Friday, June 20, 2014

Are Kids Today Less Resilient than their Parents?

A quick glance at headlines on any given day lends credence to the belief that children today are less resilient than previous generations. The headlines tell stories of kids who are bullied to the point of suicide, smoking and drinking whatever they can get their hands on, and behaving in all sorts of unbecoming ways. The more notorious headlines reflect the hatred and disillusion these kids have toward society, so much so that they choose the path of mass murder.

Now we have kids attacking people in attempts to appease and/or join “Slender Man” the 21 century’s answer to the bogeyman. So, what’s going on? Are kids today truly less resilient than their predecessors? A lot has been said on the subject of millennials being spoiled and self-centered.  Similar amounts have been said in criticism of our society’s approach to and availability of mental health resources. The general consensus being that a stigma still hangs over mental illness and there are not enough adequate resources to meet the overwhelming demand. But are we any closer to an answer? Kids have always been bullied. They have always told stories of creepy things that go bump in the night. Some children have always been products of broken homes. None of these things alone add up to violence and murder.

According to statistics and news reports such as this, violent crime is on the rise. According to this blog post, as many as 12 million Americans are sociopaths. When you take into consideration that sociopaths have no conscience, no regard for humans who are not themselves, and in fact lack the basic capabilities for empathy, that’s a scary number. There are lots of news stories that detail the effects of bullying on kids and what those effects are driving them to, but bullying isn't anything new, so why does it seem to be resulting in mass murder and/or suicide more often? Are bullies using more hurtful words and behavior than in years past? Doubtful. It’s far more likely that what has changed is society and our children’s social skills, which include coping capabilities.

As our world has become scarier, we have tightened our grip on our kids to protect them hoping that by making decisions for them or keeping them away from all pain and negativity will make them better adjusted. This tactic appears to be backfiring on us as this type of helicopter parenting has turned out children who are incapable of navigating the world complete with the bad things it has to offer. The bullied know no other ways to cope save for acting out in vengeance and violence. The very tools meant to augment our social experience such as the Internet and Facebook, have instead been used as replacements for social experience depriving children and adults alike of social skills. We forget how to interact with one another.

Without the proper coping skills and socialization, children lose touch with reality more easily. They lose perspective in relation to bullying and pain. They begin to see themselves as rejections, not of one or two social peers, but of the world. In today’s self-centered, multitasking society, children seek to be famous or extraordinary, and since they are already susceptible to losing touch reality, they are more likely to stab others in attempts to impress fictional boogeymen such as “Slender Man.”

While we are still a long way off from any solid answers on precisely what has changed or how to fix the problem, a good start would be to put down our technology and go back out into the world to connect with other people. 

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