Recently, a seventh-grade teacher told me about a student who had her head down on her desk the entire period. When the teacher asked what was wrong, the girl replied, “I had a panic attack last night and couldn’t get to sleep until 3 am.”
“Panic attack?” I thought to myself. “What does a 12-year-old have to panic about?”
Sadly, that’s not a frivolous question. Nor is the problem limited to middle-schoolers. Depression and suicide rates among adolescents and young adults have been rising at an alarming rate for over 10 years.
What could be causing this? What is happening to our children?
I believe there are several possible culprits, starting with the constant predictions of impending doom that seem to dominate the network news these days (when they’re not busy bashing Donald Trump).
If you listen to the mainstream media — or if your only source of information is your online news feed — you might think we’re only 12 years from extinction thanks to global warming. Or that we’re all going to succumb to some sort of natural disaster or perhaps the latest Chinese superbug.
That, of course, is all complete nonsense. By almost any measure — economic, technological, medical — today’s young people are literally living in the best time in the history of planet Earth to be alive. But it’s easy to see how they might think otherwise, given the attention paid to hysterical teenage climate experts.
Another cause of anxiety is social media, which makes our lives both easier and harder at the same time. Boomers like me enjoy keeping up with friends and family while sharing funny cat videos.
But for teens and adolescents, social media is serious business, defining their existence in terms of “hot” or “not” (usually implying they’re “not”) and providing a platform for snubbing, bullying, and harassment the likes of which most of us have never experienced. Think of an elementary school playground on steroids.
Add to that the parental neglect I’m seeing nowadays and you’ve got a toxic stew. Parents worry about their kids playing outside unsupervised, yet they leave them in front of a screen for hours at a time with very little guidance and few limits. That seems to me to pose a much greater danger than injury or abduction.
In the end, it all comes down to loss of innocence, which I believe is the ultimate sources of childhood stress and depression. These days, from a very early age, kids are exposed to facets of life they shouldn’t even know exist, much less worry about. And I’m not just talking about pornography (although that, too).
Your main job as a parent is to protect your children without overprotecting them. That means allowing them to grow up at a rate their developing minds and bodies can realistically handle. In that endeavor, social media and the MSM are not your allies.