Perhaps you could say that it was easier being an adolescent a few decades ago, or during an earlier century, such as the 1500’s or the 1800’s. However, there are many freedoms that teens enjoy such as the Internet, freedom of expression and creativity, and for some teens, the opportunity for political activism.
Yet, along with these freedoms, there are also major challenges today. For instance, school shootings and a violent culture, cyber bullying, teen mental illness, and suicide are dangers that teens face. This article will review these issues and how a teen might protect him or herself from these dangers.
Violence exists all around us. The media and many movies display violence. Some parents of teens exhibit domestic violence, and in recent years, there has been violence in many schools across the country. Furthermore, there are violent video games which many adolescents love and many adults question whether those video games contribute to the violence in our society.
In fact, up until recently, it has been thought that those who are the victims of violence, meaning that they experience violence inflicted on themselves, are at risk for developing PTSD. For instance, if a teen has experienced a car accident, rape, or physical/sexual abuse, he or she may be vulnerable to developing PTSD symptoms, such as anxiety and fear. However, research is indicating that simply being a witness to violence can be just as traumatic. This is true of children and teens that have witnessed domestic violence between their parents, have been exposed to violence in the news, and who have witnessed violence in their urban communities.
A study at Boston Medical Center found that one in ten children and teens had observed a shooting or knifing by the age of six. Half of the violence reported occurred on the streets and half in the home. In Los Angeles, children and teens witness 10-20% of homicides. At least one third of American children and teens have witnessed domestic violence between their parents, and most have witnessed multiple occasions of violence.
Parents or other adults in a teen’s life can talk about the dangers of witnessing violence. They can help protect that teen against the repercussions of witnessing violence, including having them talk about the violent situation with a trusted adult or therapist. Talking about what has made an impact on a teen’s life can be helpful in sorting it out.
Another form of violence is Cyber Bullying. It happens when a teen or child is harassed, embarrassed, threatened, or tormented using digital technology. As the Internet becomes more and more popular as a means of communication, the web and social media are becoming a venue for bullying. It often happens more than once and includes the use of texting or cellular phones to post images or text on the web. For instance, an image and demeaning messages might be posted on Facebook (social bullying), uploading embarrassing images, or spreading gossip or rumors through instant or text messaging. There are a number of ways to cause humiliation for another person on the way if someone had the intention to do so. There are many organizations that are working towards preventing cyber bullying, including helping children and teens identify what might be harmful on the Internet.
Another danger that teens face is mental illness and the threat of suicide. Mental illness can in fact result from witnessing or experiencing violence. For instance, depression, anxiety, phobias, and posttraumatic stress disorder are all illnesses that can result from violence. However, these illnesses can also develop as a result of other circumstances, such as living in a home where one family member experienced an addiction. Although many adolescents do not get the mental health treatment they need, especially because mental illness still carries such a stigma, it’s important to talk to a psychologist or therapist. Mental illness can worsen over time if not treated, such as depression which is the precursor to suicide.
If an adolescent is having trouble functioning at home or school, talk to a mental health professional right away. In fact, parents or adolescents themselves can make that contact in order to prevent the worsening of depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder.
Violence, cyber bullying, and mental illness are dangers that teens must be aware of and protect themselves against. With the right support, many teens will move through adolescence harm-free.