The following report from CBS News takes a sobering look at the dramatic increase of teen suicide in the United States.
It is revealing that social media is on the hot seat for its role in not only condoning cyber-bullying but also promoting a form of communication which virtually eliminates the need for face-to-face personal contact. Anonymous, impersonal tweets and posts tend to be decidedly more aggressive and confrontational. Social media connections are the perfect forum for bullies; they are the mode of choice in abdicating responsibility for our actions. We see its rampant scourge on Facebook and Twitter as our society no longer monitors what is socially acceptable conversation in our correspondence, verbal or written. The days of Emily Post, though a welcome memory, are old-fogey and obsolete.
In 1956 a little boy in the third grade classroom sat in front of his classmates sobbing after being ridiculed and bullied repeatedly by an older boy on the playground. He had been shoved to the ground and kicked, his clothes were torn and dirtied. His teacher delighted in reproving the boy’s presumed cowardice and , in the presence of 23 classmates, chortled,
“sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
She was wrong. The bruises healed; the clothes got mended and washed , but the words used to thrash the boy being raised by pacifist parents were infinitely more hurtful. Our vulgar, thoughtless, hurtful, racist, bigoted words are like daggers. Our inconsiderate, violent actions leave more than bruises and scars on the innocent victim. So it is with our behavior on social media. It is a telling indictment of what we have become.
The children of this generation are paying the price for our obsession with materialism and self-involvement. Today when, and if, the family sits together for dinner it is commonplace for each, including the parents, to have a communications device next to the knife, fork and spoon. Each family member interrupts the time together to obey the device’s ring tone. Folks, our devices are not eating utensils, our devices are not baby sitters, and most definitely our devices are not meant to teach our children ethics and values. Our device is not a god which demands obeisance and veneration. It is merely a manufactured device. Think about it. Teens are committing suicide at an alarming rate. Why? What are we teaching them by our behavior and our attitudes about life?
Certainly, we cannot place all blame on social media. That, in essence , is excusing ourselves from taking responsibility for the world we have created, i.e., social, spiritual, financial, and political. We, collectively, no longer provide the stability of home life, the joy of spiritual communion, the support of family values, and the connections of community to our children. We view them as mini-adults, we admire their free-spirit and independence, we mistake their obsession with celebrities as growing pains. But, they are children. They need guidance, support, instruction, and the correction which only mature parents can provide. Most of all they need love and understanding.
Have you ever considered suicide? I have. If we are honest with ourselves I think all of us have thought about it…..but not at 12 years old. Good Lord, I was too worried about girls, tomorrow’s biology quiz, and the zits on my face when I was twelve. What have we done to our babies?