This isn’t anything new…

So I read this article that came before this one, with the first one talking about the fact that teen girls are struggling with anxiety and depression. The second one talks about theories adults have as to why this is so.

I have some news here. 1. Social media isn’t the sole issue causing depression and anxiety and cutting it out completely until they’re 18 isn’t going to help. 2. This isn’t new. Teen girls have struggled with mental health issues for a very long time, even back in those “perfect” days of the 1950s and before. 3. It’s not just girls. While I do think it’s important to write articles about teens girls and boys separately, both are struggling with their mental health and that needs to be acknowledged equally. This kids ARE NOT ok. 4. All of this starts WAY before the teen years, like as soon as a child starts to notice the world around them.

  1. Can social media suck? You bet! So limiting it for as long as possible is your best bet. Creating times when phones are put up and families are connecting together like dinner, playing games, working around the house or outside can help kids connect with parents more. It’s important to actually know your kids. And equally important to learn who they are instead of trying to dictate who they should be to them. Knowing kids before they are teens can help parents figure out when something is wrong later on.
  2. Check out the pre-teen girl sizes in ANY clothing store. Take a girl’s medium shirt and put it up against a boy’s medium and see how much less material there is for the girl’s shirt. WHY?? Why do we expect children to wear clothes that are tight and revealing? Why do we say women/girls “get raped” or “get pregnant”, pushing all the responsibility onto the girl and removing it from the person who actually did the act that hurt that girl? And why do headlines say things like “Young woman raped” when she’s only 11? How can she even be called a young woman? She is a child! This pressure has been sitting squarely on girls unfairly for generations.
  3. This culture is pressuring kids to grow up too fast. There are so many pressures on kids now. Get a job at 16, start driving as soon as possible, get straight As, do community service, play a sport, join clubs, get selected for National Honor Society, have a successful relationship, navigate social media perfectly, spend time with your family, and do it all with a smile on your face and with your parents hovering all over you, telling you exactly what you need to be successful. It’s no wonder kids are hurting. They do so much and have so little actual free time to do what they want to do. They don’t know how to fill their own time as children, because parents have them in 1000 different activities.
  4. There are so many messages kids are getting as soon as they become aware of the world around. Things people say to boys vs girls, like “you’re so tough and strong because you didn’t cry when you got hurt” to boys or “Look at how pretty you are” to girls. This constant messaging is reinforcing toxic beliefs and behaviors from the very beginning. Girls become focused on how they look and what they need to do to stay “pretty” or be taken seriously. Boys think they have to be tough and can’t have any emotions and suffer if they aren’t built like a football player or don’t love watching sports.

I felt so much pain and sadness as a teenager. Social media didn’t exist when I was dealing with all the teenage angst. Bullying was completely swept under the rug, teachers didn’t care, and parents blew it off because everything looked fine. My friends were hurting; both male and female. It was a tough road to walk and I thought I wasn’t strong enough to make it. But I did, somehow. No one was writing about how much we were hurting back then. No one cared. We were just stupid, emo teenagers who weren’t mature enough to understand what was going on.

I think teens today need to know they can talk to their parents, teachers, counselors at school, or some adult who will take them seriously. If you’re the kind of person who says things like “Kids today…” or “No one ate Tide pods in my day…” you ARE the problem. You are judging these kids as a large group and not the handful of idiots who do dumb things. There were plenty of kids doing dumb things before social media and NO ONE KNEW. My brother was one of the idiots doing stupid shit and my parents had no clue. He drank, did drugs, got a girl pregnant in high school, and was failing classes in school. But not everyone knew everything he was doing because it wasn’t all over social media.

I’ve talked about this before…stop pressuring kids to do it all. Let them guide you on what they want to do. It’s no big deal if they want to try a bunch of different things. Why do they need to start their forever sport at a toddler? Why should a 10 year old feel like they must continue playing something they hate because they MIGHT get a scholarship someday? Just because a kid is good at something doesn’t mean they love it. I’m not saying that we just blindly allow a kid to do whatever they want; just that when it comes to extracurriculars, let kids tell you what they want to do and for how long they want to do it. If we just get to know the whole person as they are revealed, I think we can do better as parents and as a society. They aren’t born to be a replica of someone else; they are born with their own personality, goals, and dreams.

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