3 Things This Week
1. Another Strike against Body Image
What it is: This week, both NBC News and Rolling Stone (language) report that dieting and weight loss trends on TikTok are having a harmful effect on young women’s body image, sometimes even triggering disordered exercise and eating.
Why it’s not surprising: Though teens have flocked to TikTok because of how different and fun it felt compared to politics-ridden Facebook or overly polished Instagram, it’s still a social media platform that relies heavily on content made by teens. And as we’ve seen with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even smaller social platforms, young people’s insecurities and temptations always find their way into social media. So even if Gen Z is more socially aware than previous generations of teens, they’re still going through the same developmental stages that all adolescents go through. More than a cause for alarm, this is a reminder that we need to join the conversation culture is having with them about beauty, self-worth, and body image. (Check out our Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders for help with this!)
What it is: Instagram has confirmed that it will release its TikTok-copycat feature, Reels, early next month.
Why it’s the future: Like TikTok, the feature will allow users to post 15-second videos that can be set to music or other audio. Users can create these videos the same way they create Stories, but there will also be a new tab at the bottom for viewing them in a feed. Since TikTok may be banned, possibly within the next few weeks, the company is hurrying to release the feature in order to capture TikTok’s users as they look for a new outlet. But, as TechCrunchreports, Snapchat, YouTube, Byte, Dubsmash, and others are all testing similar features in the hopes of grabbing some of the market. No matter what happens, it’s clear this format has taken hold and will be coming to your teen’s phone in one way or another very soon.
3. Creating Normalcy in Uncertain Times
What it is: Recognizing the rise in anxiety and even fear over the last few months, Ana Homayoun, author of Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World, offers five ways to help teens feel seen and heard during these uncertain times.
Why they’re helpful: Regardless of our leanings, all of the uncertainty caused by a global pandemic, school closures, physical distancing, police violence, protests, riots, political squabbling, and much more can be overwhelming, confusing, and hard to navigate for anyone, but perhaps even more so for teenagers. They still need to be developing a sense of autonomy, learning new skills, and connecting socially. And though all of this will look different right now, it’s not impossible. Take a few minutes to read through her tips, then brainstorm how you can adapt them to fit your family, school, or youth group.
You're Voting for WHO????
Most of us grew up with the understanding that there are three things we should never talk about in public: politics, religion, and money. But then 2020 came along, and everything turned political. Red and blue lines are drawn around every subject, from wearing a mask to gun ownership to going back to school to healthcare. It seems no matter where you turn, most conversations end up being political these days.
Making matters more complicated, Gen Z is far more likely than previous generations to hold different political opinions than their parents. Raised with a heightened awareness of social justice issues like school shootings and racial injustice, the next generation is more diverse, pluralistic, and willing to embrace a more progressive attitude toward public life. In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of Gen Z reported their “disapproval” of President Trump. And unlike their parents, who still primarily trust traditional news outlets for their daily dose of political insight, 68% of Gen Z say they use social media platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram, and YouTube as their go-to places for news.
As parents, it might be tempting to dismiss our teens’ political views based on their lack of life-experience or their apparent naivety. We might even feel the urge to control their beliefs. But that would be a mistake. If we are easily agitated because they aren’t conforming to our way of seeing the world, we must ask ourselves why. Is it because we’re afraid? Or do we struggle to be in relationship with people who don’t believe the same things we do? Whatever the reason, be encouraged that there are many other parents in this situation. If you and your teen are butting political heads, we strongly recommend reading Angela Hatem’s article, “How to Parent a Teenager Who Has Different Political Views.”
And keep in mind that our job as parents isn’t to indoctrinate our children; it’s to educate them. It’s easy to tell them what to think, but it’s a lot harder to train them how to think. As awkward as it might be, help them foster their own independent ideas and critical thinking skills, while modeling the practice of interpreting all inclinations through the lens of the Gospel and inviting them to do the same. Then do your best to put into practice some of the suggestions from Hatem’s article. It could be that in our increasingly hostile culture, one of the best life skills you ever teach your child is how to live in harmony with someone with whom they strongly disagree.