Summer days are coming to a swift end for many teens and, while they make the most of these last few days of freedom from school, they’re spending their time consuming and critiquing mass amounts of popular culture that I’m delighted to fill you in on.
For starters, let’s talk about music. Lil Nas X is still at the top as his late spring banger, “Old Town Road” has been remixed an obscene amount of times. Despite the perceived silliness of his viral success, teens are still very much tuned into what he’s doing, singing, and tweeting about, including his coming out as gay last month.
In other music news, teens have appreciated Beyonce’s masterful, curated soundtrack to the Lion King but have some reservations about Taylor Swift’s upcoming album, Lover, of which she’s already dropped three singles. They’re a bit more quick to criticize the queen of pop, calling her new music “kind of annoying.” Music fans were also unsure about Ed Sheeran’s new album, No. 6 Collaborations Project, an album made up entirely of collaborations with many other artists. Listeners cited how different it is from anything else Sheeran’s ever done.
Movies and TV
In addition to their deep appreciation for Beyonce’s contributions to The Lion King, teens have enjoyed other Disney cinematic masterpieces this summer like Aladdin and Toy Story 4. Teens aren’t particularly passionate about anything new on TV other than, perhaps, Stranger Things Season 4 in which case they have a lot of (mostly positive) reactions to the latest installment of the sci-fi series based thick in the nostalgia of midwestern America in the 1980s.
If you think long-form series might be on the way out for this generation, you might be onto something. I’m not trying to claim that I know the future of entertainment, but I do know that teens today are growing increasingly invested in the content that exists on TikTok. TikTok is the short-form video-based social media platform, where users post can post videos and watch them on an infinite scroll style feed. Teens who once considered TikTok weird are now appreciating the content that exists there, mostly noting how funny it is (if you were familiar with Vine, TikTok is essentially Vine 2.0). Teens are discovering and watching these movies on their Instagram feeds more than they’re watching directly on the TikTok platform, but they are interested and it seems that their interest is just increasing.
Nothing wildly new to report in the realm of video games, except that Minecraft is apparently (according to our teen sources) becoming more popular. Where Fortnite used to be front and center, teens we’re talking to are suggesting that Minecraft is on the rise. It is no longer considered a joke to video game users, or teens in general, and they are now playing “unironically,” enjoying what Minecraft has to offer. This shouldn’t be a huge cause of alarm or concern, just something to be aware of, especially if your teen is heavily invested in video gaming.
When we asked teens about social causes and issues that are of main concern to them, they mentioned the save the turtles and save the bees efforts that have been sprouting up around them. They are certainly latching onto very Laudato Si vibes, with their love for metal straws/strawless alternatives, and have at least arrived at some level of consciousness of their own impact on the environment.
Additionally, while they’re not intensely invested in the intricacies of American politics, they have noted that free college promises by democratic presidential candidates have piqued their interest. This is no surprise, coming from a generation more concerned with financial security and overall safety than others, and can likely be a great entry point to talk with teens about how politics, social issues, and human dignity are all related.
As they prepare to head back to school and take on what’s coming in the new year, take time to ask your teens about these things. Let them be the experts in their culture, and share those parts with you that light them up. Ask them lots of questions, listen to their answers, and most of all, keep looking for Jesus in this culture of theirs. He is there and He is working.