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Every fight or slight is documented online for hours or days after the incident. “We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all,” says Faith-Ann. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.” Steve Schneider, a counselor at Sheboygan South High School in southeastern Wisconsin, says the situation is like a scab that’s constantly being picked.
“At no point do you get to remove yourself from it and get perspective,” he says.
The biggest variable, then, is the climate in which teens navigate this stage of development.
But a closer look paints a far more heartbreaking portrait of why young people are suffering.
It’s hard for many adults to understand how much of teenagers’ emotional life is lived within the small screens on their phones, but a CNN special report in 2015 conducted with researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Texas at Dallas examined the social-media use of more than 200 13-year-olds.
Their analysis found that “there is no firm line between their real and online worlds,” according to the researchers.
“If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it,” says Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery.
Sure, parental micromanaging can be a factor, as can school stress, but Whitlock doesn’t think those things are the main drivers of this epidemic.