1. Musk Have
What it is: Tesla man and Mars enthusiast Elon Musk bought Twitter. That’s it, that’s the tweet.
Why it’s got people upset: In a $44 billion acquisition, Musk is taking the company private. Musk promises increased transparency for users and non-users, even saying that the social media platform’s algorithm will become open to the public. Twitter users, and even Twitter staffers, have been wringing their hands over the shakeup, while news organizations and pundits who were shadow banned or censored on the platform are celebrating the possibility of a new direction. It’s a polarizing move, in a polarized moment, on an already polarized platform. A Twitter user’s reaction to the purchase will depend, mostly, on how they feel about Musk. Maybe he’s a manic technocrat with an ego raging out of control, or perhaps he’s a meme-loving free-speech crusader, depending on how you squint. This deal will have repercussions for who, and how, people use Twitter, even as the world spins madly on.
2. Star Gazing
What it is: New survey data compiled by YouGov suggests that 1 in 4 Americans believe in astrology.
Why it’s nothing new: If 25 percent of Americans believe that the stars and planets influence people’s lives, that’s not really an increase — the Pew Research Center saw similar findings in research they conducted in 2009. What’s more interesting, perhaps, is that 37 percent of adults under 30 in the YouGov poll confirmed their belief in the cosmos influence. See also: the 35.4 billion TikToks labeled #astrology. It’s possible (though so far unproven) that this rise in astrology’s influence is correlated to an increase in narcissistic personality traits among the younger generation. A small study published this March saw that the personality traits of narcissism and agreeableness are highly associated with a belief in astrology — a find made more surprising since agreeable people tend to have lower rates of narcissism, in general. It’s not like scientific evidence for astrology is suddenly flooding in; a huge study in Sweden that analyzed 500,000 participants found that star signs had no correlation to long-term compatibility in marriage. You can talk to your teen about why astrology appeals to younger people and what God really calls us to see when we look up at the stars.
3. Too Much, Too Soon
What it is: A longform feature and a short documentary from the New York Times examines the neuroscience behind the mental health crisis in today’s teenagers.
Why it offers new insight: The reporting here synthesizes several things we know about teens right now. The onset of puberty continues to drop to an earlier age, with many kids starting sexual maturity while still in elementary school. This occurs at the same time that young people are being absolutely deluged with different types of digital information and experiencing a new awareness of social structures around them. However, that doesn’t mean that the “brake-system” in the brains (the prefrontal cortex) is keeping up with these other changes. Some teens feel trapped inside their bodies as they wait for their brains to mature. One mental health professional interviewed reminded parents that talking to teens early about suicidal ideation, self-harm, and other issues isn’t going to introduce or suggest these issues in a way that causes them to happen, but could in fact be a powerful preventative measure.
Slang of the Week
Villain arc: Used by people, especially girls, who are tired of pretending to be “good” and have decided that the events in their life or the world have launched them into a stylized and aesthetic period of “evil”. (Ex: “My best friend’s boyfriend cheated on her, so she bought a ton of tight dresses and started doing really heavy eyeliner. I guess this is her villain arc.”)
Too Much, Too Soon sheds new light on the serious issue of the teen mental health crisis in America. Our children are experiencing one of the most significant and potentially traumatizing times in their lives, puberty, earlier than ever before. Alongside this early sexual maturity is the unending onslaught of data and social awareness from social media.
However, our children are still children. They aren’t becoming extraordinarily mentally mature; they’re stuck in the limbo of having a young brain in a growing body. As a result, they can feel the dissonance of that limbo and its effects on their emotional and mental health. The National Alliance on Mental Illness suggests that talking with even very young children about mental health can help set them up for success as they process through these growing pains. Making comparisons between mental and physical illnesses and the treatments required for each (such as “when we have the flu, we go to the doctor, and when we are depressed we can talk to a therapist”), asking them to draw what their feelings look like, and just listening and validating their emotions as they seek to express themselves can all be part of the conversation about mental health.
Even though puberty has changed for Gen Z and continues to change for Gen Alpha, it’s still something that’s happened to every single one of us. This time can be an especially significant one for starting discussions about how God understands our suffering. It can be a time to learn that even the most difficult things can remind us of His faithfulness.
The Psalms are one of the first places we look when we think of crying out to God in our pain. However, the Psalms are not only a story of suffering; they are full of promises that our suffering has purpose and will not last forever. A teen struggling with mental health might find solace that they are not alone in their struggles in passages like Psalm 42:3-4: “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.”
As you urge your teen to read Psalms to process their pain, you can also remind them that there is hope to be found in its passages, too. A particularly beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness is found in Psalm 121:7-8: “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
As difficult and confusing as our situations may be, they do not stop God from being God. Not only does this apply to the teens struggling with their mental health that we mentioned in Too Much, Too Soon, but those looking for solace in astrology that we talked about in Star Gazing or even those feeling the weight of change that comes when social media they have come to trust shifts hands, like we discussed in Musk Have.
God’s constant care for our struggles, decisions, and daily lives is assured and trustworthy.
Believing this promise, as with many promises found in the Bible, is obviously harder to do than to say. Here are some ways you can start conversations that will help teens integrate an understanding of God’s faithfulness and care for our situations into their day-to-day:
- When do you feel closest to God?
- Do you feel like God understands what you are feeling? Why or why not?
- How can I help you feel less alone and lonely when you are struggling? How can I pray for you?