Kids These Days
iGen kids face challenges their parents never did. We can work together to help these young people navigate through their unique struggles and discover their unparalleled potential.
Have you ever been told that ‘kids these days’ have life way easier than generations before? I remember as a kid hearing how my grandparent’s generation had to walk … barefoot … through six feet of snow … uphill … both ways … all alone … to get to school.
While these conversations often involved smiles, winks and some good-natured joking about how spoiled we were, I comfortably admit to wholeheartedly embracing some of the changes brought about by the passage of time. I am grateful for warm boots, remote car starters, paved roads, and incredible technology that allows me to have human contact almost whenever and wherever I need it as I travel to various schools. Life is certainly different today than in times past, and that is affecting our children for better and for worse.
I recently attended a presentation by a colleague geared toward helping parents better understand today’s youth. In his doctoral research, my colleague has studied the work of Dr. Jean Twenge who defines the group of children born between 1995-2012 as iGen. This is the generation that currently fills the majority of our school system. They are the first generation to have grown up with cell phones, most likely had an Instagram page at an early age and probably do not remember life before the Internet. According to Twenge, here are some of their characteristics:
- Their lives are heavily shaped by technology
- They engage in fewer social activities than past generations did
- They don't read much
- They don't leave the house or go on dates
- They have short attention spans
- They have alarmingly high teen depression and suicide rates
- They are doing drugs less often than past generations
- They actually wear seat belts
- They work harder and care more about saving money than Millennials
- They have higher on-time high school graduation rates than Millennials
As an educator of 27 years, I have witnessed first-hand many of these characteristics and believe them to be true for the majority of our students. Particularly concerning to me is a significant increase in anxiety and depression. Twenge believes that increased time spent using technology and social media has impacted iGens resulting in a spike in depression and decreased happiness. In an effort to mitigate negative side effects that have come with changing times, school divisions across the province are increasing mental health training for staff, adding additional time for in-school counseling supports and working to improve access to services with mental health partners.
Regardless of inevitable challenges, each new generation has something to offer. I believe that as we work together, parents, educators and community members can successfully support iGens as they navigate through their unique struggles and discover their unparalleled potential. We will empower our youth through both words and example as both we, and they, follow Twenge’s message to:
- Remember that our technologies are tools that we use, not a tool that uses us
- Exercise, get outdoors and enjoy nature
- Get sufficient sleep
- Visit friends in person, not only on social media
- Give your friend a hug
Written by Superintendent Darryl Seguin
Reprinted with permission of The Lethbridge Herald