Perspectives: Top risk factors for young people

December 13, 2023 at 9:30 a.m.
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Freepik image


We asked those who work with children and teens in the Diocese to share with us their insight on the greatest risks facing youngsters today. Here are some of their responses:

• Social media – kids’ overexposure, its pervasiveness, negative effects and overuse of corresponding devices was paramount among responders’ concerns

• Also prominent in their minds was the lack of down time in schedules; being overscheduled with activities to the point that they overtook time with family and to “just be kids”

• Another major risk, responders said, was academic pressure and challenges. This included the lingering effects of learning loss from the pandemic, the inability to listen and focus attributed to “a constant bombardment of competing information” and the continual pressure to achieve.

• The pandemic itself was listed as a risk factor, with its downstream effects of isolation and depression interwoven into all facets of children’s social and academic lives.

• Additional concerns included polarization – the perception of those with different views as “evil or bad,” food insecurity at home, social and educational status and behavior problems.

Observations:

“Today’s youth face a greater pressure than I remember as a kid,” said one school principal. “No longer do we allow our youth to just enjoy family time or ‘go out and play with the neighborhood children and return by dark.’ Instead, they feel the pressure of being pulled from one area of study to another … Their balance is being thrown off … We need to step back and deal with their growing pressures.”

“Social media is the biggest culprit impacting young people today,” a youth minister emphasized. “When I was growing up … issues facing children were not broadcast for all to see and know about. Today, instead of a young person dealing with one bully, they are now dealing with many bullies virtually and that’s tough on a young person who is in his or her formative years.

“As youth ministers, we have to be a strong and consistent voice as we encourage our kids to lean on their faith and let them know that God will see us through this [the COVID-19 pandemic],” she continued. “Beyond just being a voice, we have to walk the walk with the youth, and it’s an honor to be in this time to help be a source of strength and reason for young people.” The respondent’s youth group Bible study has taken root, she said, “and this is one way they can learn and come to believe that God is with them, and help them grow closer to God.”

She provides youth with a list of service opportunities, and “even if kids are going through particular mental health issues, sometimes when they get involved with a service project, they realize that they can be a solution to someone else’s problems,” she observed. “Kids receive mixed messages – not just from social media but regular media as well. Service projects give them a sense of purpose when they know they are doing God’s work. It doesn’t change their situation, but it can give them a different perspective. It’s helping them to connect the dots and helping them to see that all the dots connect back to God.”


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We asked those who work with children and teens in the Diocese to share with us their insight on the greatest risks facing youngsters today. Here are some of their responses:

• Social media – kids’ overexposure, its pervasiveness, negative effects and overuse of corresponding devices was paramount among responders’ concerns

• Also prominent in their minds was the lack of down time in schedules; being overscheduled with activities to the point that they overtook time with family and to “just be kids”

• Another major risk, responders said, was academic pressure and challenges. This included the lingering effects of learning loss from the pandemic, the inability to listen and focus attributed to “a constant bombardment of competing information” and the continual pressure to achieve.

• The pandemic itself was listed as a risk factor, with its downstream effects of isolation and depression interwoven into all facets of children’s social and academic lives.

• Additional concerns included polarization – the perception of those with different views as “evil or bad,” food insecurity at home, social and educational status and behavior problems.

Observations:

“Today’s youth face a greater pressure than I remember as a kid,” said one school principal. “No longer do we allow our youth to just enjoy family time or ‘go out and play with the neighborhood children and return by dark.’ Instead, they feel the pressure of being pulled from one area of study to another … Their balance is being thrown off … We need to step back and deal with their growing pressures.”

“Social media is the biggest culprit impacting young people today,” a youth minister emphasized. “When I was growing up … issues facing children were not broadcast for all to see and know about. Today, instead of a young person dealing with one bully, they are now dealing with many bullies virtually and that’s tough on a young person who is in his or her formative years.

“As youth ministers, we have to be a strong and consistent voice as we encourage our kids to lean on their faith and let them know that God will see us through this [the COVID-19 pandemic],” she continued. “Beyond just being a voice, we have to walk the walk with the youth, and it’s an honor to be in this time to help be a source of strength and reason for young people.” The respondent’s youth group Bible study has taken root, she said, “and this is one way they can learn and come to believe that God is with them, and help them grow closer to God.”

She provides youth with a list of service opportunities, and “even if kids are going through particular mental health issues, sometimes when they get involved with a service project, they realize that they can be a solution to someone else’s problems,” she observed. “Kids receive mixed messages – not just from social media but regular media as well. Service projects give them a sense of purpose when they know they are doing God’s work. It doesn’t change their situation, but it can give them a different perspective. It’s helping them to connect the dots and helping them to see that all the dots connect back to God.”

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