The Center for Bible Engagement has released a new study exploring the causes and effects of the increasing number of teens leaving behind their faith. The study involved 4,700 teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 from 9 different countries. The study found that teens in the United States and the United Kingdom suffered more from destructive thoughts, loneliness, and a lack of self-forgiveness than teens in other countries. Other participants in the study came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, and Singapore. Teens with destructive thoughts were at a higher risk of suicide. These destructive thoughts impacted around 20 percent of UK and US males and over a quarter of UK and US females. Transgender and gender non-conforming youths were at an even higher risk at 31 percent. The study also found that teens who experienced spiritual doubt, such as not having a relationship with Jesus or a lack of certainty in their spiritual beliefs, coupled with social media use, were at greater risk for destructive thoughts. 

Arnie Cole, Director of Research and Development of The Center for Bible Engagement, summed up the study as being the first of its kind. “As one of the first studies to consider the relationships among spirituality, social media, and mental health, the data deepened our understanding of the inner world of today’s teens. We also provide some beginning evidence of factors that increase or lower their risk of destructive thoughts, including engaging the Bible and limiting social media usage,” he said. Speaking to Faithwire, Cole said researchers were “shocked.” “We were absolutely shocked when we started gathering the data about their struggles — their spiritual struggles, their mental health, and then it just progressed,” he said. Social media’s influence on teens’ beliefs and how various algorithms lead them to content that is not edifying and leads to very secular rabbit holes were also highlighted in the study. 

Cole states the solution is to develop a Biblical worldview and “spiritual fitness” in teens. The Center for Bible Engagement is currently developing an app to help Christians increase their spiritual fitness. “Let’s get people spiritually fit. Let’s develop things that they can do during the day, so when they get sucked into some of these negative things, they know how to deal with it instead of walking away and chucking it all.” The study also found that teens who were engaged in the Bible, at least reading it four times a week, were much less likely to be at risk of destructive thoughts, spiritual uncertainty, and suicide. 

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