3 THINGS THIS WEEK
1. Sex Miseducation
What it is: A prestigious private school’s health and wellness program sparked controversy earlier this year because of a curriculum meant to teach teens how to be “ethical” consumers of porn.
Why it uncovers a deeper problemquestion: It’s not so surprising that parents complained when class time and tuition money went toward discussing different types of explicit content with their teenagers. But the students’ reactions were more telling. They complained about how boring the discussion was, not that it felt explicit. Liz Bruenig explored this dynamic in a column for The Atlantic (language) that concludes with a telling interview with a group of minors who are sexually active. The minors say that the influence of porn on their sexual activity is undeniable, even going so far as to say they thought BDSM and other violent sexual preferences were normal. As Christians, we know that anything that exploits or degrades another person’s body is impossible to “ethically” consume, or even passively observe, so the idea of establishing a moral sensibility that orients how we use pornography is out of the question. But for teens who are exposed to more than we can imagine, the conversation around what porn is and who it impacts is one we can’t avoid.
What it is: A TikTok trend called #narcissisticparent (paywall) started as a way to vent about emotionally abusive relationships. Now it has become a catch-all for posting about complicated family dynamics.
Why it’s affecting your relationship with your teen: The rise of “therapy-speak” has equipped young adults with a way to talk about abusive behavior and hurt they have experienced. Unfortunately, it’s also armed a generation of teens with overly-simplistic explanations for human behavior that they don’t like. Videos that use clinical diagnostic terms like “narcissistic personality disorder” (NPD) and “borderline personality disorder” (BPD) to describe behavior in their families have hundreds of millions of views, each with dozens of commenters congregating underneath to cheer on the OP (original poster) in any efforts to ditch these “toxic” relationships. When caretakers try to establish boundaries or enforce discipline on their children, there’s an army of cyber-warriors standing at the ready to offer teens validation while they villainize their parents.
3. Post-Cool World
What it is: An article in Vox proposes that Gen Z lives in a world where fashion is more individualized than it’s ever been.
Why it makes sense of what your teen wants to wear: TikTok, Wikipedia, social media and the rest of the internet give teens access to a vast array of clothing trends throughout the past few decades. But it’s hard to pin down exactly what Gen Z embraces as their trademark “style.” This could be due to the rise of what Vox calls “hyper-real individualism,” a way of dressing that incorporates a chaotic mix of trends from many different eras. While we may associate black fishnets with “goth” and a cheerfully popped collar as “preppy,” Gen Z has no problem blending the two trends together and adding an additional dash of whimsy or weirdness (like a tee shirt with Mickey Mouse on it). The resulting “look” might not make much sense to parents, but there is a logic to it. “Hyper-real individualism” is meant to showcase a high level of trend awareness as well as a super-unique, somewhat ironic approach to being seen by the outside world.
Slang of the Week:
bussin: something that is really delicious or enjoyable, usually food-related. (Ex: “Check out what my mom made for dinner last night… Bussin!”)
The Ongoing Opioid Epidemic
This week, a $26 billion dollar settlement was announced between several states in the U.S. and opioid drugmakers and distributors to resolve thousands of lawsuits blaming these companies for fueling the opioid epidemic. For years, opioid painkillers have been the leading cause of drug-overdose deaths, claiming many celebrities’ lives, as well as nearly half a million others (paywall) in the U.S. from 1999 to 2019. Though conversations about COVID-19, political polarization, and racism have tended to dominate the discourse of late, the opioid epidemic is still very much going on (the number of U.S. drug-overdose deaths surged nearly 30% during 2020)—and still very much worth talking about.
In what started as an attempt to help better treat pain in the 1990s, many clinicians and gatekeepers of the medical community became vocal promoters of opioids, “voicing their benefits and playing down their risks.” So-called “pill mills” sprang up, where doctors and distributors began routinely writing out prescriptions for high numbers of opioids for much wider segments of the U.S. population than before, “ranging from injured high school athletes to older people with chronic ailments.” In several cases, patients developed addictions to these opioid painkillers and then began to look for ways to continue satisfying their addiction. Some turned to heroin—another opioid-based drug—and then sometimes to fentanyl, “which acts on opioid receptors in the brain… [and] is up to 50 times more powerful than heroin.” Though not everyone prescribed opioid painkillers or who experiments with them will develop an addiction, unregulated opioid varieties can sometimes be laced with fentanyl, which is powerful enough to lead to a fatal overdose with just one use.
The terms of the settlement call for the majority of the money to be spent by communities on treatment and prevention efforts. This is a very good thing. But parents and caring adults can play a huge role in this as well. How? By talking to your kids about the seriousness of opioid experimentation and addiction. Here are some questions that might help spark that conversation:
- How much do you know about the opioid epidemic?
- Do you know what fentanyl is?
- What do you think makes it more likely for someone to become addicted?
Keep the Faith!
- The Axis Team