(WTVM) - We’ve been putting out more news alerts lately about missing teenagers with what seems like more frequency.
You may have noticed the alerts pop up on your phone. When police confirm a teenager has run away, we rush to help. It’s part of our civic duty.
But so is trying to figure out why. Why are so many teenagers, not just here, but around the country, running away?
Not surprisingly, social media can have a lot to do with it.
No doubt social media can, and often does, help police find the missing kids or runaways and get them safely back home. That’s the enormous benefit of a connected community.
But according to the Child Mind Institute and other psychological think tanks, constant use of social media can leave teenagers feeling lonely and more susceptible to depression, body image issues and anxiety.
Our parents and many of us can remember the old days, when teenagers hung around together, relating to each other, learning to pick up on social cues, some good, some bad.
But we related to each other face-to-face. You had to, to learn how to get along and make friends. Those real people in front of you had real feelings. You could see it on their face.
Now social media takes those faces away and replaces them with a screen. Too many times, those screens are used to be judgmental, or to make cruel taunts, all from the safety of a cell phone keyboard. Now kids don’t have to say anything to someone’s face. Social media can be used as their shield or their sword.
Teens can get torn down by a single text or Snapchat post. Maybe they hide their emotions inside, maybe they run away, or worse.
Children need positive affirmation, especially as they go through the awkward teenage years that we all cringe to remember.
They need to interact with each other in person, with no devices or screens, at least some of the time.
Some ideas we’ve heard to accomplish that include making “device-free zones” in your home, like the kitchen table - or “tech-free hours” when kids must get involved in outside activities like sports or music or theater.
We can’t put social media or smartphones back in the bottle. It’s too late.
But it’s not too late to talk to your teenagers and make sure they feel secure in themselves.
Challenge them to realize someone’s put down on social media should never carry as much weight as their own self-esteem.
General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to:
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