9th Grade Teacher Begs Parents: “WAKE UP!” About Your Kids’ Social Media

I asked 85 ninth-graders (ages 14-15) to finish the sentence. FIVE said they don’t have social media accounts. Five. All 85 kids have an average academic grade of an “A”… by all accounts they are “good kids.”

kids social media

After her post went viral, Coates added to it in an article for Love What Matters, offering up some background as to why she chose to ask her students this question. She says that when she began teaching in 2004, teachers were only concerned about students texting during tests. As her career has paralleled the rise of social media, however, she says she’s seen a HUGE negative drop in the mental health of teens, and she strongly believes social media is a major culprit. Social media, she explains, makes “misbehaving” much easier and more dangerous for kids who don’t “understand the long-term consequences.”

“My husband is a Doctor of Behavioral Health, and I’ve often had talks with him about the increased use of social media in the classroom. For the first few years it seemed pretty harmless. But it slowly became a tool for kids to do the things they’ve always done. There have always been bullies, there have always been promiscuous teens, and there have always been those on the fringe who experiment with drugs. Social media quickly became a platform for all of this though. What could once be done privately, after school, is now happening before, during, after school, and in the middle of the night, and it’s being broadcast to an audience that doesn’t understand long term consequences.

I’ve been in the classroom for the introduction of Pinterest, SnapChat, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. As I’ve watched this technology change I’ve seen a direct correlation to the happiness of the kids in my classes.”

kids social media

Coates’ experiment was a HUGE eye-opener for her. “I had no idea they’d be so honest,” she says. And it should be a huge eye-opener to parents as well. We simply CANNOT become complacent! Coates has something to say about that, too, begging parents to see what she learned from her students about their social media use:

“I took away two big ideas after I read their responses:
1) This is a problem that can’t be solved with more technology. We have to give them credit and recognize that they are incredibly clever when it comes to social media, and
2) No more talking about the dangers of social media. Just start talking. Period. These kids are looking for emotional outlets…for people who will not judge them when they make mistakes. We need to put down our own phones long enough to build face-to-face relationships so our kids don’t need to seek validation from peers and strangers.

Moms and dads, it’s not too late to take away the social media. Be BRAVE ENOUGH to do so if your kids already have it. But also? TALK to them. As Coates said…they NEED an outlet. And they NEED to know you aren’t going to judge them or fly off the  handle if they express something you’re not comfortable with. Be firm, discipline — YES. But also? Be open and LISTEN. You can be their CONFIDANTE without being their ENABLER. God has equipped you for this, parents! It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but if ANYTHING is worth the fight, worth going through the HARD…isn’t it our children??

I’ll leave you with these last words from Coates, to whom we ALL a  big “thank you” for her candidness and her warnings:

“As this post is going viral it is important to me that readers know how much I LOVE these teenage people. It is easy to be critical of the kids, of the parents, and of me. If you must comment, use this as an opportunity to show my students good digital citizenship. Be kind. Have compassion. In the coming days, I will be working closely with my school, community, and local therapists to learn more about how we can help.”

Parents, let’s work closely TOGETHER to see how WE can help our children, too! Their mental health may depend on it.


Dear Well-Meaning (But Ignorant) Parents: This Is What Your Teens Are Really Doing on the Internet

Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson
Jenny is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor.

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