Dear Future President,
So quick are we to judge others by their contributions to the Twittersphere but yet we believe that our coffee update is more influential than anyone else's. Why do we so effortlessly waste one hundred and forty characters? Why do we believe that our incompetent nonsense is more relevant than someone else’s? Why can we point fingers and assign blame when we aren’t using our intelligence for anything other than conceited complaints and choreographed counter-arguments? This country is impending a “screenager” apocalypse yet our school systems would rather complain about the lack of face-to-face time we receive instead of correcting the waste of our voices. There are more significant problems in our country that most adults would find far more important than the silent screams of my generation, but I ask you to put your nuclear weapons aside and hear my plea for maximizing our freedom of speech.
The use of social media has increased exponentially; an article published in 2015 states that “92% of youth report going online daily - including 24% who say they go online ‘almost constantly”.(1) With a reported 41,731,233 youth aged 10-19 in the United States in 2015,(2) approximately 38,392,735 and 10,015,496 youth respectively are going online daily or constantly. If we compare that to the 271 million Twitter users, 78.6 million which are under the age of 18, we find that 49% of American youth are on twitter at least once a day and 13% are constantly wasting their value on the Twittersphere. The most important topics of conversation on Twitter consist mostly of celebrities and sports; with only 4% of topic engagement including government and politics.(3) If this statistic isn’t terrifying enough, please take into consideration that statistically, the aesthetic of my coffee foam is more important than your political campaign.
Putting the overwhelming statistics advocating for my argument aside, let us discuss the policies implemented through the beloved American public school system. In Michigan, as well as other states, teachers are not aloud to discuss certain topics. For example, in health class, teachers are not to discuss abortions or sexual orientation; schoolwide religious beliefs and other controversial topics are also banned. Parents have the ability to remove their kids from discussions on sexually transmitted diseases or significant history lessons and in most cases parents believe that teachers are not responsible to teach topics that involve moral implications. But why should my parent reserve the right to decide when is the appropriate time for me to learn about safe sex? How am I supposed to learn how to talk about uncomfortable topics with my parents if I can’t even learn about them? Does my mother's opinion on logarithms also affect my education? Or does her right to disrupt my education stop when the subject matter takes a less controversial route? If this right was given to parents on every subject matter that crossed our desks, the number of kids attending school would be dwindling. I understand that it may be unethical to require a minor to look a pictures of an infected genitalia but riddle me this - if it is so dangerous for a 14 year old to learn about human anatomy in the safety of a classroom, why are parents and teachers turning a blind eye to the fact that 92% of the youth in America are entertaining themselves with far more disturbing images of explicit online content every day?
It is important to understand that even though most parents would say that the school system has no right in teaching morally complex topics to teenagers, they rely on the school system to teach their children about online safety. For example, only 95% of parents talk to their child about appropriate content to view online, with only 39% of those parents doing so frequently.(4) This 95% may seem like a reasonable number but compared with the 41,731,233 youth aged 10 - 19, that leaves approximately 2,086,562 youth to rely on the school system to inform them of appropriate viewing content. Considering my high school’s recent viewing of ‘Screenagers’, I don’t think the information they are receiving is as beneficial as it could be. Going back to the previous statistic, if only 39% of 41,731,233 youth -approximately 16,275,181 people- have had frequent conversations with their parents about internet safety, add 23,369,490 youth to the list of students who rely on the faculty of their local school district to teach them about the dangers of the internet. If we compare the 16,275,181 knowledgable youth with the 38,392,735 who go online at least once a day, we find that only 42.4% of youth are consciously aware of the dangers they may encounter. And even if 42.4% of youth are knowledgeable, how do we know they are making safe decisions?
Though my generation’s addiction to social media is no fault but our own, and the war on it should not be against us but for us. The ability that my generation has to access all of the world's information in a matter of seconds is astounding, for my generation to be one of thinkers, learners, and doers is inspiring, but for my generation’s potential to be wasted on Kim Kardashian’s status update is disappointing. Instead of introducing phone hotels and parent controls, we should introduce applications and hashtags that inspire our technology addiction instead of attack it. For example, the introduction of the ‘debate’ hashtag on Twitter has allowed my generation to participate in a discussion that hasn’t previously been open to them. The introduction of “Pear Deck” has incorporated technology into the classroom - productively!
If the adults and leaders would take a minute to listen to the needs of the technology generation - my generation - they would hear the angry clicks of the key board and the pounding on the retweet button, all begging for help. You see, we are not as oblivious and ignorant as we appear. Just because we hide behind a screen doesn’t make our arguments any less visible and just because we are more comfortable sharing our opinions from the safety of our blog does not mean we aren’t willing to risk it all to be heard. My generation has a voice that is easier to read. So please, take a few minutes to read it, we will wait.
Lenhart, A. (2015, April 9). Teens, Social Media & Technology Overview 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/09/teens-social-media-technology-2015/
U.S. Teen Demographics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.actforyouth.net/adolescence/demographics/
Topic Engagement [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S. Teen Demographics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.actforyouth.net/adolescence/demographics/
Anderson, M. (2016, January 7). Parents, Teens and Digital Monitoring. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/01/07/parents-teens-and-digital-monitoring/