The pandemic has left many teenagers feeling bored, anxious and depressed. While most of the Country is opening up and teenagers are returning to school, they are still feeling bored and isolated. There are still precautions in place such as many places require proof of vaccinations in order to participate in activities or go inside certain places. As a result, while kids are returning to high school, they still feel isolated from friends because they don’t have the same freedom as they had prior to the pandemic.
Most teenagers that I treat for psychotherapy are complaining that life is still boring. The main way they maintain contact with their friends is via texting or by communicating through online games. In addition they are spending a lot of time on YouTube, nextflix, and social media. Most teenagers have grown up with technology and social media so they do not really think about what they are doing on social media. As I said, they have grown up with social media and so have their friends so social media and texting seem harmless to them.
However, the internet is not as harmless as they assume. Due to texting and social media, kids can be teased 24/7 and some become so overwhelmed by the constant bullying that some victims of bullying commit suicide. Some teenagers who have been involved in bullying which results in a suicide have been arrested and charged by the police.
The issues with the internet are not limited to bullying. Sexual activity has become a major issue for teenagers and the internet. Many teenagers assume sexting or sending nude photos of themselves as normal teenage activity. However, the teenagers are under 18 years old. Therefore, sending or having nude photos of your girlfriend or boyfriend is violating child pornography laws because they are under 18 years old. Some states and cities are taking this very seriously. A teenager can be arrested, sent to jail and have to register for life as a sex offender for life if they are caught sending or having nude photos of their girlfriend or boyfriend. Because of the pandemic sexting has become more popular with teenagers and many teenagers are putting themselves at risk without knowing it.
When I tell parents about these changes many are shocked and concerned. However, many assume they do not have to worry about it because nothing like that would happen to their family. However, the statistics show by the age of 15 years old most boys have started to look at pornography. Additionally, teenagers are becoming sexually active in middle school. This is why many middle schools are handing out Condoms to their students. Therefore, while parents think they do not have to worry about their teen being sexually active or sexting because of the internet and social media children are becoming sexually active at an earlier age (CDC). Therefore, parents do have to worry about their teen becoming sexually active or sexting.
I understand that this is shocking and difficult for some parents to believe. Lisa Ling did an excellent show about boys becoming addicted to pornography. She also did another excellent show about the “age of consent” regarding teenagers, sexting and sexual activity. It contains interviews with families who had their worlds torn apart because their teenage son texted a nude picture of himself to a girl. Their son was arrested, sentenced to jail and has to register as a sex offender and he was only 15 years old. I have included the link to the show. I think it will be more effective to see and hear the facts that have unfortunately found themselves in situations they never thought possible. The program is on 40 minutes. If you have teenagers, please watch this episode because laws regarding sexual behavior are changing significantly. In California, the Governor just signed a new law making it a crime for someone to open a condom wrapper unless they have the other persons complete consent. This may be very confusing for teenagers. Since the laws are changing fast, please watch this video and discuss it with your teenager. Here is the link to Age of Consent https://youtu.be/QkCyJAlhCO4.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 24 years experience treating children, teenagers and trauma victims. For more information about his work visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.