—— By Kenneth Wong

 

Lower Nicola Indian Band School Principal Leroy Slanzi published a book addressing the mental health crisis caused by unregulated tech companies and economic decline.

After more than 25 years of experience within the education system, Slanzi has published his first book: ‘Emotional Schools, The Looming Mental Health Crisis and A Pathway Through It.’

“With the title of my book, schools are becoming a more emotional place because kids don’t have the coping skills and strategies they once had,” said Slanzi.

Outside of the school system, Slanzi also runs an educational consultancy business. He was inspired to write this book after talking with clients all over the world and hearing similar stories of kids struggling with anxiety, depression, ADHD or other ‘behavioural concerns.’

“Teachers are scrambling, they’re burning out because they’re not engaging in teaching (such as) reading, writing and arithmetic, like they should be, and they’re having to engage more in teaching that social emotional piece to kids,” said Slanzi. According to Slanzi, a fifth of kids in Canada and the United States do not have access to a counsellor.

Slanzi believes the mental health epidemic stems from social media companies, internet entertainment, and economic downtown.

He recalls earlier in his educational career, teachers used the term ‘latchkey kid’ to refer to children with keys around their neck as they needed to go home alone due to both parents working. “But nowadays, because of how much everything costs, kids are going home to houses that are empty because both parents have to work and so latchkey kids are more and more prevalent,” said Slanzi.

Slanzi ties this issue with technology companies getting closer into our personal lives. “The bigger social media gets, and the more technology gets, and the more financial stress there is on families, and the more they have to work, you’re gonna have more and more kids depending on social media for for their growth, and that’s not good, when they should be learning from their parents and from little buddies.”

One of the biggest challenges parents and educators face is unrestricted internet access. “Kids nowadays (on their cellphones), even with parental restrictions, can see things at eight to 10 years old that we would never have dreamed of seeing until we were 18-19 years old,” said Slanzi.

He goes on to compare social media companies to nicotine-based companies stating “these companies, they figure out roundabout ways to still get to kids, if you look at big tobacco and vaping, they still figure out ways to get kids to access their material.”

Slanzi references a recent senate hearing in the U.S. in which chief executives of Meta, TikTok and X, and other social media companies had to testify about the effects their companies have on children. In the senate hearing, an internal email from Meta was brought to public attention in which they stated “the lifetime value of a 13 year old teen is roughly $270.”