Self-Trolling Teenagers and Mental Health

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For our EC&I 831 class this week we read a few articles and the one that I found the most interesting was the one about teenagers who troll themselves:“Why Teenagers are Self-Trolling on Sites Like Reddit.”. It is a new form of self harm that I had never thought of. As a teacher I am seeing more and more and more issues with anxiety and mental health. I do not remember students dealing with these issues openly when I was a student at all. Now I even work with coworkers who are very open about their struggles with their mental health which is a very good thing. I am seeing students who are unable to attend class and who hide under desks all day or sit on the couch in front of the office. I have been involved with quite a few students who self harm. I have seen students that are suicidal. Thankfully we have been able to intervene in the vast majority of cases. It recently occurred to me that I probably have some anxiety myself and have quite a few panic attacks now that I’m a parent. However, what made me able to deal with it when I was younger compared to some of my students are completely overwhelmed? Is it the difference in society today? Is it the social media access. Is it the latchkey kids?

It can be very hard to access the mental health system. They are very caring, but overworked professionals from my experience. I am not sure how to fix it but I am sure that some of these kids hide out in social media and on the internet. Teenagers who troll themselves on the internet are probably doing it for the same reason that other teenagers self harm: as a cry for attention and for validation.

I just watched the documentary by CNN called being 13:

 

It was an interesting documentary the ties into the subject of this blog. It is amazing to see how much social influence social media has on teenagers. As a parent it actually terrifies me since my children are young right now, but it won’t be that long until they will be influenced. What can I do as a parent to make sure that my children are not getting hurt by their posts and those of others? Is it the same as when I was a kid? Is everyone a subject to bullying these days? When I was watching it seems like the victim changed quite fast and everyone could get hurt. What can we do as a society to make sure that our teenagers and children and young adults are able to navigate these waters? I think that the best answer is to use social media in class and to teach about them efficiently and effectively. I have had students as young as nine or 10 thinking suicidal thoughts or self-harming because of messages they have received through Kik messenger or services like Yik Yak. We have seen students as young as grade 3 and 4 conversing with adults in sexual ways from school and home. Sites like 4Chan described in another one of this week’s articles:“Absolutely Everything You Need to Know about 4chan, the Internet’s Own Bogeyman” scare me because they let people be anonymous and hurtful. It’s like when I read the comments on articles about teachers. Everyone comments about how lazy we are, how we get the summers off and how we should be doing things differently. It’s funny sometimes to see posts that the public “like” about how things have changed at schools when we have actually been doing those things as teachers for years.

Conversely, social media can do a lot of good. There are a lot of social justice campaigns like We Day that teenagers can get involved in. Social media can also influence opinions. For example right now perhaps it can change Canadians’ perception of residential schools and possibly lead more Canadians to read the TRC report. Yesterday I watched a video about Ellen inviting an autistic barista to her show that many of you have probably also already seen:

 

Social media can highlight the abilities of some people that we used to considered disabled. So there’s certainly plenty of positives but how do we accentuate¬†those and try limit the negatives so that teenagers do not feel a need to self-troll?