Everybody has a Tik Tik video out these days. They range from the latest dance moves, to comedy, cooking, and now, even entrepreneurs and entertainers are using them. Truth be told they look so fun that I even asked my son to make one with me. He gave me the side eye and said, “Really mom? No.” Lol, so, you probably won’t see me in a Tik Tok video anytime soon, at least not with my son.
However, its popularity has dramatically soared amid the new norm that we’ve all been impacted by due to Covid-19, quarantining, and virtual learning. It has been used to connect with others, and used as a fun outlet while adjusting. And to be honest, we All need an outlet at one point or another; I know I do. That also includes the kids, because they are afflicted by their own stresses in addition to these challenging times just as adults are. Sometimes we can pick up on the signs that they are struggling and sometimes we can’t. I mean, let’s face it, kids can be pretty good at hiding things that they don’t want their parents or others to know about.
As adults, we take on a lot of responsibility and pressure daily, but we are not exempt from the possibility of cracking under it and falling victim to anxiety or depression. So how much more likely is it that our young ones and teenagers can possibly fall prey to them as well?
How much time does your child(ren) spend in their rooms, on their phones, or on their computers some days? Even if you are actively involved with them, there are occasions that parents still may not know exactly how their kids feel, or what they are doing, watching or saying on social media. The message here, pay close attention to what they are saying, how they are acting, or not acting, ask questions and start up conversations. Share your own feelings to allow them to hopefully feel comfortable enough to share theirs.
Here’s why. At the beginning of this month there were stories in the media and posted in online news articles about Tik Tok messages that kids were posting. According to the New York Post, “The phrase “I had pasta tonight” has become code for experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts on the short-video platform TikTok loved by Gen Z” and “Finishing your shampoo and conditioner at the same time has also become a code for dark feelings on the platform” (Frishberg, “I Had Pasta Tonight”). For those who are unfamiliar with Gen Z, it’s the latest term for those born between 1995 and 2015. And if you have ever suffered from mild to severe depression or know anyone that has, no matter what the age, then you know that for some, it’s like being trapped in the “sunken place” which makes them feel like it is impossible to get out of without help, and even then, it is a challenge and journey.
I erroneously thought that I was caught up on the latest trends, drugs, and other news from talking to students and my teenage son, but I was wrong, and this social media coded language was news to me. To the naked eye, if you walked past your young child or teen’s room and saw them posting about food, you would probably smile and keep moving, mistakenly thinking that they were truly talking about food, and not using cryptic language for suicide or depression. However, a second article from Channel 8 News noted the comments of Dr. Jennifer Katzenstein, who is the director of psychology and neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. She “believes teens are experiencing more stress due to the pandemic and a change to their normal routine. She says now more than ever, parents should be looking for red flags.” Additionally, “According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people aged 10–24” (Brooks, “Tik Tokers using code phrases”). That was only three years ago. How tragic! I can only speculate that the current numbers are likely to be the same, if not higher now. Who would imagine a 10 year old contemplating and then following through with such things? But that is the reality that we are facing and some of the children are facing today, and that is why it is so important to shed light on such issues.
On a positive note, “I Had Pasta Tonight” is a phrase that Gen Z is very familiar with, and when one young user posted it, she “received over 3 million likes and 61,000 responses — many of them heartwarming,” such as, “[There’s] so many dogs you haven’t pet yet,” comments one viewer [made] as a way of illustrating there are good things yet to come” (Frishberg, “I Had Pasta Tonight”). So on the flip side, the youth are also encouraging, supporting, and uplifting one another in efforts to prevent someone from going through with suicide. What a beautiful act of love and kindness that is.
I thought this was an interesting and crucially important topic to cover because as parents there’s no way that we can 100% know everything that is going on with our children or how they feel, but the more that we openly communicate (even about the uncomfortable topics), and are aware of the things that are out there that could potentially be negatively affecting our kids and know how and where they are turning to for help, such as this, the better chance we have to address it before it’s too late. At the very least, we are informed and can look for changes in their normal behavior patterns and act accordingly. So parents, please be mindful of these things.
If you, your children, or anyone else you know is suffering from depression or shows sign of it, there is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number that can be called. It is a 24-hour, toll-free hotline available to anyone that may be suffering with suicidal thoughts or emotional distress.
The number is 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
As always, we as parents do much to ensure the safety, emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of our children, because we Are More Than A Parent. All Things Done in Love, Peace! – Kiyoko