Message This: Social Media Is Toxic for Kids

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Message This: Social Media Is Toxic for Kids

According to Common Sense Media research, teens now spend an average of nine hours a day glued to their devices, with tweens not all that far behind at six. And that doesn’t account for tech’s use in our nation’s classrooms, nor all the computer-required assignments that follow our children home after school.

Billed as a learning tool, many teachers now incorporate the likes of Twitter and video games into their lessons, negatively impacting attentions spans and critical thinking, right there along with spelling and writing skills.

As for the teachers who refuse to jump on the ed tech bandwagon? They’re called “resisters” and are often criticized as being old school and way behind the times.

Fortunately, they are not alone.

Among the concerned is Steve Fischer, eBay’s chief technology officer, who sends his children to a Waldorf School instead of his local tech-heavy public one; so, too, do many Silicon Valley employees.

That’s because founder Rudolf Steiner designed the Waldorf curriculum to focus on the academic, artistic, and practical with an eye toward developing students’ imaginations and getting them ready for the real world–no screens required.

The result for everyone else’s kids, though, is a tech-driven world, both in and out of school.

Indeed, Common Sense Media CEO and founder Jim Stryer calls the amount of media tech in children’s lives “mind-boggling.” As he notes, it dominates their world, and they can’t seem to resist its lure.

One result: Multi-tasking. Now, 50% of teens say they “often” or “sometimes” use social media or watch TV while doing homework; 60% say they text and 75%+ listen to music at the same time.

Pushback is growing, though, with outfits like the Truth About Tech: How Tech Has Kids Hooked.” Sponsored by Common Sense Media, the Center for Humane Technology, and others, it held an event in D.C. earlier this year. Its mission is to expose the techniques used by tech companies to hook our kids and find a way to ensure their digital well-being, as well.

As the Center points out, “Technology is hijacking our minds and society.”

And it’s all been done intentionally.

In fact, Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, has admitted that he and other higher-ups came up with “a social validation feedback loop” that makes the social media platform addictive.

At one point, another early FB exec, Chalmath Palihapitiya, accused his company of creating “short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that are destroying how society works.”

And though he tried to walk back that statement, it still has legs, so to speak.

Even Apple CEO Tim Cook gets it. Though childless himself, not only does he set firm limits on his nephew when it comes to social media, he doesn’t consider it a success if we’re all are using tech all the time.

As it is, 50% of teens feel they are addicted to their mobiles, with 60% of their parents agreeing.

Confided one teen, “I would rather not eat for a week than get my phone taken away. It’s really bad.”

Moreover, Jean Twenge, a San Diego State University psych professor and author of iGen, says that heavy–5+ hours a day–device users are:

  • 56% more likely to say they are unhappy;
  • 27% more likely to be depressed; and
  • 35% more likely to have one risk factor for suicide.

These numbers are substantiated by numerous experts and backed by brain-imaging studies, too.

Nevertheless, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids, notes that none of us wants “some buzz-killing truth-sayers telling us that the emperor has no clothes,” and that the devices we’re so attached to pose a problem, especially for kids’ developing brains.

Regardless of the disturbing evidence, though, Facebook is not stopping, not by a long shot.

Not satisfied with its current 2.13 billion users–supposedly all 13 and older–it’s now aiming lower with Messenger Kids, created with children as young as six in mind.

This video, calling, and messaging app lets kids connect with friends and family via tablet or smartphone, and it boasts that countless parents and children’s advocates had a hand in designing it.

However, many of those contributors received funding from Facebook…

Meanwhile, among Messenger Kids’ boasts: Parents must first approve of all contacts, and it gets kids and parents chatting with each other in “a safe, controlled environment.”

Safer than what, face-to-face conversations?

Countless child development experts and others disapprove.

Organized by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, a number of them recently sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to take down Messenger Kids. Citing its potential for harm, they pointed out that young kids aren’t developmentally ready to handle social media, online relationships, or the misunderstandings and conflicts that can arise from them.

Nevertheless, Messenger Kids is still up and running, so…

Bottom line: Keep it personal, not virtual.

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