Teenage Anxiety and Depression Skyrocket
It's hard for me to believe that I originally published this article in 2017, over two years before our children had to undergo the traumas inflicted upon them by our nation's response to Covid19 including school shutdowns, hundreds of hours in front of computer screens, lack of personal connections and communication, loss of sports and other activities, loss of fresh air due to masks and/or being shut inside, teachers expressing unrelenting fear, and all of that along with the divisiveness of our public, explosive rhetoric of our politicians, Tic-Toc and Instagram displaying unrealistic views of their world. If we thought teenage anxiety and depression had skyrocketed before all these disasters, what do we call it now?
I am reposting this article because everything it shares is even more relevant today. When we thought the traditional public school format was causing dis-ease among youth back in 2017, we would never have thought it could get this bad. For those families who follow mainstream media, you may not even know how bad public school has gotten, so I encourage you to expand your reading and viewing to sources that may illuminate the tragedy that is public school today. I personally choose Instapundit as my go-to news aggregator and find that both Joe Rogan's and Russel Brand's podcasts share many points of view without raising my blood pressure.
Our children need to be exposed to a variety of points of view without cringing. We cannot expect them to rationally discuss differing opinions, using reason and common sense without us first doing so. Disagreement is not violence, and rational discourse is our only hope.
In the meantime, I have three suggestions that may offer your family a reprieve from the mental health issues plaguing our children.
OPT-OUT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION:
Whatever you have to do, get out now.
If you can find a good private school and can afford it, Enroll Now! And be sure you know what "goodness" you are seeking out. You will need to remain vigilant.
If you cannot find or afford a "good" private school, look for a good charter school. They are out there and offer hope. But again, you will need to research, seek out the right school, and remain involved so you know what is going on.
Homeschool. You may do this independently, through a PSP, or through a charter school. Homeschooling is the only way that you can be sure of what your children are learning and feeling about the world around them.
OPT-OUT OF SMARTPHONES AND ONLINE ACTIVITY:
Trade in the smartphones for flip-phones with limited text capacity.
Place the phones in a bowl or basket in your entryway.
Do NOT allow computers or other electronic devices in your children's bedrooms.
Limit the time kids are on their electronic devices.
Severely restrict video game activities, especially monitoring their content.
Severely restrict and monitor the content of animated books, such as Anime and Comic Books. They are not what you think they are.
OPT-IN TO POSITIVE EXPERIENCES WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Get your kids outside and active. Ride bikes, play games, go for walks, whatever you can think of, but replace all the bad experiences of the past with wonderful, healthy experiences together.
Sit down at the dinner table and talk to each other again.
Visit local points of interest such as historical sites, museums, parks, lakes, beaches, or any kind of natural settings.
Visit your extended family.
Give your kids something to look forward to and learn from.
These ideas may seem simplistic and may not work for everyone, but they might work for you. Give one or two ideas a try for 30 days and see what happens.
If I sound desperate in wanting you to make these changes, it's because I am desperate! After 30 years of teaching in a California public middle school, I have seen the once slow and now ultra-rapid decline in the school environment, teacher quality, curricula, grading standards, and standards of behavior. Student mental health is at an all-time low. In the past six months, my sleepy little town had three youth/young adult suicides...that I know of.
We cannot continue to let a bunch of elite politicians and entrenched bureaucrats continue to erode our children's well-being. As parents, we need to parent our kids, ourselves, and that may mean making some serious changes.
7 in 10 public schools report increase in children seeking mental health services since pandemic’s start: survey
Original Article posted 2017 follows:
Recently published articles in the New York Times, New York Daily News, and Cambridge University Press have garnered much attention for their reports on the dramatic rise of teenage anxiety, depression, and suicide across all socioeconomic levels. Causes cited for this increase vary, but the consensus seems to be that infantilization of American adolescents combined with multifarious and negative influences of technology have led to a high level of emotional distress in our youth. The impact of social media alone has been blamed for inhibiting the ability of teens to form deep, interpersonal relationships, fueling their insecurities, increasing loneliness
and even overstimulating the dopamine receptors in their brains. Simon Sinek's speech on Millennial's in the Workforce highlights some of these impacts quite powerfully.
Kerry McDonald writes in the Foundation for Economic Education that our traditional school systems, with their rigid structures and lack of freedom, exasperate the trend.
Citing researcher and former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today Dr. Robert Epstein, Ms. McDonald points out that in our traditional schools, teen maturity is restricted by a lack of freedom in an environment that is overly structured and that fails to give students a voice or role in framing their daily lives. This micromanagement contributes to an extended "adolescence" period wherein the students feel they should be doing more for themselves, but are held back or incapable of doing so. The idea of an extended adolescence is a distinctly Western construct which simply doesn't exist in most cultures. When coupled with American society's general trend toward mollycoddling and over-parenting, teens regularly receive the message that they are not capable of managing their own lives and develop a sense of hopelessness.
Cultures that grant teens greater freedom and responsibility, be it to structure their own school day, choose their own courses and fields of study, or just to take chances and learn from their mistakes, do not have epidemic rates of teenage anxiety, depression, or even angst. Instead, children grow up developing a sense of personal responsibility and confidence that comes from directing their own destinies; they are not stuck in a limbo state, ready to mature, but being held back by a culture that seeks to keep them children beyond their years. They learn they are capable of directing their own lives and don't need their parent, teacher or school administrator to structure every hour of every day for them.
Certainly, with the rapid increase in anxiety and depression plaguing our youth, we need to look long and hard at the lifestyle choices and changes that have contributed to such a dramatic change in adolescent mental health in so short a time. While no quick fix is available, we owe it to our students to look closely at the negative effects of doing too much for them, restricting their freedom, and limiting their personal responsibility, not to mention putting addictive technology in their hands without limitation.
Let's help our kids grow up by offering them the opportunity to make some of the decisions that impact their daily lives, especially those that relate to their school day.
Marguerite Gaspar is the Director of the Talega Preparatory Academy, a California Private School offering Satellite independent study programs to families seeking the utmost in educational freedom. Marguerite has homeschooled her three children, taught middle school science and math for over thirty years in California public schools, and has supported homeschooling families throughout the state since 2002.