Culture Clips: Want to Help Keep Kids Mentally Healthy? Go to Church

culture clips church

I was never much of a church lover when I was a youngster. Such long sermons. So much standing and sitting and standing again. And, ugh, my parents talked to so many people afterward that we hardly ever got home in time to watch the early football game.

But did all that church make me a mentally healthier person? According to Harvard, maybe.

A new study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that kids and teens who attended church services once a week were 18% more likely to say they were happy when they were in their 20s. Researchers found that prayer or meditation was even more helpful than church attendance. (Those two things tend to go together, though.) Co-author Tyler VanderWeele, a professor at the T.H. Chan School, says this:

The effects of religious upbringing, including both service attendance or prayer or meditation, are profoundly positive in protecting against substance abuse and depression, as well as contributing to higher levels of happiness and volunteering.

And let’s face it: Our kids can use all the help they can get.

If church exerts a positive influence on our adolescents, other aspects of the culture are pulling them in other, more destructive directions. Take, for instance, the fact that nearly 9% of kids in middle school and high school have vaped marijuana, according to a new study. Those numbers are on the rise, by the way—so much so that Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called it an “epidemic.” “Teenagers are becoming regular users, and the proportion of regular users is increasing,” he said. “We’re going to have to take action.” Regular e-cigarettes are troublingly popular with youth, too, which has the FDA mulling a ban on flavored ones.

And e-cigarettes aren’t the only troubling substances youth are getting involved with. Another study, this one in Britain, found that girls between the ages of 10 and 15 are poisoning themselves by taking, essentially, too much Tylenol. The study also found that female youth, ages 19-24, were going to the hospital more frequently due to alcohol poisoning.

And why stop at drugs and alcohol? As we’ve reported lots of times before (including last week), social media and technology can be super-addictive itself. Curse those social media companies with their addictive algorithms, right? Not so fast there, pardner. You might need to shoulder some of the blame yourself.

Jamie Lee Curtis—yes, the actress of Halloween fame—is telling us moms and dads to stop staring at our phones so much. It’s setting a bad example. She tells NBC News’ Think this:

If our children spend their time looking at us looking our phones—at ourselves on our phones, for that matter—scrolling constantly all day, it’s telling them that they should do it, too. But the problem is bigger than that: I’m mortified by what I see on a daily basis on people’s social media profiles. There’s an obsession with other people’s personal lives, and people are obsessed with themselves, which children can’t help but pick up on.

But stare at our phones we often do. Or our tablets. Or our TV screens. And often, much of our screen time is consumed by one entity: Netflix. According to the Streaming Observer, we adults might be frittering twice as much time watching the service as we actually spend bonding with our kids. (‘Course, Netflix just might make itself less appealing if it starts rolling out ads as some expect. A new study finds that it could lose a quarter of its subscribers.)

Truth is, we adults can be just as prone to get sucked into virtual worlds as our kids are.

Take Fortnite, an online survival game that’s changing the world of gaming as we know it. It’s become so popular that millions simply watch professional Fortniters play the thing—with viewership minutes climbing into the billions. But according to a new study, Fortnite is a rising cause for divorce, too: More than 200 couples in the United Kingdom have cited video game addiction, especially an addiction to Fortnite, as a primary culprit in their marriage woes. (And we won’t even talk about the 45-year-old New Yorker who lost a Fortnite match to an 11-year-old and threatened to shoot him.)

Really, I think we should all just take a deep breath, put down our devices and go outside for a bit. Maybe zip over to the zoo. Why, if we wait another 10 years, we just might be able to go to Russia and see long-extinct animals—cave lions and tiny horses and wooly mammoths—alive and well again, thanks to some wonderfully preserved DNA and the scientific miracle of cloning. Wouldn’t that be something? To see a mammoth again, walking around and perhaps flinging “other negative content” at the visitors?

And really, what could go wrong by bringing long-extinct animals to life and putting them in a theme-park-like environment? John Hammond would be so proud.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Scott Jamison More than 1 year ago
I learned about vaping marijuana (that it was even a thing) this week when I had to help a woman find a place for her son to get mandatory drug testing after he was caught vaping (and not necessarily MJ) at school.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gotta find a way to rep the vape nation at all times! :) 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm kinda surprised that Pluggedin hasn't covered the spat between MGK and Eminem. Being possibly the biggest rap diss fights of the decade. I would think that it would have gotten a mention in the Culture Clips. 
-Davidiswise The Clown
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not sure if I would agree with that. I believe that Kamikaze went double platinum pretty soon after it came out, and MGK's response song "Rap Devil" was the #1 rap song on iTunes. Granted, this may be only important to people who like rap, but that is a pretty massive group. 
-Davidiswise The Clown