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Today's Kids Are In The Hallway

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By Chris Martin

In early 20th century America, a revolution informal public education swept the country. It wasn’t the introduction of the blackboard or the creation of standardized tests.

It was the invention of “secondary education,” known today as “high school.”

Since its introduction into the American educational system about a hundred years ago, the American high school experience has been as defined by its social phenomena as its educational effectiveness.

The high school experience is as defined by what happens in the hallways that connect classrooms as it is by what happens inside the classrooms themselves.

To the average high school student, the high school hallway is as high pressure a performance environment as the catwalk is to a fashion model or the weight room is to the football player.

We live in an age in which the high school hallway is no longer limited to the corridors between classrooms on campus.

Today’s high school hallways are the always-on social media platforms that occupy the pocketed phones of America’s teenagers.

Phones in Hand, Always on Stage

Recently, I’ve been reading Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson. The purpose of the book is to look at what makes things popular.

Why do some songs explode and some songs fizzle?

Why has Fifty Shades of Grey sold over 150 million copies? (It’s not just because of the content.)

In the book’s “interlude,” Thompson gives a brief history of teens. Studying Millennials is fascinating to me, but studying teens of any generation is just as fascinating. Teens are at the forefront of popular culture. As go teens so go their parents (see every social media platform).

(FYI: current teenagers are not Millennials, but are part of iGen, or Gen Z, those born after 2000.)

Perhaps the most interesting part of this interlude on the history of teens was on the effect phones are having on teens and their relationships with each other. After explaining that the logos on teens’ clothing once defined them, Thompson writes:

In a new age of cool, the smartphone screen has displaced the embroidered logo as the focal point of teen identity. It was once sufficient to look good in a high school hallway, but today Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram are all high school hallways, where young people perform and see performances, judge and are judged. Many decades after another mobile device, the car, helped invent the teenager, the iPhone and its ilk offered new nimble instruments of self-expression, symbols of independence, and better ways to hook up.

This paragraph just breaks my heart for today’s teenagers. I was a teenager only eight years ago, which seems both like it was yesterday and it was long ago, but even we didn’t have it this bad. The iPhone was released when I was a junior in high school, and even then few students had such phones. We often “performed” in online spaces like Myspace and AOL Instant Messenger, but we weren’t carrying those platforms around in our pockets, thankfully.

In an article published earlier this summer in The Atlantic titled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?,” Dr. Jean Twenge makes her readers aware of what’s at stake for a generation of young people glued to their phones:

What’s at stake isn’t just how kids experience adolescence. The constant presence of smartphones is likely to affect them well into adulthood. Among people who suffer an episode of depression, at least half become depressed again later in life. Adolescence is a crucial time for developing social skills; as teens spend less time with their friends face-to-face, they have fewer opportunities to practice them. In the next decade, we may see more adults who know just the right emoji for a situation, but not the right facial expression.

(Dr. Twenge just released a book called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Uswhich is now on backorder at Amazon.)

Today’s teens are always in the hallway because the 21st-century adolescent catwalk is the smartphone and the terrifying worlds it holds.

It’s depressing teens and keeping them from spending real time with their friends.

Whether you’re a parent of a teen, a boss of a teen, or a pastor of a teen, please be aware of the sad fact that teens today feel as though they are always performing—perhaps they’re even performing for you. Be a person in the lives of the teens you know who doesn’t require them to perform. Be a person teens can approach with their real selves.

Jump With Your Kids

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Trampolines are fun.

I loved jumping on my friend’s trampoline when I was a kid.  I thought I was a straight-up ninja.  I felt like I could fly. In all my flips, twists, spins, and tricks I felt like a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.  

Questionable awesomeness aside my favorite move was what we called the “double-jump”.  The double-jump requires more than one person.  You see, it happens when one person times their jump at just the right moment before the other hits the surface.  The result is pure joy. The other person is able to jump higher than they ever could on their own.  Still don’t know what I’m talking about?  You should watch this short video.  

The double-jump is our hope for Jump Day on May 30th and now is the time to make your move.  We see this as a tag-team effort to celebrate together.  CityKids with City Students.  Parents and kids with their leaders.  We are partnering together to see students, kids, and families grow in the gospel, community, and mission together.  This is a chance for us to come together and just have fun.

This could even be a first step toward the gospel for some.  We hope you’ll take the opportunity to invite someone else to the party.  This is an opportunity for families, perhaps entire Community Groups, to reach out to other families in your neighborhoods and networks of relationships.  

So before you hit the park with your picnic lunch or light the grill for your Memorial Day BBQ, join us for Jump Day!  Tickets only cost $4 for kids 3 and under and $7 for kids/adults age 4 and up. You must purchase those in advance here. We also have a limited number of scholarshipped tickets as well. So email me at if you know someone who would love to come but may need a little help.

We hope to see you May 30th at 10:30am at Jumpstreet in Murfreesboro.   

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