One of the reasons today’s young people struggle with depression more than previous generations has to do with the media, but not in the way you might think. Sure, there are those who get bummed out when they don’t get many “Likes” or comments on their Facebook posts, but there’s another, more sobering source of angst among this media-sensitive group: They’re aware of all kinds of atrocities and tragedies across the globe and feel helpless in finding solutions. Of course, they’re not just reading filtered accounts of these events months later, or viewing air-brushed still photos; instead, they’re viewing raw video footage, often only hours after events take place. This incredible burden that our technology thrusts upon young people can be too much for them to handle without guidance from a mature adult.
Understanding and Appreciating Guilt
One of the many reactions young people have to hearing about war-torn nations, school shootings, or natural disasters is to feel guilty over the comparative wealth and ease of their own lives. Certainly, there are better responses to realizing such a disparity than sulking, but before adults can reasonably encourage more productive responses, adults will do well to show empathy and appreciation for the heartfelt reactions of these sensitive teens. After all, we wouldn’t prefer that they grow immune to human suffering or callous to others’ pain.
Replacing Guilt with Gratefulness and Giving
After appreciating the fact that teens are moved by the tragic footage they see, adults can offer guidance in more productive responses. Being grateful for the lives they have and the safety and possessions they enjoy can be a good start. Beyond that, allowing this gratefulness and guilt to give way to resisting the excesses of our culture can be a step toward action. Perhaps unneeded items can be donated to a local charity or even sent overseas. Instead of birthday presents, some kids are even requesting donations to specific causes.
Empowering Productive but Reasonable Action
Beyond giving from their excess, teens can develop a sense of worth by raising awareness and funds for a cause about which they are passionate. From starting a home-based business to help stop sex trafficking to supporting lobbyists and groups who attempt to influence political shifts, teens can certainly make a difference. They key is to help them identify one or two causes that they really support and create a specific game plan or goal for how to help. Adults can help them draw the line between productive work to benefit a cause and the kind of slacktivism which provides a sense of satisfaction while falling short of doing any real good. Certainly, teens need to find a balance and understand that they simply cannot do it all; at the same time, they can gain personal satisfaction from knowing they have done their part.