intergenerational communication

Cell Phones and Emma

I decided I needed a break from writing so I clicked over to my Facebook page. The first entry I saw was this.

“CNN recently interviewed Dr. Jean Twenge, author of iGen and her interview worried me –Dr. Twenge started doing research 25 years ago on generational differences, but when 2011 -2012 hit, she saw something that would scare her to the core.   This is the year when those having iPhones went over the 50% mark.

  • This was the year that more kids started to say that they felt “sad, hopeless, useless… that they couldn’t do anything right (depression).”
  • They felt left-out and lonely.
  • There is a 50% increase in a clinical level depression between 2011-2015.
  • A substantial increase in suicide rate.”

I taught through those years. I can verify by anecdotal evidence that this is absolutely true.

It was the early 2000’s. Kids were just beginning to get their own cell phones and, of course, bringing them to school and, of course, using them at school, which was, of course, against the rules. (Kind of like Mary’s little lamb.)

I must tell you – cell phones were the bane of my existence as a Jr. high teacher. This story is one of the reasons why.

There was a young girl in my class. I’ll call her Emma. Emma was very needy. She had already had some drug issues and was failing all of her classes. She did not have a father in her life but did have a mother that found refuge in many men; a far too common recipe for disaster.

Emma had potential; she loved to write but was too undisciplined to finish and turn in assignments. Her only reason for attending school was wrapped up in her boyfriend. He was her only solace. School was their meeting place.

You see, a friend of Emma liked Emma’s boyfriend. Sue – not her real name – decided to go into the bathroom at recess, take off her top and bra and take some “selfies”. (I don’t even think that term had been coined at that time) Anyway, during the next class period, she sent these pictures to Emma’s boyfriend, who promptly decided to dump Emma and ask Sue to be his girlfriend.

OK, typical Jr. high drama. I get it, but there is more.

At lunchtime, John – not his real name – tells Emma he has changed his mind and his girlfriend. Emma, in her fragile emotional state was unable to handle this.

Meanwhile, I’m in the teacher’s lounge eating lunch and the bells go off. I rush outside to find Emma laying on a bench with yard duty aides around her calling for help. Emma had taken a knife (yeah – I know, they’re not allowed at school like cell phones and Mary’s little lamb) and cut her wrists. The police and ambulance came and took her to the hospital. She was physically OK but in deep emotional pain.

Emma came back to school a few days later, still troubled and very embarrassed. She was sent to counseling and put in a special class for emotionally disturbed students.

By the way, this did not solve her problems.