The teenagers of today revealed some home truths about social media – and the parents of tomorrow’s teens should really listen up.
While the internet and social media can bring so much joy, inspiration and information to our lives, it’s no secret that the online world is a real double-edged sword.
When a teacher asked her 9th grade class to anonymously share their own complicated experiences of life online, their responses provided more food for thought on this. Not only did the kids provide a candid glimpse into what they are enduring online, it was obvious that many were struggling with what they’ve been exposed to.
"Today I asked my classes to finish this sentence: 'What my parents don't know about social media is…'"#LoveWhatMatters
Secret online lives
Junior high school science teacher Skipper Coates of Utah in the US is the teacher in question, sharing her story with the Love What Matters site, in an effort to spread a bigger message further.
“I teach them science, but when I have time I try to squeeze in some life lessons and mentoring,” Skipper explained. “Lately, I’ve been really concerned about their mental health, bullying, and social media use. Today I asked three of my classes to finish this sentence – ‘What my parents don’t know about social media is …’”
Skipper says that 80 of the 85 Grade 9 students (aged from 14 to 16) canvassed had social media accounts. She also noted their responses to her open-ended question, “were SICKENING. Heartbreaking. Depressing” sharing photos of their confessions to illustrate.
“What my parents don’t know about social media is …”
“What my parents don’t know about social media is … that I actually have one.”
“What my parents don’t know about social media is …that kids really get bullied and there is a lot of inappropriate things and nudity. A lot of kids have secret accounts or send inappropriate things.”
“What my parents don’t know about social media is … that I’m on it till like 2am every day.”
“What my parents don’t know about social media is …I talk to people I’m not supposed to and I have an Instagram when I’m not supposed to.”
“What my parents don’t know about social media is …that I have a secret rant account I talk about my mental health. I also have internet friends.” (above)
“What my parents don’t know about social media is … that it keeps me connected to my extended family and my fake account lets me express my opinions and frustrations. I’m often manipulated to think that if I stop talking to people they’ll attempt suicide or something.” (below)
“What my parents don’t know about social media is … how to find my pictures.”
“What my parents don’t know about social media is … the pictures that are sent or received and the things that are said over social media that will disappear before anyone can see it.”
“What my parents don’t know about social media is …you can send nudes, receive nudes, sext, buy drugs, password pictures, delete texts, buy bongs, pipes, hucca, video of nudes”
“Just start talking”
Skipper says that even though her teenage students’ reveals were upsetting, they also provided vital information on what parents can be doing to forge stronger bonds with their kids – and stronger kids in general.
“This is a problem that can’t be solved with more technology. We have to give them credit and recognize that they are incredibly clever when it comes to social media,” Skipper says, pointing out that they will hack any system or filter we construct.
“No more talking about the dangers of social media. Just start talking. Period. These kids are looking for emotional outlets … for people who will not judge them when they make mistakes.”
Skipper hopes parents can “put down [their] own phones long enough to build face-to-face relationships so our kids don’t need to seek validation from peers and strangers.”