Three Things This Week
What it is: Purported experts have been giving advice on investments, personal finance, and taxes on what’s called #StockTok or #FinTok. Unfortunately, much of the advice is not sound (language), to say the least.
Why it could start an important conversation: Micro-investment apps like Robinhood are just a part of what has given rise to Gen Z’s keen interest in stocks, bonds, savings, and early retirement. Learning to be financially prudent is a life skill that can simultaneously unlock self-control, discipline, and generosity. But we need to teach our teens not simply to obsess about doing smart things with their money, but to make sure that they are doing the right thing, too. #FinTok experts often have a vested interest in the strategies they promote or the products they are selling to young consumers under the guise of “free advice.” Ask your teen what they’ve heard about how to plan for their financial future, and use their answer as an opportunity to bring up biblical truths about stewardship, financial integrity, and giving.
2. Life in WandaVision
What it is: WandaVision, the first Disney+ original series featuring the MCU, debuted last Friday and will air a new 30-minute episode every Friday until early March.
Why it’s not what Marvel fans are used to: WandaVision features Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) reprising their Avengers film roles, with a kitschy twist: The series takes the form of a classic television sitcom, paying homage to Bewitched and I Love Lucy. There’s some thinly veiled sexual and political innuendo, as well as a few winking references to TV censorship, making it more mature than most Disney+ fare while staying firmly planted in Mickey-Mouse-approved territory. Beneath the zany, over-the-top exterior of WandaVision, viewers can already catch hints of a juicy story arc, something sinister that’s brewing behind the sitcom’s scenes. Teens who haven’t spent time watching Golden Era TV might not get all (or any) of the jokes in WandaVision, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to watch it. WandaVision is the first of several slated shows that will build the foundation for the next phase of Marvel’s onscreen storytelling.
3. How Well Does the FYP Know Your Teen?
What it is: A columnist on Mashable (language) says that the TikTok algorithm predicted her bisexual preferences before she became aware of them herself, calling the app a “divine digital oracle” because it directed queer content to her For You Page.
Why it raises complicated questions: The mainstream cultural dogma would suggest that by becoming acquainted with a user’s preferences, an app like TikTok can know you better than you know yourself. But from a Christian perspective, the matter is less black-and-white. To some extent, what we are exposed to shapes our curiosities, and following our curiosities shapes who we are and what we come to care about most. We can’t claim to fully unravel the connection between what we see and who we become here, but it does seem that surrendering to what our data says about us gives the machines (and the people who program them) a lot of power over how our souls turn out. Let’s remind our teens of the need to “take every thought captive,” but also that in God’s eyes we’re always more than the sum of what we’ve seen, thought, or felt.
Slang of the Week: not me/couldn't be me: typically said in jest, these phrases are meant to poke fun at the habits and personality of their speaker. By saying them, you are admitting that it definitely is and could be you. (Ex: “Not me forgetting my wet laundry in the washing machine three nights in a row. Couldn’t be me.”)
Spotify's Top 10 Songs
This week we’re making conversation starters out of popular songs. Though we may hope our teens don’t know any of these, if they do, we want to help you meet them in their world. If they like a song, try asking first what they like about it. (FYI: The explicit version of every song here contains profanity, and some contain sexual content, so use discretion.)
1) "drivers license" by Olivia Rodrigo: a heart-wrenching ballad about driving to places haunted by memories of an ex.
- It's tempting to minimize breakup pain, but for teens, pain feels eternal. Consider asking, "How do you feel when you hear this song?" and sharing part of your own story.
2) "Good Days" by SZA: another song about struggling to get over an ex, but holding out hope for good days in the future.
- Key lyric: "All the while, I'll await my armored fate with a smile"
- If your teen likes SZA (pronounced "sizza"), consider asking what they think the key lyric means, and if they know any scripture that speaks to fate or God's purpose for us.
3) "Bad Boy" by Juice WRLD: about sex, drugs, and power, surprising only because Juice WRLD was often more introspective.
- Consider asking, “What do you think about Juice WRLD? Are you surprised to hear him on a song like ‘Bad Boy’?”
4) "Whoopty" by CJ: another song full of braggadocio, using lots of obscure slang.
- Consider asking, “Why do you think so many people rap and sing about how rich they are?”
5) “34+35 (Remix)" by Ariana Grande: one of the most sexually explicit songs on positions, made more so with Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion.
- Consider asking, “Why do you think so many women see music like this as empowering?”
6) “Mood” by 24kGoldn: a song about relational conflict and avoidant attachment styles.
- Consider asking, “Have you ever felt the impulse to unattach when you start getting close to someone?”
7) "Lemonade" by Internet Money: drugs and braggadocio with shimmering guitar.
- Consider asking, “How many people do you think actually pay attention to the lyrics in songs like this?”
8) “WITHOUT YOU” by The Kid LAROI: another painful breakup ballad (reviewed in detail here).
- Consider asking, “Do you think most people like this because they’re going through heartache, or for other reasons?”
9) "positions" by Ariana Grande: about love, commitment, and flexibility in relationship (full album reviewed here).
- Key lyric: "Know my love infinite, nothin' I wouldn't do"
- Consider asking, “Is anyone’s love actually infinite? Why?”
10) "Streets" by Doja Cat: about regretting a breakup and getting back together.
- Consider asking, “How will you know if you’re in the right relationship? Is any relationship ever 100% right?”