Years come and go, and I often tell long winded stories about personal events but never quite get the correct timing of that story. I suppose, as we all refresh the calendar, the years tend to bleed into each other.
Today I will do my best to apply accuracy to the year of today’s title forcing a little focus to my wondering memory.. To help with my attempt allow me to capture some events that occurred so long ago.
2012 celebrated the diamond jubilee of our still reigning Queen. 2012 Barack Obama was reelected as president of the USA, though Trump is still demanding recounts for the swing states. 26 children were shot dead at the Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012. The most devastating news of 2012 was that the Mayan Calendar ended. Many believed that the world would end because of this, and once again the world let us down by continuing to publish calendars that suggested 2013 would arrive.
Now those familiar with my writing understand that research and well-documented support for my declarative statements is rare. I leave that kind of academic writing to the academics. To avoid frivolous law suits, that could ruin my Christmas, I will acknowledge that all the information you are about to ignore comes from a book Titled iGen by Dr. Jean Twenge PHD, a very smart professor from San Diego, not Dennis Ford, a charming professor from Sheridan College. To help you discern the upcoming information if you continue to read this, let me help you. If it sounds intelligent and appealing it is from Dr. Twenge. If the words seem trite, ordinary and dull, that would be my contribution to what follows.
Dr. Twenge has devoted her life to studying cultural and generational differences over time. She detected that in 2012 there was a huge and sudden shift in teenager behaviour. She observed that teenage depression and teen age suicides more than doubled over the next decade. She supported this with overwhelming evidence and graphs to visually highlight the trend.
Kids no longer went out with their parents, and dating began to diminish in 2012. Annual survey questions alarmed the researchers as topics like “Feeling Lonely” and “Losing Sleep” starting spiking up versus pre 2012 baseline numbers.
Well the academic world don’t like to be miffed with information so they meet in a room they cleverly call think tanks ,for deeper analysis to unmiff stuff. They address causation or correlation in those think tanks as these people with PHDs understand the differences of the two words. They argue the merits of these two words to apply to the new theories. Now I don’t get invited to think tanks because the last time I was at one, I brought in my toy green army tanks from my childhood, and was told my unacademic approach to tanks, was not what they were looking for that day.
After exhaustive factual discussion, they concluded the introduction of the Smart phone was the only cultural, generational change to have such a profound world changing impact in 2012. When asked what else might have contributed to the generational difference they boldly stated NOTHING else contributed to the sudden change in teenager’s mental health.
In 2012 the majority of the population owned a smart phone. 80% of teenagers visited Social Media every day. This was an extraordinary find. Not visiting Social Media constantly in 2012 isolated teenagers and you may remember that being ostracized by your friends for not being cool is a peer pressured, unacceptable status in any school.
The unenforced restrictions to join platforms are easily manipulated by the kids. If it says you must be 13 to join, young children fib about their age. Adults from my generation will do this on dating sights or at a drug store to get 20% off. Websites never verify the age information.
Social media websites allow younger ones to create a portrayal of normal existence instead of forcing children to live one. The compulsion for the perfect selfie, “likes” and other indications of approval, now remove the necessity for any regular face to face contact.
Add a global pandemic to this new world order, and friends we have got ourselves a situation. Greater isolation, greater feelings of loneliness, and other necessary healthcare imposed community restrictions have created the environment for a very imperfect storm.
Let me acknowledge to any teenager accidently reading this old man’s, “out of touch” rant. I guess I must sound like the local blacksmith in the 1920s when cars began to replace horses as the only mode of transportation moving forward. I am sure if generational PHDs were around in 1920, they would have marked this as profound as the smartphone in causation and correlation to the dramatic change in the mental health of blacksmiths. Those “lost in time” blacksmiths must have looked at their beautiful horses with such sadness knowing their world was coming to an end. I suppose the horses too, looked back at their dedicated owners with that same long face.
I have addressed this virtual childhood issue before; https://breakingwell.com/2018/02/04/the-bully-checklist/ however I would suggest our current never ending pandemic is only magnifying our troubled virtual and real world. I offer no solutions here but only hope to raise the level of awareness today’s children’s coping difficulties. Dr. Twenge does however offer a pretty simple, though difficult to enforce, suggestion. She is a mother of three and the only rule she adamantly executes every night is “No phones in bed”. This house rule does address the concerning “Losing Sleep” discovery of her research. A good night sleep is hardly the epiphany one might have hoped for but it’s a start. Sleep is an important contribution to overall mental health for all of us, including your generationally different kids.
A good night’s sleep may even equip us all for a better conversation tomorrow.
Cue the Blong… Keeping it Real is my song to help me better understand mental health.