Digital dementia and discerning sources
We’re using our tools to break down an article on “digital dementia.” What is this phenomenon? Is it real? This article also gives us the opportunity to evaluate not just a single article, but a news source.
KELSEY REED: Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio and God’s WORLD News. At Concurrently, we approach the news through a discipleship perspective. We tackle the challenging topics in culture and current events as learners and fellow laborers with parents, educators, and mentors of kids and teens. We consider the whole person, promoting growth in knowledge, attitudes, and action in the world. And we welcome you to join the conversation. I’m here with Jonathan Boes. And we’d love to hear from you. Please send in your questions or comments by way of voice recording or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
JONATHAN BOES: Yes, and we love getting questions, comments, being able to respond to the things that you are bringing before us. Today, we are going to do our first SOAR episode of the new year. There is our crinkling paper. So for those of you unfamiliar with what we do every now and then here on the podcast, we take a single news article, usually from a website, some news source, and we print it out, take physical paper, make physical notes on it. So that’s why you might hear some rustling papers. And we apply our SOAR method—S-O-A-R, survey, observe, analyze, respond—go step by step and practice evaluating a single news article. And so again, that’s what we are doing today. And today’s article, we are looking at—there’s my crinkling papers. This comes from a website called ZeroHedge. The title is “A New Type of Dementia Plagues America.” And I’ll say that I think today’s article will give us kind of a great dual opportunity to address a really interesting and pertinent topic and also practice what it looks like to evaluate not just an article, but a news source.
KELSEY: And we have been—if you’ve been with us for the month of January—we’ve been talking a ton about literacy, about healthy practices. It’s fitting that we would turn towards the practical and seek to practice these good literacy practices as relates to the news. We have recently been talking with somebody about our literary literacy. We’ve been talking about our biblical literacy. So today, we’re practicing that literacy that helps us to navigate current events in a world where the news cycle never stops. And I’m finding that that’s a really key thing to think about as we approach this article today, because it feels particularly charged. And if we’re not careful, we’re going to find ourselves stirred emotionally. If we don’t acknowledge that there is an emotional level that is automatically in play with everything that we do, our hearts sometimes start being unsettled by something before our minds even know why. So when we slow down, we use a tool like SOAR—which is really similar to a literary analysis tool, and in fact, we can use it with books, or with film, or with music, even. When we slow down to use these tools, it allows our heads to keep up with our hearts, or to query and examine our hearts. Why is this so anxiety inspiring? What is it that is causing me to feel the way that I’m feeling?
JONATHAN: It pushes us beyond our initial knee-jerk response that’s so easy in this day and age. We’re so often just scrolling past headlines. It forces us to slow down, evaluate not just what’s on the page, but what we are experiencing as we approach it.
KELSEY: Confessionally, when I first read this article—and it’s short. It’s one of those that you could read through and breeze past.
JONATHAN: And just a reminder, as always, we will have this article as the top item in our show notes, so that you can follow along with us, and even, if you want, to read it and evaluate it for yourself before you listen to our analysis of it.
KELSEY: Which we highly recommend, because it’s going to be interesting if you can bring your initial impressions to bear in the conversation that we are trying to create space for with our conversation. So it’s a short article, it’s not a high commitment, but what can happen, particularly if you are news junkies—whether voluntarily or involuntarily news junkies—you can find that you are absorbing a ton of information. This is one of those that you might quickly slip past because it’s so short. So let’s come and dive down into what’s going on with this. “A New Type of Dementia Plagues America.” So when we do our S survey work, it’s kind of figuring out, what’s the title? What’s the main argument?
JONATHAN: So the SOAR method starts with survey, looking at the big picture, a broad survey of what’s going on in this article. We’ve already said the title is “A New Type of Dementia Plagues America.” Sometimes, the whole big picture is right there in the title. I think this one, the title kind of hints, but doesn’t really give the whole big picture. The big picture here is really the idea that digital dementia, a form of dementia caused by the use of electronic devices, is plaguing America.
KELSEY: And the article, it starts by just discerning that dementia is a problem in general. But it begins to drill down very quickly on the fact that it’s no longer just a phenomenon for the elderly. We usually associate dementia—you read the title, you’re thinking this is going to be talking about a particularly pernicious issue for those who are senior citizens. This, however, this “digital dementia”—which we will seek to define a little further as we go into our next work—but this is something that plagues even younger people. And so we’re starting to recognize, right off the get go, that we’re talking about adults, even age of 40 and up, who are beginning to experience dementia. So digital dementia. We’re going to move a little bit more into observation work when we do some of our definition of terms. So what is digital dementia?
JONATHAN: So we’re moving into the O in SOAR for “observation,” drilling down into more of the details. Digital dementia. This article—to stick within the parameters of the source text we are looking at, not yet evaluating it against other things—the article defines it as a health epidemic that occurs when one part of the brain is overstimulated and another part of the brain is under-stimulated. It goes on to say that, basically, when we’re using digital devices mindlessly, the part of our brain that has higher level executive functions is taking a break. But our visual processing part of the brain is just totally overloaded. That’s how this article is defining “digital dementia.”
KELSEY: So when I’m making these observations, I’m going to suggest that looking at these words, like “mindlessly”—that’s going to be really important to our process of understanding not only what we’re talking about when we’re saying this engagement of our digital devices, there is an adjective here, or rather an adverb, this mindlessly engaging. We need to recognize that there are some of those that are defining what type of digital engagement we’re looking at. But let’s go to just the observations of developmental psychology in the prefrontal cortex. Now, the PFC, or the prefrontal cortex, is the brain region that’s responsible for planning and decision making. And it’s vital that we understand that that doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25. That information is included in the article. And so that’s helpful, because we start looking at this, okay, wait a minute, where does our engagement of digital media become a concern? Well, maybe we need to start realizing and connecting the dots that it is in these ages before 25, when the PFC is still in its development, that this is particularly a concern, and that we’re seeing the arc of consequence in adults 40 and up.
JONATHAN: So drilling down into the observation of what the article is arguing. Basically, this idea that, during these periods when the prefrontal cortex part of the brain is developing, there’s this especially vulnerable time where the impact of digital devices, using them “mindlessly,” can lead to what this article is deeming digital dementia. It ties this into issues like growing rates of Alzheimer’s and declining IQs. And it even draws this out, towards the end of the article, toward the idea that this is a step towards societal collapse. It says “societal collapse doesn’t occur overnight, it occurs in increments, a death by a thousand cuts.” And so it takes it all the way from this little part of the brain out to a huge cultural prognosis.
KELSEY: So we’re trying really hard to keep ourselves in observation.
JONATHAN: And I am—observe, it just sounds analytical because there’s a lot going on there.
KELSEY: Because we’re observing some of the analysis, or the conclusions that they’re drawing from some of this information. And so we’re already kind of—as we draw out these observations that Jonathan is doing a phenomenal job of naming, what’s in the article—we’re already starting. And as we diligently look at these details, we’re already starting to be like, “Huh, wait a minute.”
JONATHAN: And as we sit on the edge of analysis, I think it’s a good time maybe to observe some things not about the content of the article, or the article’s argument, but about the article itself. And again, I’m going to try not to push into analysis here. But I’ll say there are some observations that should probably jump out at you before you even get into the text. The first is that here, ZeroHedge, where we’ve sourced this article, there is an author photo and name. And this author name is Tyler Durden. And the photo next to it is kind of small, but you can see clearly that it is Brad Pitt from the movie Fight Club. And for those of you who know, Tyler Durden is the name of Brad Pitt’s character from the movie Fight Club. So I think it’s—I don’t know if it’s stretching into analysis to say that this is not a real person. But beneath that, we also observe that there is a real author name given. We see this has been authored by John Mack. I’m going to try not to butcher this name, John Mac Ghlionn, via The Epoch Times. How do you say—Ep-ock? Ep-uck? I should ask my wife, she would know. But she is not here right now. So I will flounder. So we see that this has been sourced from a, another publication. Then we also notice, as we just skim this article, that there are a lot of links. That is something that jumped out to me. Like you said, this is a short article. Here in printed form, it is just two pages, and that’s with a bunch of stuff at the top, like the headline and stuff. So it’s a barely a two-page article, and I counted at least 20 external links.
KELSEY: Interesting to note as well, after the, I would say, solid description of what’s going on in the brain and with the PFC, a discussion that helps us understand how the gray matter in the brain works and the white matter in the brain works, it quickly goes into some other interesting details about brain power being in decline because of lead exposure and—the term that they use—“draconian lockdowns.” So we see, through word choice, and even through allusions to other things in culture, in our nation—there’s some interesting effects by what details have been included. I think they’re worthy to note. And the links that they’re putting in there, some of those are links— “lead exposure” links to another article, “draconian lockdowns” links to another article. So hmm, interesting observations.
JONATHAN: And so I feel like we really want to dive into analysis. Is there anything else we want to put out on the table in terms of observation, before we start to break down some of what we’re seeing?
KELSEY: I don’t know if this really is included in observation, because unless you’re really careful to do the research in order to make further observation, it’s not necessarily in the text itself. But it was observation that I made because I did a little more research. So I looked into, okay, why are they using it? In order to keep it an observation question, I’d say, who is this Tyler Durden? Because my observation questions are the who, what, when, where and how. And when we move into why, we’re really in analysis. So who is this Tyler Durden character beyond just the fact that we see Brad Pitt’s photo and we know that it’s an allusion to other parts of our popular media, popular culture? But if you just dig around a little bit on the website, you see that all of the editorial staff who write, who are contributors at ZeroHedge, they all use “Tyler Durden” as their publication name. So it’s an observation, but it required a little bit of digging to find that out. Some of the other digging, that allows me to do some observation, is if I will go to a website that helps me understand the background of The Epoch Times or ZeroHedge, they have to do some analysis in order to put it on the spectrum of, is this left leaning? Is this right leaning? But these are other observations that I can make, if I’ll do just a tiny bit more research about this article.
JONATHAN: Yes, and I think it’s appropriate, in the idea of making more observations through research—we see that ZeroHedge is sourcing this from The Epoch Times and Epoch Times is a branch of a religious movement. That’s a really interesting thing to observe. And this is another name that I’m going to try not to butcher. “Falun Gong,” I believe is how you would say this. It comes from China. It is a religious movement that, according to what I’m looking a—I’m just looking at Wikipedia. Again, we can blame Collin Garbarino for encouraging us to use Wikipedia. But this seems like a pretty fair way to use Wikipedia, just looking at some of its broad tenets. You know, this is a religious group that opposes communism, opposes homosexuality and feminism, and also rejects modern medicine. People have described it as “ultra conservative.” That’s a little bit analytical there. But it’s a religious group based out of China with some definite views about the world. And they are the ones behind the website that published this source article. So it’s good to observe a little more of that who, who is behind this story.
KELSEY: So we’re doing our best to have good news literacy practices, to stay within the current initial O for observation. But we have just run that knife’s edge so long, we’re going to have to topple over into analysis now.
JONATHAN: So I think maybe we could start our analysis kind of in the place where we ended our observation, which is, we’re looking at not even the content of the article as much yet, but more, okay, where is this coming from? What is this news source? You talked about researching that Tyler Durden nom de plume a little bit here. And where my brain goes when I see that name, my pop cultural awareness tells me why somebody would use that as the name by which to publish editorials. Fight Club is known for being a movie—and I’ll just put the caveat here, it’s an R rated movie, definitely not one for the kids, very violent, lots of sexual content—but it’s known for being a movie that is misunderstood, where—the movie is critiquing this extreme and masculine response to the modern world that lashes out in violence and anarchy. And Tyler Durden is kind of this symbol of masculine anarchy that wants to tear the system down and kind of reassert male strength in what he sees as a feminized world. And the movie is critiquing that. But there is a large movement, especially among younger conservative men, where Tyler Durden becomes a little bit of a figurehead, of an ideal, like a strong masculine figure who’s fighting the system. Again, I can’t say for sure that’s what’s happening here. But when you see that name plastered onto something, especially on a website that is known for being more right-leaning, that is definitely what comes to mind.
KELSEY: It’s this place in our analysis work where we have to know the other popular media texts, as it were. And the themes, the current trends in popular culture—there’s reason why we’ve talked about Barbie the movie; there’s a reason why we need to understand it, to see these often just tidal waves that can come up. Because there are these very distilled versions of this machismo that have been really destructive within culture. You see them and you’re going, “Oh, my, this is a really bad idea. This is a really bad display of behavior.” I know that we’ve talked about some of them in the podcast before. So it’s vital that we understand some of those themes, or at least have an awareness so that we can look at something that looks like a serious article, and does touch on some serious themes. There are things that we can affirm as we do our analysis work. But there’s a lot that we need to take great care to understand.
JONATHAN: It’s just kind of a weird thing. You’re like, okay, what do I make of the fact that they say this is authored by Tyler Durden? But then, when you look at the source of this article, ZeroHedge, and you look at where it’s been sourced from at The Epoch Times, bring in our analysis here rooted in the observations we made through the research, it’s important to be aware of the biases of the news sources we are looking at. And this can be kind of hard to do. There are lots of sources out there that try to map the biases of different news groups and, you know, saying like, okay, this group is more left-leaning, this group is more right-leaning. You know, you can’t trust all of those things. They come with their own biases, which makes it hard. But generally speaking, I think most sources agree, and I would imagine that even the people behind these websites would probably agree, that both ZeroHedge and The Epoch Times are very, very right leaning. What we do with that then is, you know, I think there can be a temptation, right? I’m going stop here and identify the temptation. You go and you see, this website is very right-leaning, or this website is very left-leaning, if we were looking at a different article that came from, like, I don’t know, HuffPo or something. You might say, “Okay, this website is very left-leaning.” There can be a temptation to let that be the end all, be all and say, we’re not even going to bother with the content, we’re just going to dismiss everything here. You know, that’s not what we want to do. But we do want to allow that to maybe put a little more trepidation in our step and say, okay, let’s put our guard up a little bit here. We know that this is a source that maybe has not proven itself in the past, we maybe won’t give it the benefit of the doubt that we might give to more trustworthy sources. Do you think that’s a fair way to look at it?
KELSEY: I think it’s great. I mean, one of the questions that I asked to that end is, what is this trying to get me to do or to feel? But as an educator, I’m always thinking about that learning cycle, that something that we are learning at a mental state, a cognitive level is the better way to say that—any kind of academic or just anything that we’re reading in that realm is going to affect our heart, it’s going to shape our loves, our affections, our attitudes. And just as the whole people that we are, as our thoughts and our feelings are being shaped, our actions are shaped out of that, too. So when someone writes like they’re writing a persuasive argument, or they’re giving a persuasive speech, something like that, they’re trying to get you to think something, to feel something, to do something. So I’m asking these questions when I’m at that analytical space. What is this trying to get me to do? How’s this trying to make me feel? And even some of the words that we’ve mentioned so far, you can hear the just alarmism, the exaggeration, there’s some hyperbole at work. So while we’re asking that question, and maybe as we point to a little bit more—I want to leave some of those nuggets for those who do the SOAR work at home, I don’t want to address all of them. But I do want to remind us of the question that we ask, you know, how can I approach this through a biblical lens, to help me know what I need to challenge and what I need to affirm? I think I mentioned it a little bit earlier, but I’m just going to reinforce that we can learn from any source. It doesn’t matter if it’s right-leaning or if it’s left-leaning. They’ve probably hit on something that’s true. But we need to know how to find those nuggets of truth, and how to identify where they’re trying to get us to do something, feel something, believe something that may not be true. Our lens that we look through is a lens of capital T truth.
JONATHAN: And I want to zero in on just what you said about, the way you said alarmist language is being used, and hyperbole. I would say even just, you know, emotive word choice, that’s something to be very aware of in articles like this. I notice the sentence “the country is becoming fatter, sicker, older, and dumber.” You know, those are very emotive word choices. They’re not precise word choices. They’re, you know, they’re meant to make us feel something about the world we live in. And even as I touched on in the observation—like I said, we want to leave some of this for you to discover at home, but I touched on this in the observation, so I want to bring it out here in analysis—it goes all the way forward to the idea of societal decline—societal collapse rather, not societal decline. Societal collapse. It brought to mind something from like a high school debate class I took, which is, it was kind of a running joke that you’ll always win if you can show how the opponent’s idea leads to nuclear war. And that’s what came to mind here, because, exactly. Like, if you can show at least a societal collapse, there you go. You win your argument. But it’s taking us to a place where it’s like, by tying it into the idea of lead exposure, COVID lockdowns, it is pulling on a lot of very emotive subjects, even our dread about where society is headed. To tie this issue into a larger pool of things, that makes us feel a certain way. And it’s not a very good way to feel.
KELSEY: One more thing to challenge before I try to steer us into some of the things that we can affirm and how we can bring that into our responses.
JONATHAN: I also have one more part of challenge, too. But I would like to—we have a lot of challenge. We have a lot to challenge here. Let’s start with the challenge because then we can bring out, I think, you know, it’s good to start there so that then we can bring out the nuggets of, what can we learn from it? I like to end on the positive.
KELSEY: I like to too, because the truth is that we are culture shapers. And so when we recognize the thing that we can affirm, as we pivot into the response, we’re on the footing that the Lord intends us to be on in His world, where we are stewards of the knowledge that He’s given us. So just some foreshadowing, we’re not going to just stay in this critical response. We’re going to bring this to the place where this has some positive impact in our discipleship practices. So a little more to challenge. One of the things that I really want to challenge is this kind of Luddite response to technology. Now, we’re trying at Concurrently to have a balanced view of engaging the culture that is in front of us, which is highly technologized, if I can use it the term that way.
JONATHAN: If we were totally opposed to digital technology, it would be a problem that we have a podcast.
KELSEY: Mmhmm. We can’t really do what we’re doing without—we are highly dependent on just what the Lord has allowed for man to create. It is not going to be a responsible attitude or practice for us to just completely retreat from the world of technology, from just these digital resources that we have. We have these before us. It’s the age that we’ve been placed in. And so I kind of resist the tone of “all technology is bad,” which, because they do not define their terms of what excessive screen time is, what a digital addiction even looks like, I guess they leave you to assume that you know what they’re talking about in some of these terms. Or, you know that you’re going to do the research, which we’ve already made the point that sometimes we are not slowing down enough to do that research. To that end, we’re going to have some sources in the show notes that help define, what is excessive screen time? What is good usage of our digital media or digital resources? So slim article, not all of that is going to be in there, and it can come across then as though all technology is bad, all digital resources are to be shunned. So that was my last challenge. What about you?
JONATHAN: I think what I have here will actually be a nice pivot from challenge to affirm, because it kind of crosses the line between both. And I want to go back to this idea of all the links in this article. As I said in the observation section, there are like 20 links in this brief article. As part of the challenge here—I can’t say for sure that this is what was intended by the author, but I will say that this is what I believe is the effect of all those links—it really creates the sense that there is this wealth of evidence, that there’s a wealth of sources. But as anyone knows who has had to write papers in high school or college, you can’t just cite anything willy nilly. You can’t just cite your Uncle Jim or, you know, random blog posts you found on the internet. And we see, in these links, that there is a wide variety of stuff that is linked of varying—what’s the word I’m looking for? Quality. Varying quality. That’s a good word for it. And there’s something to be said for caution here, where, when you have so many links, it can both create the sense of that there’s a lot of evidence, while also presenting so much of it that you can’t possibly dig into it all. And so it makes it really easy just to skim and see like, “Oh, that looks like an academic resource,” or “This is fine.” You know, it can kind of trick your brain into thinking that this article has been really well researched. We see that some of the sources linked are just like random stuff, right? I made a note of a few of them. One of them is like an article from a page of like a local chiropractor in California. One of them was like an essay written by a school teacher in Delhi, with no additional resources attached. One of them is just a blog post. There was some just random stuff in here.
And also some of them have like links within links, where it’s an article sourcing another study, and several of those articles link back to the same study. So it’s kind of all the same. It’s not actually more than one thing, it’s just people commenting on the same research. While we’re going down this rabbit hole, be aware of that as well. Somebody might link to an article as evidence. And that article might link to another research project. And if five different articles are linking to the same study, that’s not five pieces of evidence. There’s one piece of evidence.
But that said, there is a piece of evidence here, once you start ripping away at some of the chaff of these resources and trying to find the “wheat,” I suppose. We do see that there is a scientific study. There are two scientific studies linked in this article. One of them, I think, is more definitive than the other, and we actually see that this is the one that really ties together the stuff we see in this article there. From the Journal of Integrative Neuroscience, there is an article titled, “Digital dementia and the internet generation: Excessive screen time during brain development will increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in adulthood.” And you can download this article for free. It’s a super academic study. But the abstract makes a lot of the connections we see in this article we’ve been reading. The abstract is talking about how there is a connection between digital dementia and IQ decline. The article actually concludes, this study concludes, that the CDC has failed to accurately predict future numbers on dementia and Alzheimer’s, because the CDC is looking at people right now who are old, which is rooted in a time when they didn’t grow up with digital technology, like people who grew up in the ’50s and stuff before smartphones. The CDC is taking their numbers from those people. They’re projecting forward. This article is basically arguing that, because of that, the CDC is failing to account for the effects of the digital world on the minds that are developing today. What will that look like when year 2100 comes and the kids who grew up with smartphones are the old people? This article is arguing that there might be much higher levels of dementia in that age bracket. And so the difference between this study, of course, and the article from ZeroHedge, is that this study is peer reviewed. And it’s coming from PhDs who study brain science. And so that comes with a lot more weight than an article by Tyler Durden.
KELSEY: And the things that I can say that I affirm in the article are those that are most clearly sourced from the scientific peer reviewed journal articles. And you’d need to read them as well. This is the thing that we are going to do here in this affirm place, as we’re kind of moving towards respond, is that, listener, it behooves you, it is such—I don’t know how to make this any stronger—it is vital that you do good research to understand what is going on at the developmental level of your children. What do we need to take into account as we seek to give them good structures, good expectations, as we limit screen time, or the type of screen time? Our job as believers is to understand something of the good practices of discipleship and to make even those digital interfaces things that are productive places, not merely the mindless scrolling, as this article says, where we understand what is excessive, where we recognize that we, our minds and hearts and bodies—our bodies have to get outside. They need exercise. They need fresh air. They need the vitamin D. So we, with the wisdom that we continue to generate both through our experience through what was modeled for us, but now as we with discernment apply it to our digital age—our “AI era,” as Dr. Finch has argued that we’re entering into—how do we do that as embodied human beings that just reflect our Creator? What does it mean to be image-bearers in the day that we have been given? So I think I am just firmly camped out in our response. I’ve just not found enough to affirm to really be able to carry that over. But what I affirm are those places where they have revealed things that maybe are rabbit trails that you should go down further, sweet listener. Do some more research. There are some touch points in this article that can send you into good places.
JONATHAN: I think another part of response here, maybe—I guess you could call this “emotional response”—would be to remember that nuance can easily get lost in translation. To me, that’s what is really on evidence here. This article from ZeroHedge is sourcing other articles that are sourcing this scientific study. And I noticed, as I was trying to follow some of these links, that a lot of the nuance and the softening got lost with each removal from the source study. So the source study, it’s making some big claims. But it’s good to remember that a study is one study. There can be a tendency for article writers to treat a scientific study kind of as the word of God, like “a peer reviewed journal published this article; it is scientific fact.” There can be that mentality, right? And we need to remember that, you know, in the world of science, that’s not how it works. It means that we should reckon with it. But studies have to be replicated. They can be responded to; they can be revised, followed up on. A study is something we take seriously, but it is not something immovable. And that’s the nuance that really gets lost, I think with all these different layers. We see, one of my favorite links, and this was an article from Forbes, where they’re interviewing another brain scientist. And what this brain scientist said was—I love this quote—he says, “There’s no such thing as good memory or bad memory, just trained memory and untrained memory.” And that’s a level of nuance that I think is missing from the article we were looking at. And what I think is so important, and informs our response, is—we’re not doomed to a world of digital dementia. We’re not doomed to a societal collapse because of one scientific study. But what we can do, we can actually train our brains. We don’t have to just be resigned to the fact that, I guess we and our kids are going to have mush for brain, because we use our phones. Instead, we can train ourselves to have better memory. We can do things that are healthy for our brains. And what that Forbes article was actually arguing is that, you know, when you’re training your brain and doing healthy things for your brain, then you can use your phone moderately without a lot of danger. It’s okay to store phone numbers in your phone and forget about them, just be training your brain to have a trained memory. And I think that’s a much more encouraging response than “Society is going to die by a thousand cuts.”
KELSEY: The big picture, in terms of what we’re trying to do in our work with News Coach, is that we’re trying to play that support role that gives these hints towards good practices or content that helps with those training moments of the brains of your children. This is a part of our scope on the whole at Concurrently, but our month in January has been dedicated towards this communication of what it means to have one handhold in the past, or a foot in the embodied physical realm, even while we are propelled into the future and have a hand that is involved in the development of AI or the usage of AI, with good practices that are that are shepherded by our understanding of who we are. So we hope that this conversation gives just that hopeful perspective, instead of that doomsday perspective. The Lord is not surprised by where we are, by the struggles of our day. He knows what challenges are here for us. As Amy Auten mentioned, you know, the writers of the past, they had their own problems, and we read them and we can glean wisdom for them. And we can see the brokenness in that era from which they’re writing. And we can bring it into today, to inform us and to help us to see who we are, what we struggle with, and to gain that greater discernment as we march into the future, until the day that the Lord returns. So I’m going to suggest that, as a part of your response to this episode, you dive into our Companion, where we’re going to have some more of these questions, some of them sourced from SOAR, so that you can continue to get used to this pattern, this wonderful tool, but some of them that press into the particulars of this story and the ongoing, faithful practices before the Lord in His world.
JONATHAN: I think of just two other elements to consider when analyzing an online news source, and this article from ZeroHedge gives us a great opportunity for that. First, the headline. Is it informative, or is it tantalizing? So a website that a lot of people source from, a trustworthy, fairly trustworthy news source, is the Associated Press. It’s one of those news sources that at least makes the attempt to be fairly unbiased. Just for an example of a headline from the Associated Press, just using this as an example of a good headline, right? “U.S. Air Force announces end of search and recovery operations for Osprey that crashed off Japan.” That is informative. That is just telling you, “this is what the article is about.” Now, back to our ZeroHedge article. The headline is “A New Type of Dementia Plagues America.” There’s dementia. It’s a new thing that we need to be afraid of. It’s plaguing America. We’re pulling at the heartstrings. We’re not getting to any detail yet. If you want to know what this dementia is, you’ve got to click. It’s not informative. It’s tantalizing.
And the other thing is looking at the ads, right? Pretty much every news website has to have ads, even the Associated Press, their page has quite a few ads. But is that the primary source of income for this news organization? Everybody hates a paywall. You hate when a little thing pops up and interrupts your reading and says you’ve got to subscribe to keep going. But that means that the news source you’re looking at is not just getting its money by people going click, click, click and looking at ads. They’re actually getting money from subscribers who want to read their articles. Whereas the place I’m looking at now, on ZeroHedge—there are ads all over this page. Right now I have an ad to my left, I have a big video ad in the center of my screen, I have two ads to my right. And if I scroll down, there’s more ads and a little ad that comes up in a pop up. And I know that this website is never going to give me an opportunity to pay to subscribe so that I can read more, but it’s going to make a lot of money because I’ve been researching for this podcast episode and these ads have been playing on this page for quite a while.
KELSEY: So to close this out and refresh us in the word. I’m in 1 Corinthians 2, and I’m diving into some thoughts that range from verse 12, all the way to the end of the chapter at verse 16. But I won’t read all of them. I just commend them to you. So starting at verse 12: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit.” Dropping down to verse 15: “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” This applies in terms of how we engage the world. We’ve been given the mind of Christ, that we can lean into Him for our greater wisdom and discernment by His Spirit. He has equipped you for this work.
We’re using our tools to break down an article on “digital dementia.” What is this phenomenon? Is it real? This article also gives us the opportunity to evaluate not just a single article, but a news source.
Check out The Concurrently Companion for this week’s downloadable episode guide including discussion questions and scripture for further study. Sign up for the News Coach Newsletter at gwnews.com/newsletters.
We would love to hear from you. You can send us a message at email@example.com. What current events or cultural issues are you wrestling through with your kids and teens? Let us know. We want to work through it with you.
See more from the News Coach, including episode transcripts.
- Read our source article from ZeroHedge, “A New Type of Dementia Plagues America.”
- Learn more about the pros and cons of digital media for kids at the Conversation.
- Read about how much screen time is too much for kids at OSF HealthCare and Adventis Health.
- Should teens have phone time limits? Consider this article by Rebecca Dube at Today.
Concurrently is produced by God’s WORLD News. We provide current events materials for kids and teens that show how God is working in the world. To learn more about God’s WORLD News and browse sample magazines, visit gwnews.com.
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