'Your kids are living in a world that you are not invited to be part of': teacher's warning to parents

Teacher urges parents to "wake up" about kids' social media use.
Teacher urges parents to "wake up" about kids' social media use. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

"Your kids are living in a world that you are not invited to be part of. And they know how to keep you out."

That's the stark warning one teacher has issued to parents about their teens' use of social media, urging them to "wake up".

Skipper Coates, from Pleasant Grove, Utah, asked her 14 and 15-year-old ninth graders to finish the sentence: "What my parents don't know about social media is..."

And their candid responses broke her heart.

"You guys," she wrote in a post to Facebook. "The answers were SICKENING. Heartbreaking. Depressing."

Among the confessions shared by Ms Coates' three classes were revelations that social media is keeping students awake, that they have multiple, secret accounts, that they are sending and receiving nude photos, are subjected to bullying - and often adopt a different online persona.

Only five of the children didn't have social media accounts. 

"I swear so much and talk sh*t on everyone," one student wrote. " I get nudes from boys I don't even know."

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"People don't care about you and try to make you feel like crap," shared another. 

Other students admitted that their parents don't know they're using social media at all.

And many parents don't understand simple functions of social media.

Urging "parents of the world" to "wake up," Ms Coates added: "Your teenager DOES NOT NEED a smart phone."

The post has since been shared over 30,000 times, garnering thousands of grateful comments -  and a lot of criticism. Adding that it's easy to be critical of her, her students and their parents, Ms Coates asked for compassion.

"It is important to me that readers know how much I LOVE these teenage people," Ms Coates wrote in an update. "If you must comment, use this as an opportunity to show my students good digital citizenship," she wrote. "Be kind". The teacher added that she would also be working closely with her school, community and local therapists to learn more about how to help her students.

Speaking to Good Morning America, Ms Coates explained that while nothing shocked her about the students' answers, seeing the responses "on mass"  and how many kids were affected left her "troubled".

"I couldn't stay quiet" she said. "With the recent school violence, the high Utah suicide rate, and the prevalence of school bullying I wanted to know more about what is happening behind the scenes."
And, as a mother-of-three, including a pre-teen, it's an issue Ms Coates is keenly aware of. "[My son] has been talking about how he needs a smartphone, but I see the damage they are doing", she said.
Ms Coates says she's also concerned about the pace of social media and how quickly it changes - something parents can struggle to keep up with.
"As adults who did not grow up with social media, we can't keep up with all the new apps, the new codes the kids use, and the speed of communication," she said. "My mission in sharing all of this is to get all adults to work together to help save our kids from life-changing habits that are forming at younger and younger ages."
Last year, research from finder.com.au revealed that Australians believe age 13-15 is the right time to give a child their first phone. Almost a quarter of Aussies think it's appropriate for kids to get their first smartphone when aged 10 to 12 while a third think kids should wait till they're 16 to 18. 
One in five children aged 12 and under already have their own smartphone, with parents citing the need to stay in touch, starting high school, and getting to and from school alone as the top reasons for allowing their kids to have their own device.