Why Every Parent Needs to See the Movie Eighth Grade
Jan 29, 2019
When I was in the eighth grade, things were awkward. I have a feeling I’m not alone in saying so. The year before, I had grown seven inches in one school year – from 5’2” to 5’9” – long before most of the boys in my class had started their growth spurts. Dance Club was rough. With my partners barely at chin-height, George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” playing on the speakers was more like a painstaking scream.
The teen-angst movie Eighth Grade recently began streaming on Amazon Prime. Eighth Grade tells the story of Kayla Day, a quiet, nervous, 13-year-old, played beautifully by Elsie Fisher. It turns out, not much has changed since I was an eighth-grader, other than a few decades and an elephant in the room called social media.
Kayla wakes to her phone, watches makeup tutorials while getting ready, puts on a perfect face, then climbs back in bed to Snapchat her followers, claiming she woke up that way. She listens to her headphones at the dinner table and peruses Tumblr, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube while lying in bed each night. Her father finds her cradling her laptop and phone before he retires with a short, “Don’t stay up too late.” She tells him her life is amazing and, though he has worried about her in the past, he doesn’t need to worry about her anymore.
In her father’s defense, Kayla appears to have it all together. She spends time vlogging, doling out advice to fellow teens about how to face their fears and be confident. Her dad even sees her meet a group of high school students who include her in an excursion to the food-court at the local mall.
What Kayla’s dad doesn’t know is that no one at school really sees her. No one watches her vlog. Girls in the hallway ignore her. A “friend” invites Kayla to a party, but only when her mother insists upon it. Boys aren’t any different. One shows Kayla attention when she pretends to be promiscuous, another when she finds herself alone with him in a car – neither boy truly interested in Kayla’s personality, but rather making her the next member of the #MeToo movement.
The truth is, making friends in eighth grade is hard and it may be even harder when there is a smartphone between two people. It could even make your child depressed. I have been working in social media for a long time, but I had the benefit of being an adult when it was introduced.
Of course, that doesn’t mean our teens won’t turn out okay. It just means social media makes things a challenge – or maybe an asset. When boys were staring me straight in the clavicle, I certainly didn’t consider that one day I’d be able to reach tall shelves. The key is to talk to your kids about what might be bothering them. Open, honest conversations help parents understand challenges, whether big or small.
To learn more about how you can help adolescents and teens get through their challenges, join our On Our Sleeves community with resources and tools to help you advocate for the next generation.
Diane Lang is the Senior Manager, Social Media for Nationwide Children's Hospital where she leads social media marketing, manages Nationwide Children's consumer-focused blog and directs a complete workforce social media curriculum for a staff of more than 13,000. She also has personal knowledge of pediatric healthcare as her son is an experienced patient.
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