1. Fliff Flaff
What it is: An app called Fliff lets younger users place bets on sporting events, like this weekend’s Super Bowl.
Why it’s controversial: Fliff is just one of the so-called “social sportsbook” apps that doesn’t require age verification and operate legally in most US states. Users can bet on various sports outcomes using a free in-game currency called Fliff Coins. This allows the app to legally define its operation as a sweepstakes game rather than a sportsbook operation. The CEO of Fliff says that the app is intended as an “introductory experience” to the world of sports gambling, and emphasizes that users have to be 18 to buy Fliff Cash, a different in-game currency option that does cost real money. But gambling harm prevention experts aren’t convinced—they say that by providing an on-ramp to sports betting for users that has virtually no safeguards, social sportsbook apps are building a gateway for youth to develop real-life gambling problems.
Continue the conversation: Do you think a gambling addiction can develop even if you aren’t using real money to place bets? Why or why not?
2. Taylor’s Travails
What it is: At the Grammys, Taylor Swift announced that her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” will be released on April 19.
Why Swifties are melting down: Taylor Swift’s omnipresence on the charts makes it easy to forget that it’s been almost two years since she’s released a full album of new music. The tracklist for “The Tortured Poets Department” features titles that have British spellings and several references to the UK, which makes listeners think it will be mostly a breakup album detailing her relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn. A post on Swift’s Instagram features what appeared to be the singer’s handwritten lyrics, including the line, “All’s fair in love and poetry.” From the announcement on stage to the album cover reveal, the whole thing could not be any more dramatic, and Swift fans clamored to speculate on the songs and share their excitement.
Continue the conversation: Why do you think Taylor Swift’s fans identify with her so much?
3. A Magical Investment
What it is: Disney announced plans to invest $1.5 billion in Epic Games, the studio behind Fortnite.
What it could mean: Details on how the deal will play out are scant, but news of this investment suggests that Disney and Epic plan to leverage their partnership to reach Gen Z and Gen Alpha. The deal makes sense from both sides: Despite the enduring success of its flagship product, Epic Games continues to spend more money than it makes. And Disney’s expensive acquisition of intellectual property powerhouses Marvel and LucasFilm could end up a bust, as young consumers’ interest in both seems to be waning. This will mark Disney’s biggest investment ever in gaming, and will likely result in a “meta-verse-like product” that will encompass everything in the Disney universe. Before the announcement, Rocket League (also owned by Epic) was already set to drop an in-game experience framed around “The Mandalorian,” which is slated to run through the end of this month.
Continue the conversation: Do you think Disney can use Fortnite to reach younger audiences?
Song of the Week
“Beautiful Things” by Benson Boone: Benson Boone’s new single (his first from an upcoming album) is at the top of the streaming chart this week. “Beautiful Things” is a mix of sentimental lyrics, pop-rock sounds, and a not-insignificant amount of references to God. Boone is exploding in popularity right now, and it seems the source of this popularity is his TikTok. As similar artists like Noah Kahan, Lizzy McAlpine, and Gracie Abrams have continued to win Gen Z’s hearts, it seems like Benson Boone could be poised to be their next favorite intimate, authentic-feeling musician. For lyrics, click here.
Finding Truth in a Pluralistic Society
As teens finish high school and head toward college, they will inevitably meet people from a wider range of worldviews and religious backgrounds. Many of the young men and women they meet will be as sincere in their pursuit of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or other religions as you would hope your teen would be in their commitment to Christ. Although we live in an age that tends to present a secular worldview as the “default,” the Pew Research Center projects that the vast majority of the world’s people will continue to identify with a religion.
This week, we’re talking with Adam Pelser, a professor of philosophy at the United States Air Force Academy, about what it means to seek truth in a world of religious pluralism. We explore the way many Muslims view Jesus, why some Eastern religious practices are being absorbed by Western culture (think yoga and mindfulness), and discuss how spirituality is one of the only domains where people use phrases like “my truth.” (As Pelser points out, “My students don’t tend to say things like ‘That’s not my truth’ in their physics class.”)
We also talk about the spiritual free-for-all that exists on certain segments of TikTok, with different influencers dabbling in Wicca, tarot, and crystals, among other things—and about how one of the biggest appeals of this buffet-style spirituality is that it doesn’t make any real claims or demands on those who pursue it. If we can put together and take away spiritual practices in whatever combination we want, we essentially end up making something in our own image. It’s the opposite of the Christian mandate, in which Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”
The full conversation is available on our Culture Translator podcast. (And for even more on these topics, check out our World Religions Conversation Kit.) In the meantime, here are three questions to help spark conversation with your teens:
- What do you think about the idea that all religions are “different paths up the same mountain”?
- What do you think Jesus meant in John 14:6 when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”?
- Do you know anyone who shares their faith in a way that seems healthy to you?