On The Decline of the Teenage Psyche

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I read in the news the other day where a 19-year-old teen live streamed her suicide on Periscope.  She had been telling her followers that she was going to commit suicide and that she was going to do it live.  Many of them, instead of trying to talk her out of it, encouraged her to do it and posted that they were waiting.  She stated that she wanted to do it to give people something to talk about…muse…inspiration…movement.  This 19-year-old killed herself on live stream by throwing herself in front of a train.

There’s also the story of the 16-year-old in Delaware that was jumped by her peers in the bathroom over a boy.  They beat her up and early reports indicated that she hit her head on a sink.  However, the coroner’s report states that she had a heart defect and died from distress to her heart from the emotional and physical trauma she received from being jumped.  After she died, there were several posts on social media that said she deserved it and that they were glad that she was dead.

As a middle school teacher, I have seen and heard a lot of things.  But nothing makes me pause more than the decline of the teenage psyche.  It’s true that kids will be kids and that they are going to make poor decisions.  That is a scientific fact.  The frontal lobe, which is responsible for impulse control, among other things, doesn’t fully develop until the early or mid-twenties for most people.  Which explains why we do so many stupid things when we are young.

However, it’s not the stupid things that worries me.  It’s the attitudes during the aftermath of those stupid things that worries me.

For example, Tommy gets into an argument with his friend John.  Tommy and John fight.  The teacher breaks it up.  Tommy and John both go to the Principal’s office.  Tommy and John cry, are sorry about what happened and show true fear of the consequences of their actions.

This is what scenarios were like when I was a teenager.

But now?

It’s more like, Tommy gets into an argument with his friend John on Kik.  Tommy says that he is going to fight John at school the next day.  Tommy and John fight at school the next day.  Everyone already knows about the fight from social media, incites them to fight even more, and then several students tape it and post it to YouTube.  Tommy loses the fight and his classmates laugh at him.  He decides to bring his father’s gun to school and get revenge on John and all the other kids that laughed at him.   At the police station, the police interrogate Tommy and he stares at the blankly, confused about why he is there.  “They deserved it,” says Tommy.

That.

That social media aspect.  That humiliation.  That need to prove yourself to people that don’t matter.  That indifference…all those things are what worry me.

I fear that we are raising a generation that doesn’t care about the consequences of their actions or about how what they do will affect them or others.

I fear that we are raising a generation that is akin to the Taliban in that they strap on metaphoric bombs in the form of hateful words on social media, bullying, insults, and physical aggression and they are willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to take everyone else…

out.

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