Today, tech innovations are being introduced faster than I can keep up. Did you know that a flying car may be unveiled at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo? Yes, I just said that. A rider in this flying car plans to light the torch at the beginning of the games. Toyota is funding a company that hopes to introduce it to the world before anyone else does. (It’s essentially a drone that someone can sit in.) I think we’ll all feel we’ve entered an episode of the Jetsons.
Since the launch of the 21st century, our world has experienced the acceleration of smart technology—and with that new technology, a new lifestyle. Almost everyone I know, enjoys the perks of a world where everything is a “quick click” and suddenly food arrives at your door; or a car arrives to transport you to your destination; or a smart device answers your every question from the kitchen.
I’d like to invite you to spend five minutes thinking with me about the ramifications of this new world that’s emerging before our eyes. Perhaps there are lessons for us.
1. E-Scooters to Get Around
Have you heard? The rage in many cities today is an e-scooter that was dropped off in some downtown area by a company like Bird, or Lime, or Spin. These scooters are a new way to get around when you must travel a bit and feel it’s too short to drive, but too long to walk or run. These scooters are yours to lease with an app, and you can ride them from wherever you find them to wherever you’re going and leave them there. You are charged for the distance. Believe it or not, it’s become a $3 billion industry in under two years. Call it a fashion fad if you like, but it’s growing fast.
So, what’s the trend and is it a problem?
The trend is—e-scooters are a fun and innovative way to get around town, and if you haven’t spotted them already, you may see them soon. The trend isn’t necessarily bad, unless the pattern of riding replaces exercising (walking, biking or running) like we used to do. Millennials had a small problem with obesity; Generation Z has a giant problem with it. We are a culture that sits or rides more than we walk or run.
2. Vaping to Get High
When I attended high school in the 1970s, teens would smoke “pot” to get high, but they knew it was wrong. Today—the narrative has changed. Many smoke it and don’t believe it’s wrong at all; and in fact, they point to medical advantages of “vaping.” This is where a person inhales through an electronic vaporizer. Vaping works by heating a chamber, containing either nicotine or cannabis oil, until the liquid vaporizes. The findings of the 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey of more than 20,000 middle and high school pupils found that about 12.4% of high school students had vaped cannabis. That’s about one in eight teens.
So, what’s the trend and is it really a problem?
“The use of marijuana in these products is of particular concern because cannabis use among youth can adversely affect learning and memory, and may impair later academic achievement and education,” Katrina Trivers told the tech website, The Verge—epidemiologist and lead author of the study.
The upside of this trend is—if it genuinely calms a student from a stressful condition—it can be a good thing. If, however, it actually damages learning skills, as the study suggests, but kids feel it’s safer because it’s electronic, we have trouble on our hands. Vaping doesn’t feel as dangerous to teens because it’s a 21st century sort of smoking.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb recently declared youth vaping to be an “epidemic,” and said the agency will halt sales of flavored electronic cigarettes if manufacturers can’t prove they are doing enough to keep them out of the hands of children and teens.
3. Prescription Meds to Get By
This issue concerns me the most. For years, anti-depressant sales have been climbing among children and youth. Most kids say they need them just to “get by” or to “make it through the day.” An increasing number of students are taking medication like serotonin for anxiety or depression, and a growing number are taking Adderall to help them focus, whether or not they’ve been diagnosed with ADHD. This problem is not just an American one. The BBC reported England has seen a 15 percent hike in antidepressants among children between 2015 and 2018.
So, what’s the big deal? Why is this a problem?
What concerns me are the comments I hear from kids. When young people feel they need help just to make it through their day or to endure their week, something seems amiss. Please don’t get me wrong—I’m not against all prescription drugs. I am diabetic and need insulin on a daily basis. My own two adult children have taken prescriptions due to chemical imbalances in them. Because the problem is so large, however, I wonder if the key is to locate the source of their angst—not merely create a greater dependency on drugs. Could reducing social media time, or screen time in general, and replacing it with time for solitude or an outside activity possibly reduce the need for meds and enable them to build coping skills themselves?
Just food for thought. I always try to identify the reason for new trends and to find better ways to address the needs kids have rather than create artificial answers.
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