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1. Waiting Until 8th

What it is: Parents who are choosing to wait until 8th grade or later to give their children their own smartphone were spotlighted by a piece in The Free Press (language).
Why it’s catching on: The Free Press interviewed several parents of teens, as well as teens themselves. Several teens were the last in their friend group to have their own smartphone, a situation that they confessed can feel socially isolating. Some parents who gave their child their own phone during middle school expressed regret at how their student now spends less time on creative pursuits and hobbies. Still other parents commented on wanting to spare their children from digital addiction, which they themselves now struggle with. Tim Carney, a writer and a father of six, pointed out the dualistic way that smartphones can shape young people as they grow up. “Social media can change the way you see yourself so that you’re always imagining a second self looking at you. You know, like ‘How would this moment come across? How can I tweet this out? How can I write about this?’” As parents weigh this choice for their family, it can be helpful to look at new research that continues to emerge on this topic.
Start the conversation: When you think about your friend group, can you point to any ways that getting a smartphone changed people’s relationships or personalities?

2. The Life Begoggled

What it is: Apple unveiled (language) a set of $3,500 goggles called Vision Pro. The goggles are meant to navigate the metaverse, among (presumably) other purposes.
What people are saying: “Extended reality,” “mixed reality,” and “spatial computing” are all buzzwords being used to describe what VR headsets have to offer. But as Ian Bogost reports for The Atlantic, the endgame for devices like Apple’s goggles is not yet clear. He wonders at their utility, while admitting that the most interesting experiences he’s had on headsets have consisted of being able to play mini golf with his son who lives in another city. Tech companies have been predicting a mass integration of this technology for years, with multiple tech companies racing to develop a game-changing and accessible device. As of now, the 50 million VR headsets that have been sold are mainly just used for gaming. It’s too early to declare the metaverse a bust, but it also seems like this much-touted virtual reality is having a bit of an identity crisis.
Start the conversation: Do you think that VR headsets will ever actually become popular? How would that affect our world?

3. #hopecore

What it is: Optimistic posts are trending on TikTok, with #hopecore getting over 800 million TikTok views.
Why it matters: #hopecore posts are simple on their face. They depict uplifting moments, inspiring speeches, scenes of nature, and spliced-together television footage of people beating the odds or offering encouragement. Sometimes they are in slideshow format and share other tags meant to imply hope, such as #antinihilism or #positivity. TikTokers say that the trend isn’t meant to be trite or ironic, and that #hopecore isn’t about pretending that life isn’t difficult. The posts take aim at moments of difficulty that are the setup for moments of triumph or redemption. One popular meme format that exemplifies #hopecore portrays “the indomitable human spirit” vs. the “cold cruelty of the universe,” with images that demonstrate the human spirit as a heroic, unconquerable force.
Start the conversation: Do you think trends like #hopecore make a real difference for people who feel defeated or helpless?

Slang of the Week

Bed Rotting: A phrase used to refer to spending an extended amount of time in bed, which could be any length of time ranging from a few hours to an entire weekend. The time might be spent binge-watching shows, eating, or just laying there. The trend is being considered a form of self-care, with over 305 million video views on TikTok about this habit, but some mental health experts are concerned that excessive amounts of time spent in bed could be either a symptom or a cause of depression.

Culture: Translated

Though it’s usually good to assume a degree of irony in trends like “bed rotting,” Dr. Theresa Marko, a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedic Physical Therapy, still wants to point out that “prolonged lying in bed is not good for your muscles or joints; you start to lose muscle mass after a couple of days of laying in bed–this means that you become weaker.” In a small study published in 2016, just one week of bed rest substantially reduced muscle mass and lowered insulin sensitivity for young men.

Meanwhile, one of the common threads in these #hopecore videos is that they’re mostly about achieving and accomplishing things in real life. They’re about embodied experiences—using the bodies God has given us to do amazing and inspiring things. Although rest is also extremely important, there’s a difference between resting and rotting. One helps re-energize us to live our lives; the other may be more about avoiding our lives.

Although parents, like those interviewed by The Free Press, have a variety of reasons for giving or not giving their children phones (or maybe VR headsets), other organizations like 1000 Hours Outside are trying to highlight the benefits (not just the drawbacks) of time spent disconnected and offline. Spending time outside in God’s creation is linked to numerous developmental and health benefits, from receiving vitamin D from the sun, to fostering a greater sense of adventure.

If Jesus had come to Earth in our modern era instead of during the Roman Empire, he would still have had an amazing effect on people’s lives. We can’t say whether Jesus would have had a social media account or not, or if He would have watched shows with His disciples on Netflix. But Jesus came to Earth at a time when being offline was the only option. Though this doesn’t mean that the answer is to try to be “always offline,” we should recognize that Jesus was modeling for us the ultimate way to live well in the bodies God has given us.

Here are some questions to spark conversation about these things with your teens:

  • If you had to describe your ideal life, with no limits, what would you say?
  • Would you say that you have experienced any positive mental health effects from being outside?
  • How would you describe the difference between resting and rotting?