Teenage Depression Caused by the
Internet Can Be Avoided.

" The Internet is a strange entity. On one hand, it is a useful tool for children & youth, but it can also be a destructive force causing serious teenage depression. "




Article by Dawn Graham of Robson, BC, Canada.

July 5th, 2013

I should have seen this one coming.  The other day, I asked my three children to meet me in the living room because I wanted to show them something online.  Immediately, my fourteen year old rolled his eyes and said, “Watch out, you guys.  Mom wants to show us something “inspirational”.”  Yes, air quotes were actually used.  I had to shake my head and smile.  He’s on to me, which makes sense since he apparently now knows more than me!  But I digress. 

Indeed, I did have something inspirational to show them, again, because I have Mom Disease and I firmly believe in the importance of introducing children to empathy and kind-heartedness early and reinforcing those virtues often, especially in the Age in the Internet.

And what an interesting Age it is.  The Internet is a strange entity.  On one hand, it is a useful tool for when my children need to research school projects, chat with Grandparents who live far away or even reference lines when we play Battle of the Movie Quotes (we’re movie fanatics!)  But the Internet can also be a destructive force that shatters a child’s naïve little bubble causing extreme teenage depression.

Kids today are bombarded with images of inappropriate sexual behaviour, news stories of atrocities against mankind and catastrophic weather events.  With just a click of the mouse, our children can pick up unexpected tips like how to build a pipe bomb or tempt fate with a household spice.  Or they can casually join in with a group of peers that are set on besmirching a former friend’s reputation, only to have it end when that child commits suicide because of a mistake that can now never be erased.

Once that browser window is closed, our children can casually carry on with their day, detached and indifferent to the teenage depression felt by their victims.  After all, theirs is just another fictitious screen name floating in a sea of online anonymity.   

Here is the problem; children don’t have the emotional tools to process the ramifications of this information.   And parents are poorly equipped to help them because of the language barrier imposed by the Internet.   According to Patrick Kinghorn, Vice Principal at Stanley Humphries Senior Secondary in Castlegar, BC, today’s children are now native speakers to a language that is a foreign tongue to most parents.

And with technology changing so quickly, it is very easy for parents to get left in the dust.  Teenage depression often can't hold a candle to the alienation felt by the parents. We need stress relief techniques too. Oh sure, we can attempt to keep up, throwing about BRBs and ROFLs like we have a clue.  Once upon a time, “Carpe Diem” motivated people to imagine the unimaginable, now it’s YOLO (You Only Live Once for those of you scratching your heads).

A fond farewell in hand written correspondence ended with the sentiment, “Sincerely Yours”.  Now, a perfunctory TTYL (Talk to You Later) is status quo, never mind expecting anything hand written ever again.  Might as well have grown up with the dinosaurs!  Oh wait, apparently that did happen… sigh.

So, although most parents can forget about staying on top of everything Internet related, they can use what they know about the Internet to their advantage.  The old adage “If you can’t beat them, join them” rings true here, which is why I go out of my way to learn this mysterious language, despite the inevitable eye rolls when I butcher it horribly. 

I actually enjoy my son’s light hearted ribbing at my never-ending efforts to keep my kids on the straight and narrow because it means the lines of communication are still wide open.  After all, thanks to the Internet, he is exposed to things that, at best, have me scratching my head in confusion.

So, for his sake, I attempt open-mindedness when he wants me to watch yet another moronic video on You Tube that features irritating citrus fruit.  I chuckle knowingly when he shows me just one more picture of some comedic kitten than has clearly never heard of spell check!  But there’s a trade-off.  He has to watch my videos too.And this is how I ensure he doesn't fall victim to teenage depression.

And the Internet, a once dark and mysterious stranger has become my valuable companion for just such occasions.  I show my children the videos that move me, like the one featuring a man in a Middle Eastern country who quit his job and now hand feeds 450 homeless and mentally ill street people a day.

Or the teenager, diagnosed with incurable cancer that chose to really live for the duration of the time he had left, rather than die, before his life had actually ended.By showing all my children the bigpicture of what life is really all about, I feel confident that they will not suffer from chronic teenage depression potentially leading to teen suicide.  Rather, I know they are getting the stress management skills they need to get through.

I expose my kids to a world that reaches far beyond the Beiber and Kardashian nonsense that is ever present on the Internet.  And when those “infamous” people come up in discussion, their careers are the focus, not the people themselves because, contrary to what the media would have us believe, we don’t actually know these people nor have a say in their lives.

I look for everyday role models; the reluctant heroes that unknowingly help me teach my kids understanding and decency.  And with so much negativity readily available online, I need those people, so I can show my kids that the majority of the world is still respectable and moral, despite what the headlines would have them believe. 

So, I suppose I should try to find some suitable acronym that will help me explain to my kids my need to forever champion the good in humanity.  But, given the verbal barrier, I’ll just try to bridge the gap, with the universal language of love.  Sounds cheesy?  It probably is.  But it will never go out of style.  And someday, I know they will appreciate the effort even if right now, I’m squaresville!  LOL!

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