GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — With the end of the school year approaching, school leaders in Western New York are urging parents to make sure their kids are involved in a number of healthy ways to occupy their time. That's based on concerning mental health trends they're seeing when it comes to students.
While demonstrating new school security Thursday at Niagara Falls High School - Superintendent Mark Laurrie raised a COVID consequence point with remote learning and isolation "It is a fact that when we didn't have that human interaction with kids we lost that information stream. So we could have all the hardening, cameras, beepers, buzzers etc. - but really what makes the difference is word of mouth and kids talking to other people about this."
That idea of crucial human contact and interaction for the well - being of children is perhaps reflected in a disturbing trend in the Grand Island School District.
"I would say that socialization is the number one concern, increased mental health issues, and also an increase in our - suicide ideations have also increased this year and again K to 12," Cheryl Cardone the Assistant Superintendent for Pupil and Personnel Services said.
It also means more superintendent discipline hearings along with counseling requests for students. In part it was the lost normal socialization due to the remote school day.
Published accounts indicate the 18 year old Buffalo shooting suspect said he turned to dark internet elements when bored during the pandemic.
As for other children, Cardone points out, " As the students rely more on social media and they are more isolated - then yes that is all our concerns that we can see an increase in this acting out behavior."
So for parents and their kids approaching the summer break out of school - get them outside and get them involved.
"Clubs, activities, any type of team sports. You know any type of activity that's going to focus on communication, eye contact which is what we're seeing isn't happening anymore too because the kids are communicating through social media - just playing together, getting along. Being inclusive instead of exclusive," Cardone said.
Cardone also says keep kids in counseling programs during the summer if they're already enrolled. The Grand Island District is maintaining such services in the summer months.
She also says look to extended family members for help as they can help lend a trusted ear to a child seeking help and someone to listen.
And finally make sure you are giving your children the time they need despite your other commitments with work and activities. She suggest really listening to a child while driving them somewhere for an activity. Cradone says she has found as a mother that kids tend to really open up for some reason while sitting in that back seat during a car trip.