5 Concerning Youth Trends

1. They Spend a lot of time staring at a screen

This generation is reportedly spending about nine hours online each day. That’s 63 hours a week, or the equivalent to a full-time job and a part-time job. That glowing screen is an issue, and teens realize that it monopolizes their time, at least that’s what they say.

According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, 60% of teens ages 13 to 17 openly admit to spending too much time online; and 41% say they spend too much time on social media. As reported in another survey by Common Sense Media, teens say their favorite means of communication is texting, and certainly, this is no surprise to parents.

 

For parents, the takeaway here is that we need to help kids detach and set healthy boundaries around phone use. That means making sure they're having in-person interactions with their friends. Also, when they are with friends or family, make sure they know the phone is off-limits. Nothing is more annoying than trying to talk to someone who is preoccupied with looking at a phone.

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2. They experience a lot of anxiety and depression.

The Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that over the past decade the number of youth with mental health disorders has more than doubled! Many studies have found strong relationships between social media use and feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression. There’s no way around it...digital connectedness does not replicate the emotional bond of real person-to-person relationships. In addition to setting healthy screen boundaries, encourage in-person interactions, sports or other exercise, social clubs, consuming print media, etc.

According to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future survey 2019: 

  • 1 in 4 – of 12th graders; 

  • 1 in 5 – of 10th graders; and

  • 1 in 10 – of 8th graders

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Although adolescent use of illicit drugs is down, marijuana use is up. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, adolescent pot use has reached its highest level in 30 years. Today’s youth are more likely to use marijuana than tobacco products.

Adding to the risk kids face, today's marijuana is reportedly two to three times more potent than in the past due to higher levels of THC, the chemical responsible for the high marijuana produces.

The risks aren't just temporary, either. Marijuana use can have long-term effects on the developing adolescent brain resulting in cognitive impairment that can lead to learning and memory problems. Many kids have the misconception that smoking weed isn’t that harmful, and that’s a scary myth. We must have real conversations with our kids about the dangers associated with marijuana use. If we don’t talk to them, someone else will, and they may be filling their heads with an entirely different message than ours.

5. They are taking their own lives.

Of all the concerning trends that face teens today, this is by far the scariest. According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, teen suicide has reached its highest level since 2000. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, behind only automobile accidents.

What’s led many of our young people to take their lives? There are numerous theories, from too much social media use leading to isolation to higher rates of mental illness. Some suggest that suicide deaths are being reported more openly today than in the past, so that the numbers now more accurately reflect the problem. Regardless, we have to make sure our kids have the resources and tools necessary to cope with life stressors.

It’s time that we close the generation gap and destigmatize mental health. If our kids are struggling with psychological issues, let’s vow to get them professional help. I think we can all agree that one life lost to suicide is one life too many.

Being the parent of a teen isn’t easy, and likewise, neither is being a teen. At a time when the world seems to be spinning off its axis, it’s important that parents work hard to stay in the loop with what’s trending, even if we sometimes feel lost.