By Aaron Petrus
Mentoring students is a very rewarding experience.
I’ve been mentoring for the past year with the Be Awesome Youth Coalition. I’ve learned a lot, including the realization that youth struggles are unique in today’s culture. Factors include social media, a shift in standards, and even family values.
I try to compare my childhood to the kids I work with today, and it’s difficult because our experiences are very different. Like many of the kids I mentor, I too grew up in a single-parent home. But as a kid I never dealt with suicide, depression or child abuse. It existed, but not at the rate these kids are experiencing it.
Issues like peer pressure, drugs and violence existed, but so did positive, meaningful adults in my life alongside my single mother like family, coaches and teachers; and they all guided me on the right path.
Today, social media, violent video games and access to YouTube have all impacted our youth in a negative way – especially in the homes or areas where parenting is not present. As adults, we believe if a child is at home playing video games or on their electronic device it means that they are out of harm’s way. This is not true.
Speaking with kids, many of them have learned a lot of their negative behavior from social media. Most parents are not even aware of what their children are exposed to. The Internet is loaded with teenagers acting in a manner that is totally inappropriate. Somehow, this has become a normal behavior and is accepted today or ignored.
Parents need to be aware of child predators, teen trafficking and cyberbullying. Victims of these tragedies can often become depressed and or suicidal. Statistics show suicide is on the rise among teens, especially teen girls ages 13-17.
Even though it’s different, some things remain the same, such as the human desire for connection, and the adolescent’s need for direction. Today, we have to look outside ourselves and think outside the box because the issues of the past are becoming more intense. But a competent and engaged individual can make a difference.
I’m proud to be a part of Be Awesome Youth Coalition. The Coalition has helped encourage and guide many teenagers and saved the lives of others. Please support Be Awesome Youth Coalition by volunteering, donating or connecting online. Let’s stop talking about the problem and become the solution.
Aaron Petrus is a mentor for the Be Awesome Youth Coalition and can help connect you with opportunities to make a difference. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.