3 THINGS THIS WEEK
1. Vax On, Vax Off
What it is: Teens are rebelling against their parents by getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Legal loopholes mean that they sometimes are able to get these shots without their parents knowing.
Why it needs to be an ongoing topic of conversation in your household: A lot goes into family decisions about COVID-19 vaccines, and it would be naive to pretend otherwise. Many parents feel strongly that their kids should not get vaccinated against this particular virus, while others are anxious for the day when their entire family can be fully vaccinated. But for teens, the social stakes of not getting vaccinated might be quite high. Some college students are even facing a ban on in-person learning until they get their shot. Lots of teens may feel like getting vaccinated is simply the path of least resistance. The public campaign for COVID-19 vaccination is certainly unprecedented, but teens fighting their parents over their bodily autonomy is nothing new. What’s certain is that you don’t want your teen having medical procedures done in secret, especially if those procedures could leave them down for the count for a few days as they recoup from side effects. While tensions about this topic might run high, try to keep the conversation civil and empathetic; you want your teen to be able to talk to you about this, even if you disagree with them.
2. This American Friendship
What it is: Survey results reveal young Americans have far fewer close friends than they did thirty years ago.
Why it’s affecting your sons (and daughters): In 1990, three percent of Americans reported that they had three or fewer close friends. In 2021, that number jumped to twelve percent. This same data set reports that young men are relying more on their parents than close friends for everyday emotional support, and that men of all ages are far less likely than women to have recently had any type of private conversation with a friend in which they confided a problem or expressed affection. There are plenty of biblical models of close male friendships, including Jesus with His disciples, and complex and intimate relationships are a tremendous gift, one that allows us to treasure and value fellow image-bearers of God. Making close friends isn’t easy, but prioritizing community and the presence of others doesn’t just increase our ability to be content, it also adds value to our spiritual lives.
3. The Purge: TikTok
What it is: TikTok deleted over 11 million accounts this quarter for violations of their community guidelines. More than 7 million of those were removed due to violating TikTok’s rules about age.
Why it’s a promising sign: In the past, TikTok hasn’t published numbers that show how many underage accounts they found and expunged from the platform. TikTok’s standard is that a user needs to be 13 or older to manage their own individual account. The fact that the app, which currently has 1 billion global users, is getting publicly honest about younger user’s presence on the platform while doing something to limit their access shows that maybe the platform is taking the rules they adopted in December of 2020 seriously.
Slang of the Week:
snatched: a compliment typically used for physical attributes, especially the smallness of someone’s waist, but also sometimes their makeup or outfit.
(Thanks to one of our readers for this submission! Any slang words or phrases you’re hearing lately? Let us know here and they could become next week’s Slang of the Week!)
Britney Spears and Vulnerability
Last week, in Britney Spears’ explosive public hearing about the conservatorship she’s been forced to labor under for 13 years, she explained why she hadn’t chosen to be open about her conditions sooner: "I didn’t want to say it openly, because I honestly don’t think anyone would believe me… I thought people would make fun of me or laugh at me.”
As Vox writer Constance Grady pointed out, it makes sense for her to have been concerned about that, because that’s how the public has treated her in the past: “When Spears shaved off all her hair and hit a paparazzo’s car with her umbrella, she was very clearly struggling, and the world responded by mocking her viciously… So of course Spears expected that if she made herself vulnerable to the public, the public would respond by pointing and jeering. That’s how her life has always worked.”
On a much smaller scale, our relationships with the next generation can function similarly. Vulnerability—the willingness to be honest about what we’re actually going through—is essential for intimacy. And yet if the conditions aren’t created for vulnerability to be appropriately received (i.e. for it to be received gently, with gratitude and the intention on the hearers’ part to try to understand), vulnerability can start to seem like a bad idea—which leads to a further retreat into isolation.
Many teens feel afraid of vulnerability because they’re afraid that they will be punished for what they share. Others are afraid that they won’t be believed, or taken seriously. And while there will always be some who try to exploit others’ empathy for attention (and who nevertheless still need love and care), may we as the body of Christ be known as a group of people who handle others’ vulnerability according to the latter fruits of the Spirit—with kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness, even leading the way by acknowledging our own brokenness first.
Here are some questions you might ask your teen to spark conversation on this topic:
- Does Britney’s reason for not sharing sooner make sense to you? Why or why not?
- What do you think it takes to create a safe place for others to be vulnerable in person?
- Is there a way to do the same thing online, or will that always be more of a risk?
Keep the Faith!
- The Axis Team