Were it not for today’s teens, I feel I would have no purpose. Sure, I’m a wife, a daughter and sister but for the majority of my day I am surrounded by teenagers who I think actually need me. I am the mom of three beautiful, and on most days, well-behaved thirteen year old triplets. I have been a middle school teacher for seventeen years and consider myself an expert in understanding mood swings, the science of sarcasm and the theory of, “they know everything and I know very little.”
I have a huge soft spot for today’s teenagers. I would never want to be one! I grew up in the 80s and 90s when the toughest part about being a teen was finding a ride to Parmatown Mall and worrying about how I would be able to afford a cool pair of Z. Cavarichi’s from Merry Go Round once I got there. When we think of teens today, we associate them with social media and we think of cyber bullying – but it goes far beyond that.
In fact, it’s almost the opposite of bullying. The person or people posting do not intend to hurt others. What I see as a problem with social media today is how it’s ruining teens self-esteem. I have 100+ teenagers in my life daily who share stories about what they saw, did or heard about on social media. Their “stories” are not like our stories from pre-technology. “Stories” today are snapped, chatted, grammed, and tweeted and my kids, the ones in my classroom and the ones under my roof, have a hard time differentiating real life from that instant moment in time where everything looks perfect. Because let’s face it, no one is posting their failing grade, groundings or losses in a game. “Friends” no longer mean the real life people we spend time with. And not having hundreds of friends by today’s standards makes kids feel badly about themselves.
I recently heard a news tease about how social media is ruining society – I believe it! I know it’s a tool, almost a necessary one for communication in this 21st century, but I also see what it does to kids on a daily basis. Fortunately my teenage boys aren’t on any social media sites and they couldn’t care less, but my daughter sees what she is left out of all too often. Groups of friends posting their sleepovers, get togethers, etc… and not including everyone is often disheartening to teens learning how and where they fit in. I always tell my daughter to post carefully; she doesn’t need the approval of likes and cutesy red hearts to determine her self worth. And she doesn’t need to hurt others who aren’t included by posting her social life. So she’s cautious of her posts but sees when she is not included.
I have worked very hard to instill positive self-esteem and self-respect in my children. Likewise, I teach them to treat others will respect. Does it come from years of teaching the age group that I’m now raising? That is very possible. Does it come from growing up with a self-esteem that left much to be desired? That too is possible! I want all teenagers to feel worthy, included, loved and needed. I want a world where everyone gets along and everyone feels part of a larger purpose. But I know what I want is harder to have when kids are more connected than ever and constantly aware of what is going on around them. They can’t just walk away or choose when to be included. So much of what makes teens feel accepted and worthy of others is the approval they see on social media. When someone has 10 “likes” as opposed to someone else’s 100 “likes” it can be devastating to one’s self esteem. And that’s a tough pill to swallow for an age group surrounded with social media, but not mature enough to handle it.
I wonder what advice this news story had to offer? With the click of a button I’m sure I could find all the answers somewhere on social media.