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.



intergenerational communication

Junior High Pressure


Do you remember your Junior high years? My Junior high years could be summarized in one word – PRESSURE

  • Academic pressure – Will my grades allow me to take the classes I need to have in high school?
  • Peer pressure – Do I fit in? What is it that I want to fit in to?
  • Parent pressure – Why can’t I talk to my parents? I don’t want to talk to my parents!
  • Media (Self-image) pressure – Am I cute enough, sexy enough to be on the cover of a Hollywood magazine?
  • Time pressure – school, sports, chores, hanging out with my friends? How do I fit it all in?

It is not my intention to get into psychological, physiological or hormonal changes that form the basis of these pressures.

Rather, I want to share the voice of these young people who are dealing with them. I want to share their words that come from their gut, heart, and soul, their feelings, their observations and the humor many of them use to make sense of it all.

Their journey is taking them into uncharted territory and frankly, many are not interested in listening to those who have traveled before them. (Of course, that was not my problem. I was always willing to listen.)

Some are entering this territory with the armor of support from parents and a loving, healthy childhood that has instilled in them a sense of security.

Listen to the voice of a child with this armor.

I don’t really need a gift because I have everything a child could hope for: loving parents, a bed to sleep in, warmth for my body, and food in my stomach. Some kids out there would pray to have those four simple things. This technology now has corrupted our minds into thinking we need all those expensive things when in fact we don’t.

The gift I would love to give is things to the homeless. My family and I want to go out this year for Christmas and provide them with clothes and blankets so that they don’t freeze in these cold winter nights.

Others – too many others – are entering into this new territory with no armor at all, resulting from a childhood that has instilled in them a sense of fear and insecurity.

Listen to the voice of a child without this armor.

A gift I would like to receive would be love. I would like love because I want to know that someone cares. Another reason I chose love is because I could talk to someone who would listen and not ignore me. This is why I chose love as my gift to receive for Christmas.

Most of us know young people who are on this part of life’s journey.

Will their armor withstand the journey?

How might you strengthen their armor?