We hear the stories of depression being at its highest levels ever. Nearly half of the kids in school need as much therapy as education these days. Since 2007 depression, anxiety and isolation has increased nearly 300%. What was significant in 2007? The release of the Iphone and increased social media access . As parents we do everything to protect our kids and want the best for them. We move to safe neighborhoods and watch to see who their friends are in your neighborhood. But what social media does is give access to anything and everything that can be good or bad. Unfortunately most of it is rooted in bad behavior because it’s a “me” type of world. Don’t get me wrong there are many people around the world doing great things with technology and internet, but the developments in the last 10 years have shown mental illness has grown significantly impacting families in all areas in the world even the neighborhoods you chose to live in.
A typical scenario I thought about was when I was a teenager. I had friends in school who liked me but was not fond of some others. So they would tell me their opinion about others they didn’t like and I may or may not agree with them. In case I did agree on their opinion and the person we talked about does find out and had an issue we could resolve it. But in the world of social media the information would be available to be hundreds if not thousands of individuals who may be reaching out to you and harassing you for you just for agreeing to a opinion of someone. We see this scenario in adults where relationships even among responsible caring people have been severed because of an opinion shared among friends on social media. We even see celebrities having major issues among each other because of opinions and thoughts shared on this platform. So how do we help our kids avoid this as much as we can? We need to be extremely cautious and do everything we can to prepare our children for all the challenges that happens from this platform that connects to so many scenarios. Can kids have the capacity or ability to defend their opinions from hundreds or thousands of individuals? Can kids have the discretion to stay away from online contacts who may influence bad behavior or pressure them into bad scenarios? Social media platform gives our kids access to child murderers and child molesters who may have got out of prison after 30 years. Studies have shown school programs/districts that limit or restrict internet and technology. Kids are doing better socially including the technology leading areas like Silicone Valley.
In our efforts to wanting the best for our kids we will run out and get them a smart phone as soon as we know they may be just responsible enough not to lose the device. But we never think about how this device can not only be highly addictive, but our vulnerable kids can easily get caught up in situations that can be devastating. From the unbelievable high number of inappropriate relationships between teachers and students to the very young kids who are committing suicide to deadly mass shootings that is being captured through live streaming by the offenders. We have even witnessed foreign terrorist groups recruiting children to leave their home and join forces to fight against their homeland. These are examples of things that are happening and is far worse than most horrible nightmares any parent can imagine.
So how do we avoid many of these risks? I think as with any product that we feel can be used as a weapon we need to really evaluate and prepare to allow our kids to things like internet and social media. Some schools and social behavioral programs have studied this further. But I think just like the campaigns we had when we were kids such as MADD (mothers against drunk driving) or DARE (drug abuse resistance education) we need to build on a new program that will help guide the parents and kids carefully and be well prepared for the challenges that come with internet access and technology. We need educational programs that will help the parents and schools from the beginning of school years to be better equipped to teach our kids to the high risks and challenges technology platforms can have. I personally don’t think any human being was created to have the capacity to truly engage with so many people with so many views and so many different opinions. So do we finally become honest with ourselves and take on this battle to say we love our kids enough to limit and help them prepare far better for access to world filled with real nightmare scenarios. Another strategy can be for these technology companies to create devices (computers and phones) that will not allow social media access in addition preset limitations on time for internet usage per day. But these devices should come out of the box with the software systems that have the limitations built in. Educational campaigns from first grade to help kids and parents prepare for internet world are other strategies I feel confident can help. The most important thing is we as parents must realize that there is a major challenge and without us realizing it we could be welcoming problems it into our lives and our kids lives too.