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How We're Failing Gen Z

In the ongoing dialogue about Generation Z, a crucial voice often goes unheard – that of educators who work with these young people daily. Ashley Jaron, a high school teacher, offers a compelling perspective: "We blame the kids... But at the same time, we as adults are failing them in a lot of areas and then blaming them for our failures when we see the results."


This insight challenges us to reconsider our approach to today's youth. Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is navigating a world vastly different from the one we experienced in our adolescence. As Ms. Jaron points out, "We were given a safer country to live in... We didn't have cell phones the way they have cell phones."


The statistics underscore the unique challenges facing this generation. A 2019 Pew Research Center study found that 70% of teens see anxiety and depression as major problems among their peers. This mental health crisis is exacerbated by constant connectivity and social media pressures.


Dr. Jean Twenge, a psychologist studying generational differences, notes, "The biggest difference between Gen Z and other generations is in their mental health. They're much more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety". This observation aligns with Jaron's concern about the impact of our judgments on Gen Z's mental well-being.


Despite these challenges, Gen Z demonstrates remarkable resilience and potential. A 2021 report by McKinsey & Company highlights that this generation is more ethnically diverse, better educated, and more tech-savvy than any before it. They're leading movements for social justice and creating innovative solutions to global problems.


However, as Ms. Jaron reminds us, "Their brains are not fully developed. They're teenagers." This biological fact is often overlooked in our rush to judgment. Dr. Frances Jensen, author of "The Teenage Brain," explains, "The teenage brain is only about 80 percent of the way to maturity. Their frontal lobes are not yet fully connected".


Ms. Jaron's call to action is clear: "I wish everyone would see that someone raised them and it was us. And this is the result and we owe it to them to fix it." This statement underscores our responsibility to provide support and understanding, rather than criticism.


To truly support Gen Z, we need to:

1. Invest in mental health resources in schools and communities.

2. Adapt educational curricula to include digital literacy and emotional intelligence.

3. Create open dialogues to understand and address their unique challenges.

4. Recognize and nurture their potential instead of focusing on perceived shortcomings.


As we move forward, it's crucial to heed the words of both educators like Ms. Jaron and researchers studying this generation. By shifting our perspective and taking concrete action, we can help Gen Z navigate their complex world more effectively. After all, as Ms. Jaron poignantly states, "We're never going to see their full potential because they're not going to believe they have it." It's time we change that narrative..


Transcript:


How We're Failing Gen Z

"We blame the kids. We blame this generation, Gen Z. And it's not their fault. They're intelligent and funny and smart and really cool. But at the same time, we as adults are failing them in a lot of areas and then blaming them for our failures when we see the results. And I wish that there were more adults that can see that because it's just not their fault.


They're kids, their brains are not fully developed. They're teenagers. And I think a lot of us are forgetting what it was like to be a teenager. And I think a lot of us don't realize that if we were given the same scenario when we were kids, we would have probably made very similar choices. But we weren't. We were given a safer country to live in.


We didn't have cell phones the way they have cell phones. I mean, I have a flip phone, but we just lived in a completely different world. And then we're judging them based on the world we lived in and not the world that they're living in. And I don't think that's fair. And I think it's doing a lot of damage to their mental health, which is something we're saying we care a lot about. But if they're being told all the time that they kind of suck as a result of the things that we've done to them or given them, they're never there. We're never going to see their full potential because they're not going to believe they have it. So I just wish adults, parents, teachers, admin, law enforcement, politicians, everyone I wish everyone would see that someone raised them and it was us. And this is the result and we owe it to them to fix it."


- Ashley Jaron


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