Tom Meyer

TOM MEYER

Superintendent-Bellevue School District

Another graduating class exited the Bellevue Community School District in May and are out in the “real world” setting out to develop and determine their own futures. Now, other groups are preparing for their graduation and moving on to new learning and following their passions within the curriculum in each grade level.

Whether it is graduation or a new school year, it is always an exciting time to see students set out and work to accomplish individual dreams and aspirations, with the pursuit of success and excellence while following passions, interests, and desires. Yet, the world is changing for all of us, including our recent graduates, current students, and ultimately everyone in our society.

What will the next 5, 10, or 20 years hold for our students in society? What opportunities will be there that are not even known of at this time? It is exciting to think about this and how things will change. While progress happens, not everything moves at the same pace.

Our staff is reading a book called “iGen” by Jean M. Twenge this summer and some changes happening in our society with our youth development is surprising in many ways…

First, and not surprisingly, youth (and adults) are spending a lot more time in front of screens. Whether it is a screen from a phone, computer, iPad, or some other device people are spending more and more time on them. Teens spend (in a conservative estimate) 2 hours a day texting, 2 hours a day on the internet, 1.5 hours on video gaming, and another on other social media formats. This is 25 percent of their day! It is not unusual for teens to sleep with their phones (as do some adults) to stay connected with what is going on in the social groups and beyond. While I am not saying this is right, it is a reality for many people.    

Some would say this harms student’s mental health and leads to a lack of ability in communicating face-to-face with people and leads to a feeling of being lonely. Twenge stated that depression in teens increased by 25 percent between 2010 and 2015 when smartphones became more prevalent and that the screen time is related to less exercise and less sleep by people.

Finally, teens in the current generation are waiting longer to leave home, get married, have sex, and get pregnant. This connects with the “slowing of the pace” of the development of students. While we often think they are becoming more and more mature wanting more independence, it can also be said they are not looking to move on with their lives as fast as the older generations.

It is essential to recognize the development of our teens and how we can support them to develop the skill sets we often talk about as vital for their growth and future independence after graduation: Communication skills, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, ability to work with others, challenging themselves, and living productive lives. Whether we are a parent, friend, community member, or others, we can all assist our youth, and we need to recognize what they are thinking as well through in-depth conversations with them about their lives, interests, and beyond. They have the potential to accomplish more than any of us have in our lives, and we need to support them in their growth.