Late in the fall, a friend surveyed about 100 high schoolers who attended her church’s youth group. Every single student knew at least one peer who committed suicide. Every. Single. One.
Looking at statistics about depression, anxiety, and suicide is not for the faint of heart. Sadly, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10-24 year-olds. In addition, more young people survive suicide attempts than actually die. These teens will most likely be emotionally fragile for quite a while.
Screen use, including cyber bullying, prevalent lies, and resulting superficial relationships, contribute to suicidal tendencies. And being emotionally vulnerable amplifies all the negativity of screen use. These are real problems, and it’s why I’m grateful Dallas Children’s Theater chose to produce SCREEN PLAY.
Are you concerned about young people you know? You can do more than you might realize.
First, feel their pain. Try to get in touch with what today’s preteens and teens are feeling. If you dismiss their feelings, it’s like dismissing them. They know we can’t solve all their problems for them. That’s okay. Recognizing they’re having problems, without making them feel like they are the problem, is key. It’s honoring and will make it more likely they’ll come to you to talk when they’re ready.
Second, notice behaviors that concern you, but look beyond them. Because beliefs cause behaviors, changing behaviors requires us to discern underlying beliefs and their causes. When we help youth change those, their behaviors will more likely change permanently.
For these two reasons, I encourage you to attend SCREEN PLAY with children, grandchildren, and students who are 12 and older. The play will give you many discussion starters related to concerns you have. Many! Adults can certainly attend alone to learn a lot about how technology influences young people’s feelings and beliefs. You’ll have much to ponder and ask teens about. But, if you attend together, you’ll have a shared experience to reflect back upon. I absolutely believe this might be one of the best experiences to bond you and to cause conversations and not interrogations. Teens will be open to talking with you because you’ll have empathy for what they’re going through. This will allow them to listen to your questions and ideas. Solutions may occur.
Screen time – all technology – is at the root of much of the pain our teens are feeling or trying to avoid. I’m pro technology, but I’m not pro what technology is doing to us and our teens. Neither is Dallas Children’s Theater which is why they produced SCREEN PLAY for you. Yes, it’s for you.
As I explain in my book, Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World, when we allow teens to spend lots of time on screens, they can believe five big lies that negatively influence attitudes and beliefs:
Lie #1: I am the center of my own universe.
Lie #2: I deserve to be happy all the time.
Lie #3: I must have choices.
Lie #4: I am my own authority.
Lie #5: Information is all I need so I don’t need teachers.
These lies come alive in SCREEN PLAY so you’ll be empowered to talk with teens about how these beliefs are contributing to their anxiety, their choice to isolate, their stress, their bullying tendencies, and their suicidal thoughts. Staying connected is essential if we’re ever going to be able to influence young people. This play will help you do that. I highly recommend it!
Dr. Kathy Koch is a career advocate for teens. In November 2017, she participated as a panelist during DCT’s SCREEN PLAY Play-Reading and Panel Discussion, which gave parents, teens, and educators a sneak peek of DCT’s upcoming show, as well as an opportunity to candidly discuss the timely, relevant topics highlighted in the play. To learn more about SCREEN PLAY and to purchase tickets for the show, visit dct.org, or call the Box Office at 214-740-0051.
Dr. Kathy Koch (“cook”), the Founder and President of Celebrate Kids, Inc., based in Fort Worth, TX, has influenced thousands of parents, teachers, teens, and children in 30 countries through keynote messages, seminars, chapels, and other events.
Dr. Kathy is a regular presenter at many homeschool conventions, Care Net conventions, and for pregnancy resource centers, churches, and schools. She is also a popular guest on Focus on the Family radio and other radio talk-shows. She has authored six books including four published by Moody Publishers. Her two most recent are Screens and Teens and 8 Great Smarts.
Dr. Kathy earned a Ph.D. in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University. She was a tenured associate professor of education at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, a teacher of second graders, a middle school coach, and a school board member prior to becoming a full-time conference and keynote speaker in 1991.
GENERAL SPONSORS: The Hersh Foundation, Diana and Thomas Klein
Photo Credits: Karen Almond, and courtesy of Dr. Kathy Koch and stock imagery