Teen Culture

Teen Culture Update: January 2020

Between the Oscars, Golden Globes, Grammy’s, the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, and all that goes along with a presidential election year, January did not disappoint in turning out plenty of areas of teen culture worthy of exploring. So let’s dive in…

The Grammy’s

While your teens likely aren’t as in-tune with awards shows as you and your peers might be, they certainly didn’t miss a few key moments due to the celebration of some of the icons of their generation. Most notably, whether they’re fans or not, your teens are likely aware that gen-z superstar Billie Eilish and her brother FINNEAS, swept the Grammy’s by taking home a combined 10 Grammy’s. While not every teen is a fan of Billie’s, it’s clear she’s a talented young woman and her fierce commitment to authenticity and being who she is certainly has made her a strong representative of what gen-z values.     

Another key moment at the Grammy’s was Demi Lovato’s heartbreaking performance of her new single, “Anyone,” a poetic cry of desperation that she recorded the vocals for just four days after a near-fatal drug overdose in July 2018. Although most teens don’t face the pressures and challenges that a celebrity like Lovato faces, I think this song serves as a stark reminder that when anyone, especially a young person, is asking for help in the face of addiction, anxiety, depression, stress, or otherwise, it’s imperative that we listen to them and identify ways we can journey with them into emotional and spiritual health. If your teens have even hinted at struggling in those ways, take their claims seriously and regularly check-in to better understand what they’re going through and how you can guide and support them. 

Kobe Bryant

Tragedy struck in late January when we all heard the news of Kobe Bryant’s sudden, unexpected death in a helicopter crash. When he, his daughter Gianna, and 7 other victims died suddenly, people came out in droves to express their admiration for Bryant and their sadness over the loss. His Catholic faith and attendance at daily Mass on the day of the crash has been noted by many in the Church. This tragedy is an important one to process with your teens —  especially if they were fans or followers of his — and unpack the fragility of life but the hope that we can have in Christ and His resurrection


Between the Iowa Caucuses, President Trump’s State of the Union, and the general anticipation of the presidential election taking place this year, there is a lot that is polarizing people and communities by way of politics. 

Sadly, the conversations around political issues are rarely productive, but instead, seem to widen the divide between party lines. When I sat down with a group of teens to talk to them about their reactions to politics and political conversations, they expressed their frustration at this deep division that exists. When I asked why one teen girl feels anxious/overwhelmed about the upcoming election, she noted that she agrees and disagrees with both “sides” and is nervous to see how we as a country will react to an election of any president while living in such a polarized country. 

The more I talk to this generation, the more I realize that, even if they aren’t directly engaging with things (like politics), their awareness of them via social media stirs up a response in them that they deserve to express and should be guided in processing. Teens recognize that their faith in Jesus should influence how they engage in the social sphere, but at the same time, they sense that heavy polarization and are unsure of how to navigate it. 

Catholic Teaching

When 35 teens were surveyed and asked the question “some aspects of the Catholic Church that I don’t understand are…” teens submitted some rather telling answers. While there was a wide variety of responses, there were duplicate answers that are worth noting.  Four teens responded with answers that had to do with the church’s teaching on homosexuality or sexuality in general, two responded with answers noting the sex scandals, and one teen summed up the whole struggle saying, “certain views of the church that don’t go along with other teachings of love and acceptance.” 

When I talked with a group of teens about some of these responses, one young woman expressed frustration over the Church’s inability and/or unwillingness to respond to questions that it doesn’t seem to have concrete answers to — she expressed this frustration in the context of discussing homosexuality. While the areas noted by these teens are often noted in general as peoples’ challenges with the Church, it’s clear that the questions are not going away and that your teens are interested in better understanding. 

As a domestic Church, I’d encourage you to breach these topics with your teens, and aim to help them to know the person of Jesus who established this Church and why the Church teaches what she teaches. It may be difficult and you might feel like you don’t always have the answers (which is OK), but as a family, seeking the person of Christ and aiming to understand what He’s called us each to is where familial discipleship begins.

The goal of this blog is to give parents information and insight into what is trending in teen culture so as to provide entry points and conversation starters as they guide their teens through modern culture. The purpose of this blog is not to condone, or approve of all aspects of teen culture but rather to inform.

About the Author

Leah Murphy

Leah serves as Life Teen's Director of Digital Evangelization. As a graduate of John Paul the Great Catholic University, with a background in video and a passion for that wild place where faith and culture meet, she lives to tell God's love story to the world in the digital space. Dwelling in San Diego, CA, she spends all her free time doing all the things with her friends, enjoying the best music out there, and going on every adventure that comes her way.