‘WAKE UP, WORLD PARENTS. UP. Your children are growing up in a world where you are not welcome. And they have figured out way to keep you out.’ A social media warning from a middle school teacher

“Working in a Junior High is a fascinating experience. I witness these small folks at their most complex and emotional junctures in life. I teach them science, but I also try to include some life lessons and mentoring when I have the opportunity. But it won’t work if I’m not willing to listen to and comprehend their concerns and situations. I’ve recently been concerned about their mental health, bullying, and use of social media.

‘What my parents don’t know about social media is…’ I asked three of my classes to finish this statement today.

You’re the ones. The responses were TERRIFYING. Heartbreaking. Depressing. I gave 85 ninth-graders (aged 14-15) the task of completing the statement. FIVE people stated they don’t use social media. Five. The 85 children have an average academic grade of ‘A,’ indicating that they are ‘excellent kids.’ The following are some common confessions made by the 80 kids who have social media profiles.

I’ve been a teacher for ten years. A few students had Nokia and Motorola flip phones when I started in 2004. As teachers, our main concern was whether or not the students were texting during assessments.

My husband is a Behavioral health doctor, and I’ve often discussed the rising usage of social media in the classroom with him. It appeared to be relatively harmless for the first several years. However, it gradually evolved into a tool for youngsters to do what they’ve always done. Bullies have always existed, as have promiscuous teenagers and those on the periphery who dabble with narcotics.

On the other hand, social media quickly became a venue for all of this. What used to be done quietly after school is now happening before, during, and after school, as well as in the middle of the night, and it’s being aired to a public that doesn’t realize the long-term effects. We have an 11-year-old in our family, and I’ve debated how much technology he should be allowed in his life.

I thought it would be fun to ask the teenagers in my class what they thought about placing social media in my child’s hands. I promised them entire anonymity if they would continue the statement, ‘What my parents don’t know about social media is…’ I wanted them to tell me the truth, so I promised them complete anonymity if they would finish the sentence, ‘What my parents don’t know about social media is…’ I didn’t expect them to be so forthright.

Around 70 of the 85 youngsters who responded said they kept social media hidden from their parents. It broke my heart. I decided to share the material because this generation is on the verge of a catastrophic mental-health disaster. They are carrying these big secrets that come with strong feelings, but they aren’t learning how to express those emotions or get things off their chests.

Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger were all introduced to students in the classroom. I’ve noticed a direct link between the children’s happiness in my classes and the advancement of technology.

After reading their comments, I came left with two central ideas:

1) This problem cannot be solved by adding additional technology to the equation. We have to give them credit and acknowledge that they are extraordinarily astute when it comes to social media.

2) There will be no more discussion of the hazards of social media. Begin speaking. Period. These children are looking for outlets for their emotions…for individuals who will not criticize them when they make errors. We need to put down our phones for long enough to create face-to-face interactions with our children, so they don’t have to rely on peers and strangers for affirmation.

WORLD PARENTS, WAKE UP. UP. Your children are part of a world in which you are not welcome. They’re also skilled at keeping you out. A smartphone isn’t necessary for your teen.

These adolescent individuals are my absolute favorites. It’s all too simple to criticize the kids, parents, and myself. Let’s use this opportunity to model excellent digital citizenship for my pupils. Kindness is the key. Consider others. I’ll be meeting with my school, community, and area therapists in the following days to learn more about how we can assist.”