". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


As the World Continues to Turn Away From Christ, Teen Mental Health Worsens

February 13, 2024

It seems my childhood came at the tail end of an era: life without technology dominating every aspect of what we do and see in a day. It didn’t take long, though, for that to change, and for laptops, cell phones, and social media to become the center of millions of lives. Along with many others, I’ve watched technology replace in-person interaction and cheapen the quality of life. And it’s not hard to see why.

Social media feeds into depression and anxiety with all the comparison and unfruitful content. Cyberbullying is very real and difficult to track. Women and children are increasingly exploited online, and cases of life-threatening drugs being sold to youth across various platforms now happens more frequently. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil, but I’d argue evil more easily takes precedent.

A recent study conducted by Common Sense Media (CMS) found that America has a teen mental health crisis. Yet, with the way social media has plagued the younger generations, is anyone really surprised by this? But it goes beyond technology, as many factors contribute to the decay of younger generations and their mental health.

“The negative effects of social media on young people’s mental health is a top concern, including across party identification,” CSM reported. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a survey in 2021 that noted the roles “risky sexual practices, illicit drug and alcohol use, and bullying at school” play in this analysis. We are also seeing a rise in broken homes and fatherlessness, and many researchers suggest the pandemic worsened the mental health crisis that was already present.

And at a time in history where the world is warring over the topic of identity, how are developing youth supposed to know what to believe about anything? Marlo Slayback, national director of Student Programs at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, shared with The College Fix that over time, “the culture surrounding Gen Z [has changed]. It’s a recipe for despair, hopelessness, nihilism, disaffection.” She described it as a “decaying culture” that causes young people to “feel alienated and lost at sea.”

While many societal factors could be considered, the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University conducted a survey that found children between eight and 12-years-old, preteens, are increasingly denying biblical truths. Is this a coincidence amid the growing mental health crisis? I don’t think so.

According to the results, only 21% of preteens agreed that “there are absolute truths — things that are right and things that are wrong, that do not depend on feelings, preferences, or circumstances.” Only 27% of preteens believed “the main reason to live is to know, love and serve God, with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And only 17% felt a successful life was connected to obedience to God.

In addition to the preteens, the survey found similar results in children’s pastors and parents of young children, who also had low statistics. George Barna, the director of Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center and Family Research Council senior research fellow, said these results only reflect the lack of biblical worldview present in the lives of many today. He added, “[W]e are on the precipice of Christian invisibility in this nation unless we get serious about this crisis and invest heavily in fixing what’s broken.”

Barna explained, “Children are intellectual and spiritual sponges in their preteen years. They are desperately trying to make sense of the world, their identity, their purpose, and how to live a meaningful and satisfying life.” As such, it’s obvious how toxic social media and other issues have caused mental health problems among this group. But it’s also worth emphasizing the spiritual aspect.

As Christians, we know the only true life is a life lived for Christ. Upon conversion, we are spiritually reborn into a new creation that has a desire to follow and obey Jesus and His word. Our eyes are opened to the truth of this world as laid out in Scripture. And once our eyes are opened, we can see how the world has so greatly abandoned these biblical truths. And what follows? Disorder and destruction; confusion and hopelessness.

When I was growing up, life wasn’t as crazy as it is now, but I still had to face the realities of its brokenness. And it was my biblical worldview that allowed me to persevere through any hardships growing up. Young people now are growing up in a society that believes men can become women and vise versa. They are being raised to believe that marriage has nothing to do with God, and that sex (specifically outside of marriage) has no consequences. Truth is subjective, and children can carve out their own reality as they enter adulthood. This is detrimental for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

No wonder these children feel lost and in a constant state of unrest. They’re being fed lies around every corner — physical or virtual. Approaching this crisis, Christians “should respond with brokenness and a realization that much of our discipleship efforts in the church geared towards young people has failed,” said David Closson, director of FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview.

He explained how we are at the “highest rates of biblical illiteracy and the lowest of biblical worldview” since it’s been measured. “It’s not good,” he said, “but the writing has been on the wall for a long time.” And a lack of biblical worldview does factor into decreased mental wellness. Why? Because anything other than a biblical worldview is “a deficient worldview,” Closson noted, and sets “people up to fail very early.”

He added, “Since most people are not thinking rightly about the world, we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re not going to be thinking rightly about other things. Not just theological matters, but they won’t be thinking rightly about themselves, their place in the world, body image,” or anything under the sun. Ultimately, Closson concluded, “[W]e need to be [more] intentional in our discipleship efforts” in reaching younger generations.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.