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1. A Rising Tide

What it is: A new book by Jonathan Haidt compares giving kids a smartphone to sending them to Mars and urges parents to “end phone-based childhood—now.”
Why it’s everywhere: The press coverage for “The Anxious Generation” has been dizzying, with everyone from Joe Rogan to the New York Times providing a platform for Haidt’s ideas about Gen Z. Professor Haidt himself says that it feels like this research is being welcomed because our tech-soaked society is already longing for a sea change. “The Anxious Generation” prescribes a host of interventions for teens, including phone-free schools, no smartphones before high school, and no social media before age 16. These actions, he argues, are both reasonable and necessary to abate the mental health crisis gripping young people. He also argues that if a vocal majority of parents advocate for this course of action, a cascade of social change and mental health improvements are bound to quickly ensue.
Continue the conversation: What would happen if your school became a phone-free zone?

2. Split Screen Sadness

What it is: A documentary called “Quiet on Set” details disturbing allegations of a toxic culture of child abuse and exploitation behind the scenes of several beloved Nickelodeon shows.
Why teens are talking about it: Gen Z feels very strongly about their nostalgia television. Nickelodeon shows like “Victorious,” “Zoey 101,” “Drake and Josh,” “Sam and Cat,” and of course, “Spongebob Squarepants” are fondly remembered, with certain scenes achieving a level of permanent infamy through social media’s meme factory. Ariana Grande, Kenan Thompson, Emma Roberts, and Nick Cannon and many more celebrities all got their start as tweens and teens acting in Nickelodeon’s particular brand of silly-but-savvy television show. Some teens even trace parts of their sense of humor straight back to Nickelodeon programming that aired in the late aughts. Learning that there was little protection from child predators—and perhaps a culture that enabled them—on these shows tarnishes the image of the Paramount brand, but it also spoils some of the joy of thinking back on and rewatching these old favorites.
Continue the conversation: What are some of the pros of being a child actor? What might some of the cons be?

3. Redemption Songs

What it is: As Christians prepare to celebrate Easter this Sunday, some are lingering in what they can learn from Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the final days of Lent.
Why it’s all worth celebrating: Easter presents an incredible opportunity to celebrate Jesus’ victory over death. But for younger people living in a complicated world, taking the opportunity to grieve the loss of Eden—including the brokenness of the human condition and the realities of war, starvation, and suffering—can also feel extremely important. As teens grow up and out of Easter traditions like hunting for candy, baking resurrection rolls, and dyeing eggs, they’re confronting really hard questions about the resurrection story. Why would a good and perfect King be crucified? Why would God send His Son, whom He loved, to die for sinners? How should we live knowing we will all die—even if death itself has been defeated? These are consequential, existential questions, and the answers aren’t always easy. Parents and caring adults can be a sounding board for teens to voice their doubts, their amazement, and their awe as a part of Easter observance.
Continue the conversation: What are your favorite parts of the Easter celebration?

Song of the Week

“Like That” by Future and Metro Boomin ft. Kendrick Lamar: Future and Metro Boomin are both titanic hip-hop hitmakers of the last decade, and when they get Kendrick Lamar to feature in a song, it’s going to be a big moment. “Like That” would be significant for the collaboration alone (language), but the hip-hop world has been abuzz because people smell beef. Not actual beef, but Kendrick Lamar heated up the cold war between him and the other two members of the “Big Three” (Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Drake). As Lamar so succinctly puts it “…it’s just big me.” The song itself isn’t terribly memorable outside of Kendrick Lamar’s verse and is full of explicit, degrading, and sexual lyrics, but it’s definitely having its day in the limelight. For the full lyrics, click here (strong language and sexual lyrics/imagery).

Deep Dive: Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End

The teen years may be a little early to start thinking about legacy, but some anime fans may be doing exactly that. This week on our Deep Dive Podcast, we discuss the anime “Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End.” “Frieren” is one of the most highly-esteemed anime shows ever made, both by critics and by fans. The reasons for this are many: the show has endearing and memorable characters, funny moments, beautiful art, intense action scenes, and complex and deep themes.

The show explores the ideas of legacy and who remembers us after we’re gone. The title character, Frieren, is an elf whose long life makes it hard for her to connect with relatively short-lived humans. The show’s story takes place almost a century after Frieren and the “Hero’s Party” saved the world by defeating an aptly named “Demon King.” Yet, time erodes all things, and the legacy of the “Hero’s Party” fades slowly away.

But not for Frieren, who takes it on herself to retrace the steps of her original adventure while partaking in a new one. Through this, she, and the audience, begin to see the impact of the “Hero’s Journey” and the legacy they left on the world.

Again, legacy might not be something teens are thinking about, but this is fertile ground for conversation. Frieren’s story raises natural questions, like why do we work hard? Why do we steward what we have? Why do we seek to be excellent? If we will be forgotten in a century, what’s the point? Helping the teens in our life understand and answer these questions is a core part of discipling them into their adulthood.

These questions also serve as a reminder that anything we do outside of God is temporal before time and before Him. Solomon, in Psalm 127, says it simply: if God’s not in it, it’s vanity. Yet, when we do allow God to enter into our hopes and dreams and our futures, He won’t let our strivings go to waste. Suddenly, our legacy becomes bigger than ourselves; our legacy is in Jesus. We may not be remembered by men in the future, but we will one day join with all the saints declaring, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

For more on “Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End,” you can check out the full podcast episode here, but for now, here are some questions to help continue the conversation with the teens in your life:

  • Do you find the idea of a show where the heroes have already won interesting? Why or why not?
  • How do we know the things we do have meaning?
  • How do you want people to remember you after you’re gone?