It’s safe to say that my 15 year old daughter (Kayla) has a stronger social media presence than I do. I have about 170 Facebook friends. She has almost 4,000 followers on her “Edit account on Vine”. I put that in quotes since I really don’t understand what it is, other than it having something to do with One Direction.
Through Kayla’s various One Direction pages, she’s become close friends with 3 girls, all out of state. Kayla assures me that she’s not talking to a 40 year old guy in his mother’s basement. The girls facetime each other and have group chats that go on for days. Unless Jared from Subway hired a decoy, I think we’re okay. Besides, we watch Catfish (on MTV) every week. It’s pretty hard to remain naive about the internet after watching that show. If you think it has to do with fishing, it’s time to watch an episode.
At my request, Kayla asked her Vine followers what they wish adults understood better about teenagers. Here are the unedited replies:
|If boundaries and limits are set by them we will break them.|
|The pressure of school has a big effect on us.|
|Its hard not to change when everyone around us is.|
|We need sleep.|
|We do get sad sometimes and all we want to do is lay down. It doesn’t mean we’re lazy.|
|We may have more problems than they can see.|
|Sometimes we just need time for ourself.|
|It’s really hard to know who you are when everyone else wants us to be something we’re not.|
|We are finding our way.|
|We are our own people and as we grow up we’ll develop different morals and values than what they taught us.|
|They should remember that every teenager has a different experience and its not going to be the same on that they had.|
|Sometimes we want to be left alone. That doesn’t always mean we have a problem or something is wrong.|
|Our generation isn’t exactly like theirs and how school, bullying, etc. was in their day.|
|We get stressed too.|
|Sometimes treating us too much like adults is taking away our youth.|
|We are not going to be just like them and that maybe some things are not a phase.|
|When we say we don’t want to talk we mean it.|
|You have to make your own mistakes to learn. Just because someone preaches something to you it doesn’t mean you are going to understand it. You have to go through that thing to realize it’s not right or that you shouldn’t get into that situation again.|
|How much certain people actually mean to us.|
|If we share a problem we’re waiting for support, not judgment.|
|Just because a friend of mine does something bad I don’t necessarily do that too.|
|I am 17 and sometimes they treat me like 7.|
|They don’t need to force us to do anything. We know about the responsibilities we have and will do it in some time.|
|They don’t need to keep saying the same “safe things” we learned the first time.|
|We’re human too. We do sh– like everyone else.|
|Internet friends are just like real friends (my parents prefer friends I actually know in real life).|
|When they say you haven’t done anything all day or don’t work like us we actually do. We go to school.|
|My parents are getting better about this, but adults in general aren’t sensitive enough about anxiety.|
|That being inside all day on your phone isn’t being active, because it actually is.|
|We need sleep.|
|That I am not the same as them and I am not going to make the same mistakes, but I’ll make my own and learn from them.|
|Adults need more awareness of anxiety and depression.|
|They need to understand that they shouldn’t treat their sons different than their daughters (example: let their sons date any girl and freaking out if their daughter even thinks a boy is cute).|
|It is easy to hurt a teenage girl’s feelings and they shouldn’t make them cry by saying mean things even if it’s a joke.|
|How f—— stressful it is with school and that everything isn’t always easy. Things can be really hard sometimes.|
|I wish they knew about all the pressure and stress we go through|
|That we’re not perfect and that we make mistakes too.|
|Why (do parents) obsess over stuff?|
|I wish they knew that it hurts when they compare you with your friends or siblings or anyone that is better than you.|
The respondents that referred to mental health concerns are far from alone. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, about 8% of teens have an anxiety disorder and over 3% of teens have debilitating depression. An even greater number have milder and transient forms of both.
The symptoms of depression and anxiety are different in teens than adults. Teens are more likely to be irritable, aggressive or filled with rage. Adults tend to be more sad and withdrawn. Teens are also more likely to have unexplained aches and pains and extreme sensitivity to criticism. Parents often assume their teens are too young to be depressed or that they are simply moody. However, professional help is necessary, especially considering teens can be more difficult to treat than adults. Anti-depressants are riskier for teens. These drugs may alter normal brain development. It is also known that teens have a higher suicide risk than adults taking the same drugs. Therefore, therapy is an important part of the treatment process. The goal being to minimize the use of drugs or avoid it’s use altogether.
When a teen is suffering from an anxiety disorder, their symptoms may also present differently than in adults. For example, one of the most prominent symptoms of anxiety disorder in teens is shyness. As adults, we often think of anxiety as a feeling of impending doom. If our teens do not specifically use those words, we may miss the opportunity to provide much needed help.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of teens do not receive treatment for anxiety or depression when appropriate. Whether our respondents need intervention is difficult to say. However, it is clear from reading their replies that stress, anxiety and depression are a primary concern.
Compared to 30-40 years ago, teens are under more stress. Stress can be caused by homework, too high of expectations, parent divorce, dating and relationship issues, employment, etc. A recent study called, “Stress in America”, states that (on average) teens are at a 5.8 stress level during the school year, based on a 1-10 scale. Adults average 5.1. Perhaps the increase is due to teen’s continual access to the internet, creating pressure that wasn’t there years ago.
It’s not surprising that online relationships are extremely important to teens. In the late 80’s I had a pen pal I met through Teen Magazine. She was an important part of my life for many years, but our communication was limited to quarterly phone calls and weekly letters. Today’s teens have the opportunity to instantly talk to their online friends throughout the day. This super-charges their relationships beyond what we experienced during our own childhood. Teen Vogue ran an a article over a year ago titled, “Why Online Friendships Are the New Norm”. Imagine how much more this is the case just 1 year later. It is important that parents realize how important these friendships are. We should ask our teens about these relationships rather than minimizing them. In a recent study, almost 1/3 of teens have met 5 or more friends online. Most of these friendships remain virtual, just like pen pals in the old days. An author speaking on the subject put it this way, “Teens and parents have different views of online friendships because they have different ideas of what socializing should look like. What parents don’t realize is that the vast majority of teens socialize online with people they already know and tend to meet new people through those people”. – Danah Boyd, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens.
Sleep also came up twice in the responses, which most teen parents would expect. If left to her own devices, Kayla would sleep past noon every day! According to the experts, teens need about 8-10 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. However, less than 20% get that amount of sleep on most school nights. (National Sleep Foundation). The Today Show reported on this problem recently:
It is recommended that High School start at 8:30 or later, but few schools do. The video also explores the negative impact of sleep deprivation in teens. My own daughter’s school starts at 7:20a. To accommodate make-up, hair ironing and travel time she wakes up at 5:30a. This translates into her getting about 6-7 hours sleep each evening.
Several respondents talked about wanting to make their own mistakes without being overly judged. If Kayla’s question went out via postcard 30 years ago, I am sure the same concern would have been voiced. When our children reach their teen years, they are struggling to assert their independence. This causes conflicts that experts advise you control by setting boundaries. Some of the better tips I’ve read online are as follows:
- Talk about negative things (consequences) that happened to you as a teen when you broke a rule.
- Make sure you explain what those consequences are if your teen breaks certain rules. It will help your teen understand they are ultimately accountable for their actions.
- Negotiate rules with your teenager. They are more likely to comply if they had a say in the creation of these rules and understand the reason behind them.
- Let your teen deal with the natural consequences of their action. Do not try to minimize the impact. For example, if your teen can’t volunteer at the local animal shelter because they received detention, its their responsibility to re-arrange their schedule.
Happy Parenting! If you have a question you’d like Kayla to post on Vine I’d love to hear your suggestions.