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1. Giving Players an Ultrahand

What it is: With perfect review scores abounding, Nintendo released its highly anticipated game “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” for the Nintendo Switch last week.
Why players and critics are raving: A direct sequel to the groundbreaking “Breath of the Wild” game, “Tears of the Kingdom” opens right in its aftermath, as Zelda and Link accidentally awaken their old nemesis Ganondorf, sending Link skyward and Zelda back in time. Just like its predecessor, the game gives players a powerful toolset and very little direction, presenting them with a varied world, full of wholesome characters and exciting secrets. The most notable addition to the game is the Ultrahand ability (a reference to a Nintendo toy from 1966). Ultrahand lets players grab, move, and attach a variety of objects at will, allowing for creative problem-solving and unique solutions to puzzles the game presents. Social media is already filling up with the wild things players are creating, although the creativity has taken a bit of darker turn with some players using their Ultrahand contraptions to torture Koroks (language), cute woodland spirits who just want to be reunited with their friends.
Start the conversation: Why do you think people are so excited about this new Zelda game?

2. A Diet of Darkness

What it is: Despite some states trying to ban TikTok to protect users’ data privacy, an article in the Wall Street Journal argues that the bigger threat is still to teens’ mental health.
Why it’s not going away: Even though TikTok has tried to strengthen its parental controls and balance out its algorithm’s recommendations, many younger users are still regularly being exposed to harmful content. The WSJ article cites a recent study which involved creating accounts for fake 13-year-olds, and noting how quickly these accounts’ For You Pages filled up with videos about eating disorders, body image, self-harm, and suicide. To make matters more difficult, teens consistently rate TikTok as the “most addictive” social media app. The WSJ recommends parents watch their kids’ For You Pages with them to get a feel for what kind of content the app is recommending, as well as that they set up Family Pairing, especially for younger users of the app.
Start the conversation: Would you say that TikTok has ever affected your mental health?

3. High School Horror

What it is: A growing number of students are avoiding school because of panic attacks and anxiety.
Why it’s not just playing hooky: A USA Today article analyzes “school avoidance” as an extension of students’ anxiety and other mental health issues. Although school avoidant behavior has been on the rise since before the pandemic, for some students, going back to class post-pandemic has been especially difficult. The article shares stories of several teens who, because of mental health issues linked to being at school, refuse to attend—only to see those same mental health issues worsen by staying away. The School Avoidance Alliance estimates that 5% to 28% of students in the country exhibit school avoidant behaviors at some point in their lives. Psychologists recommend a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy to help gradually rebuild students’ courage in the face of this sort of anxiety.
Start the conversation: Do you know anyone who avoids school because of anxiety?

Song of the Week

“Area Codes” by Kali: This song takes its name and chorus from a 2001 song by Ludacris in which he brags about his widespread sexual prowess, listing phone number area codes to demonstrate his reach. Kali’s song, with over 38k TikTok videos already using it as a sound, plays on the same idea but genderswaps it, changing the emphasis to focus on the men that give her money just because she’s beautiful, even though she never spends time with them. Even though songs like this are touted as empowering when written by women, its portrayals of overt sexuality, treating others badly, and seeing money as the ultimate goal of life are still toxic. You can find the lyrics here (language and content warning).

Culture: Translated

It’s no secret that the world can be a scary place, and no one is more aware of this than teenagers. Where older generations might have felt safe as long as they steered clear of dark alleys and candy from strangers, danger seems to come from every angle for today’s young people. School is supposed to be a place to learn and grow in a protected environment, but the USA Today article we talked about above makes it clear that some teens no longer feel that way. Even home isn’t safe when content that is triggering, disturbing, and undeniably bad for their mental health is always in their pocket.

We can support our teens in big and small ways, from trying to help them figure out a way to approach school that makes them feel strong and safe, to working with parental content filtering on apps so they don’t see things that could hurt them. But we can’t protect them from it all, and when they become adults, the things you might have done to try and keep them safe become their responsibility.

Meanwhile, games like “Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom” offer a world where bad guys can be defeated, where creativity and ingenuity are rewarded, where obstacles can be overcome, and where you can be a hero. Even when the world feels totally out of control, this is a space where many can go to feel safe.

Others may find similar solace in movies, TV, or books. Stories offer young people an invaluable escape from the overwhelm of life into a place where no pain can last forever, because there is a path laid out to follow and the confidence of closure. As Christians, we know that this is exactly the path to peace that God has for us: a story with no chance of unredeemable disaster, which ends in the death of all fear, loss, and pain. Maybe part of why stories like the Legend of Zelda resonate on such a deep level is because they echo the promises of God. Though we may feel like there is no escape from darkness in our lives, we serve a God who is sovereign and whose light will vanquish the darkness forever. That’s a hope that our teens—and everyone—can cling to until it comes.

  • What do you do when you feel afraid, unsafe, or overwhelmed?
  • Are there any books, video games, movies, or TV shows that always make you feel better? What about them helps comfort you?
  • Since God is the author of all good things, how do you see Him reflected in the media that you turn to when you’re upset? How can you see more of those characteristics in God Himself?