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1. Thorny Therapies

What it is: An book excerpt published by The Free Press wonders if an educational tactic called “social-emotional learning” could be doing more harm than good.
Why it’s going viral: The author of this piece, Abigail Schrier, came to prominence for her controversial book on gender transition “Irreversible Damage.” Her new book, “Bad Therapy,” examines whether the way mental health interventions work in educational settings needs more regulation and whether current practice standards are helping teens. Some readers of this piece may feel that Schrier’s reporting here undercuts education professionals, many of whom are genuinely caring individuals who just want to help young people. Other readers might be surprised to learn of the internal contradictions happening within the field of school counseling, and concerned to know that privacy regulations prevent much of what is shared with a school counselor from being communicated to parents and guardians.
Continue the conversation: Outside of your family members, is there an adult that you trust to talk about your problems with?

2. High Roller

What it is: Crunchyroll, a streaming service owned by Sony and dedicated solely to anime, is the fastest-growing streaming service at the moment.
Why it makes sense: In an interview with The Verge, Crunchyroll’s president explained that their strategy doesn’t seek to introduce anime to new audiences, just to capitalize on the huge audience that already exists. That’s a huge demographic: as of last year, 42% of Gen Z surveyed by Polygon say they watch anime regularly. The fan community for this type of content is diverse, and the anime format continues to push into different types of storytelling. The same survey showed that 39% of Gen Z’s anime viewers consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community, and over 50% of Gen Z fans of the genre said that watching anime influences their identity. Netflix and Crunchyroll are currently in first and second, respectively.
Continue the conversation: Do you enjoy watching anime?

3. Unmanageable

What it is: A bombshell report from the New York Times found that a network of parent-controlled Instagram accounts for underage girls is being exploited for content by child predators.
Why it’s so disheartening: The girls who feature on these popular accounts aren’t technically old enough to be on Instagram, so their guardians—usually their mothers— take the photos and post captions. The accounts are racking up follower counts in the millions as these mothers angle for brand sponsorships and modeling contracts. This investigation concluded that posts that feature young girls wearing suggestive or tight-fitting clothing get more likes and comments. One analysis found that out of 5,000 such accounts, connections could be made to 32 million male followers. Some mothers who were interviewed expressed concern that images of their children were being viewed and discussed by pedophiles in public anonymous forums, even saying they had regrets about their participation. But others felt their misgivings weren’t enough of a reason to delete the accounts or stop posting.
Continue the conversation: What do you think is the “right” age for someone to have an Instagram account?

Song/Slang/Resource of the Week

“Saturn” by SZA: SZA’s signature sleepy R&B style is fully heard in her newest single, “Saturn.” The song’s lyrics read as a lament, with a disillusioned SZA wishing she was on another planet. As Christians, we can empathize with SZA’s desire to leave this broken world behind while holding onto faith in Jesus, and the hope we have in Him for redemption and reconciliation. As “Saturn” sees SZA’s descent into despair, the song provides ample ammunition for conversations with teens about the world, faith, and where we place our hope. For lyrics, click here.

Deep Dive: Avatar

On this week’s episode of the Deep Dive podcast, we talked about Netflix’s recent live-action adaptation of a beloved children’s show “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and how it stacks up to the original. (Long story short: it doesn’t.) Though the show has been met with far more acclaim than the last attempt to adapt it to live-action, some noticeable changes have been made to the original characters.

Part of what made the animated series so popular was its commitment to complex characterization alongside the fun and jokes. The characters struggled with anger, fear, and pride, they showed hope in the face of darkness, they loved each other and held one another accountable. Above all, they grew and changed for the better.

In the new show, many of the characters’ negative traits have been sanitized to cement their status as “good guys.” Unfortunately, what this means is that almost everyone in the show comes across as flat and static. In the absence of flaws to work against, they have no reason to mature or develop.

This comes across as unsatisfying because it’s so far from reality. In our own lives, we struggle every day against the darkness both from the world and within ourselves. For teenagers, that feeling can be all the more overwhelming. As parents, we have the opportunity to help our teens see pain and evil as reminders of how necessary Jesus’ sacrifice was, and a chance to see God’s glory work against sin in real-time.

In 2 Corinthians 2:9, Christ tells us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Every time we realize that there is a part of us that we haven’t turned over to God, a piece that we’ve let steep in sin, that’s an opportunity for God to reveal a glorious change. One day, there will be no more suffering. For now, though, the most wonderful thing about being broken people is that we get to see miraculous redemption every day in little ways, watching good triumph over evil again and again and again.

For the full episode, click here. In the meantime, here are three questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • What’s an interesting character that jumps to mind, and why?
  • What does it mean for God’s power to be made perfect in our weakness?
  • Can you think of a time when God worked in your life to show his glory?