As an educator, I see school shootings differently than the polarizing NRA vs Mental Health advocates. I work one-on-one with teens every day. I hear about their studies, their families, their friends, and their fears. They’re inundated with information. Receiving over 100 texts per day, they don’t have the bandwidth to engage in conversations, dig deeper to learn more, or reach out to friends/family who need them. Our teens are lonely. Yes, technology interferes with healthy, and much needed, human-to-human interaction.
Today teens have the attention span of a gnat. Seriously, if you text more than a phrase, they’re not going to read it. They won’t read magazines, newspaper, or books because they want the condensed version – no more than a paragraph-long description. In my family, we call it the “10-second rule” – if you can’t say it in 10 seconds, don’t bother! What’s worse, teachers only require students to write short essays, not research papers (that require extensive reading and editing), which will create a new generation of adults without the depth and breadth that we need to lead the world.
My students tell me that they spend more time alone than they do with friends and family. Most friends are superficial and convenient, and very few of them have true friends – the ones they can confide in. But, these same students who are lonely have social media popularity that would make you believe that they have dozens of BFFs, hang out with friends every day, go to all of the parties, and have more fun than anyone. The sad part is that teens bottle up their disappointment in their friends, and in themselves, and don’t have a healthy outlet.
When our media glorifies these murderers (mass shooters) by posting their photos and telling their bios, they humanize the shooters. Then other teens who share these same frustrations, fears, exile, and bullying, identify with the mass shooters. Playing violent video games, watching gory TV shows, and even reading news clips normalizes brutal killings. When teens don’t have real friends to talk to, sadly they won’t have friends to talk them down when they have crazy thoughts and to find other ways to deal with their pain.
Having a smartphone 24/7 is like being enveloped in cyber bubble wrap. They can’t have a conversation because it’s difficult to communicate. They can text a few words but certainly not sentences. They can ask, “How are you?” but they really don’t have time to read or learn about anything other than “fine.” They scan the social media of choice (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter) because it’s fast and easy. Feeling left out – a social loser – they turn to YouTube to watch something to take their minds off of everything.
I don’t understand why anyone would need a gun intended to kill dozens of people in few seconds. Given how short-circuited individual people have become as technology reduces face-to-face interactions, I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg with mass shootings.
Let's reel back technology and let's bring back get-togethers, phone calls, and letter writing. Reach out to others and connect... then maybe we'll see more kids with empathy and less school killings.