Awards
The COVID version of the VMAs was even more surreal than usual. Fans cheered from giant Zoom videos, edited to look like the windows of New York City skyscrapers; performances were piped in from L.A. and Seoul; and Lady Gaga played a big, brain-shaped piano (although she probably would have been doing that anyway). The biggest winners of the 37th annual ceremony included The Weeknd, Doja Cat, H.E.R., Machine Gun Kelly, Taylor Swift, Megan Thee Stallion, Maluma, Lady Gaga, and BTS. These are musicians from all over the world – and even if you don’t know some (or any) of their names, your teen almost certainly does.
Axis has sometimes called Gen Z “The Trans Generation,” and not just because of changing attitudes about gender; they’re also transglobal, transeconomical, and transracial. There’s less concern for the maintenance of racial/ethnic boundaries, which may be part of why BTS won both Best K-Pop and Best Pop (as well as Best Group and Best Choreography). The Korean boy band recently made history as the first K-Pop group to take the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. Next time you get the chance, ask your teen, “Are you a fan of BTS? Why do you think they’ve become so popular in America?”
The night’s biggest winner was clearly Lady Gaga, who won Artist of the Year, as well as MTV’s first-ever Tricon Award, “which recognizes a highly accomplished artist across three disciplines.” Her collaboration with Ariana Grande also won Song of the Year (as well as Best Collaboration and Best Cinematography), and “Rain On Me” does seem particularly appropriate for 2020. Its chorus is, “I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive / Rain on me” – and despite how frustrating and painful this year has been, at least we know the rain means our hearts are still beating. Among other things, the Song of the Year is about cultivating an acceptance of whatever life brings us, even if it isn’t exactly what we would have chosen.
As parents continue to pivot for this confusing new school year, this is a perspective we could all stand to benefit from. You might also ask your teen, “Do you think 'Rain On Me' deserved Song of the Year? Why or why not?” And no matter their answer, we pray that God will help us all to be able to receive whatever else this year has in store for us.