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1. Clocking Out?

What it is: On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would effectively ban TikTok from operating in the US.
Why it’s not a done deal: This bill, known as the Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act, still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President before it becomes law. Even if those things do happen, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, could challenge the law. ByteDance could also choose to sell TikTok to a US-based company to evade the ban, but it would be next to impossible to complete such a sale in time to meet the bill’s requirement. President Joe Biden has said he will sign the law if it passes, but former President Donald Trump has said that he is now against such a ban because of how it would consolidate more social media power and profit amongst US-based tech companies. Free speech advocates have also expressed concerns over the ban, noting that US tech giants partner with their government on extensive data sharing and censorship of users.
Continue the conversation: Do you think TikTok will end up getting banned? Why or why not?

2. Discorded

What it is: Organized groups on Discord and Telegram have been targeting vulnerable minors, often survivors of serious mental health conditions, for abuse and exploitation.
Why it’s worth understanding: The FBI has identified at least eight known groups that seek out individuals as young as eight. Individual users will invite a minor to join a Discord server or Telegram group and pretend to be friendly even as they solicit material that is sexual or exploitative. The conversations then take an ever darker turn as members of the group pressure the “target” to stream acts of self-harm, animal abuse, and violence against others. Similar to “sextortion,” once the group has acquired any compromising or embarrassing material, they use that as blackmail to pressure the victim to perform acts that are more and more depraved. Parents should know that the vast majority of users of Telegram and Discord use the platform innocently, but that the more insulated nature of conversations on these platforms does make it easier for predators to hide what they are doing.
Continue the conversation: What steps can you take to keep yourself safe from online predators?

3.  FAFSA Fail

What it is: An attempt to make the FAFSA form easier to complete has resulted in chaos and delays.
Why it’s holding families up: If your teen has been waiting to hear back on their federal financial aid application, they are far from alone. In the past, most colleges expected that their incoming class of freshmen would make a commitment by a deadline of May 1. But this year, many college seniors do not yet have the information they need to make an informed decision—specifically, the financial aid estimate from the US government. Without this estimate, many students are still unclear on whether or not they can actually afford the college they would like to attend. Some colleges are extending their deadlines while students wait in limbo. Meanwhile, the US Department of Education is still wading through its backlog of potentially millions of applications.
Continue the conversation: How much do you think college should cost?

Song/Slang/Resource of the Week

“we can’t be friends (wait for your love)” – Ariana Grande: Perhaps there really is no such thing as bad press—at least, not for Ariana Grande. Though the tabloids have had a field day with her over the last few months, “we can’t be friends (wait for your love)” is already trending #1 on YouTube Music and Spotify. The lyrics, about self-reliance, rejection, and being misunderstood, seem to be aimed at Grande’s fans as well as her ex-husband. Musically, the song isn’t anything new, but thematically, it’s easy to connect with. If your student likes Ariana Grande’s new album, “eternal sunshine,” there’s a lot of conversation to be had about relationships, loyalty, and the ways God cares about both. For lyrics, click here.

Deep Dive: Dune: Part Two

(Warning: “Dune: Part Two” spoilers ahead)

In the first two weeks since its release, “Dune: Part Two” has become the highest-grossing movie of 2024, doubling the box office gross of “Mean Girls: The Musical.” Since “Dune: Part One,” audiences have been anticipating the continuation of director Denis Villeneuve’s vision of Frank Herbert’s famously dense novel.

Our newest Deep Dive episode examines “Dune: Part Two.” We begin with some of the light-hearted memes the movie has inspired, but we quickly turn to discuss the movie’s unique protagonist, Paul Atreides.

In the novel and in Villeneuve’s film adaptation, Paul is meant to be a deconstruction of the “messiah” found in so many stories. From Neo in “The Matrix,” to Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars,” modern audiences are no strangers to stories about a messiah who fulfills a prophecy. But Paul is different from what viewers have come to expect, and there’s little subtlety in what “Dune: Part Two” is trying to say about messiah figures: they’re powerful, they’re dangerous, and they can inspire horrific violence.

At one point, Paul proves he is the “Lisan al Gaib,” a messiah of prophecy, by telling multiple people secrets that only they—and the divine—would know. This echoes the way Jesus would do the same thing, like when tells Nathanael that He “saw him under the fig tree,” and when He alludes to the woman at the well’s multiple partners.

But Jesus is not like Paul Atreides. Paul calls for bloodshed, violence, and “holy war.” Where Jesus’ goal was to heal and redeem those He interacted with, Paul’s goals are to deceive and manipulate. Jesus wanted to empower his followers to bring more of His redemption and more of His healing to the world, but Paul wants to wield his followers like a weapon.

If the teens in your life are curious about the character of Paul Atreides, maybe it’s worth using his deceit and manipulations as a contrast to the way that Jesus lived and talked. Especially as Easter approaches, it’s worth remembering why, even 2,000 years later, Jesus is still the hope of the world.

You can listen to the full Deep Dive episode here, but for now, if your teens have seen the movie, here’s a couple of questions to help continue the conversation with the teens in your life:

  • Does Paul Atreides remind you of Jesus? Why or why not?
  • In what ways is Jesus different from Paul?
  • What’s one thing about Jesus that feels unique in our current day?