Back when I was in middle school, it usually took a day or two for rumors to fully circulate the school and threaten a child's reputation. By the time it was all said and done, a new target was usually honed in on and it was time to torment someone else. By contrast, kids today have it rough — rumors fly around schools as fast as a group text or Twitter update. Put that together with near constant access to the phone and internet, online bullying, increasingly stressful standardized testing, and even more competition for school placement, and you've got the perfect cocktail for depression in many kids.
The UK's National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that 80,000 children in the UK are estimated to suffer from severe depression, including 8,000 below the age of 10. Ten years old. Damn.
Dr Gemma Trainor, Nurse Consultant, Greater Manchester West Foundation Mental Health Trust, and member of the specialist committee which developed the guidance said:
I have over 30 years of direct clinical experience of children and young people presenting with symptoms of depression. In that time, there have been many changes and trends; over the past ten years, the increase of primary school-age children presenting with depression is a particularly worrying phenomena.
I'm not surprised, I know kids as young as nine with Facebook accounts and my 11-year-old niece tweets with her friends on the regular. Of course, this is something that could be curbed with more parental participation, but there's only so much adults can do to shield a child from something they strongly desire. If all my niece's friends are using social medial, she's probably gonna find a way to use social media, too.
It's not hard to imagine that with the increasing prevalence of social media, that this will only get worse — and with it, a whole slew of new questions to answer. How do we talk to kids about this new world order that most adults haven't fully mastered? How young is too young to medicate? Do we want to be medicating five-year-olds? How do find other ways to bring down stress levels for children? Can we just trap them all in a individual bubbles until their 25th birthdays and then hope for the best? (It worked for Brendan Fraser in Blast From The Past.)(Kind-of.)