Internet: This Is A Waste Of Time; Kids Deserve Better

WFY BUREAU USA: There has to be better options for kids’ online experiences now that the internet has turned into a wasteland. Senator Lindsey Graham accused Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook’s parent company Meta, of being a supervillain and held him responsible for the harmful effects their products have on minors. If that wasn’t enough, Graham said, “You have blood on your hands.”

An ally of progressive causes, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, has brought attention to the link between the rise of addictive algorithms on social media and the deterioration of psychological health among youth. She brought attention to the alarmingly high incidence of sadness, thoughts of suicide, and self-harm among young people. James described an incident in which she assisted a family in locating a limited mental room for a daughter through a webinar encounter during the epidemic; thus, she saw firsthand the effects.

“The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness,” a new book by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, is in line with the current mood, which is extensive and supported by both political parties, regarding the impact of social media on children. In her research, Haidt highlights the disastrous effects on children, especially girls, when they divert their attention and energy from the actual world to the online one.

Teenage girls already had it bad before cellphones, but now the pressure to win popularity contests and conform to false beauty standards is even worse on apps like Instagram and TikTok. On the other hand, issues related to pornography and excessive video game use are more common among boys. In his book, Haidt cites research that backs up his findings and debunks the idea that worries over kids’ phone use are just a modern moral panic like those around comic books, television, and radio.

Many readers probably don’t need any more convincing, given the issue’s momentum. The present political dilemma is not whether or not these pervasive modern technologies are seriously damaging people’s mental health, but rather how to remedy this problem.

Regrettably, there has been very little reaction thus far. House consideration of the federal Kids Online Safety Act is still pending, despite the fact that it has received enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate after recent revisions addressed some censorship concerns. When the federal government did nothing, Republican and Democratic states alike tried to pass legislation to protect children when they were online. But the First Amendment has prevented the courts from approving a number of these projects. Legislators in the Empire State are working on a law to protect users from unscrupulous social media apps while not stifling free expression. This law seeks to limit children’s excessive phone use by addressing the algorithms used by social media platforms to expose them to more extreme content. It will probably pass, but how it will fare in court is anybody’s guess.

However, there are a few quick and easy things that local governments can do to limit kids’ internet use. No constitutional problems arise with these steps. An apparent first step would be to make schools phone-free. One strange thing about American culture is that some parents are against school districts that do not allow cell phones because they need a way to contact their children in case of a school massacre. Beyond that, there is an immediate need for additional real-life venues where kids may meet face-to-face, including parks, food courts, theatres, and video arcades.

While children lack enough protection online, Haidt contends in “The Anxious Generation” that this is not the case in the real world. These two fads go hand in hand. Children today lack the freedom and independence enjoyed by their parents in the past due to a combination of issues, such as overprotective child welfare agencies, car-centric city planning, and anxious parents. While staying indoors and glued to screens may protect them from some physical threats, it leaves them open to psychological harm.

In the midst of reading Haidt’s book, a park in the Les Halles neighbourhood of Paris kept popping into my head. I realised how much easier it would be to entice kids away from the internet if we spread parks like this across villages and cities. I would much rather let my 9- and 11-year-old kids explore their neighbourhood on their own than spend hours interacting remotely with peers on applications like Roblox. Still, it’s harder to get the kids to go outside when there aren’t any other kids nearby. The annual block party in our Brooklyn neighbourhood is one of my favourite events of the year. With the street closed off to traffic, kids run amok, and their parents, who are usually a little tipsy, stay out of their way. This incident exemplifies the efficacy of a setting that promotes face-to-face interaction.

While I was reading “The Anxious Generation,” which has some connections to Haidt’s work, I got another book in the mail: “Family Unfriendly: How Our Culture Made Raising Kids Much Harder Than It Needs to Be.” Author Timothy P. Carney is a conservative Catholic with six children and hopes to encourage others to do the same. We may disagree on most things, but Carney and I are in agreement that towns must be built so children can safely walk or ride their bikes. The decrease in possibilities for children and teenagers to engage in independent play, exploration, and activities directly supervised by adults is a major factor contributing to the growth of mental problems within this age group, according to a research paper cited by Carney from 2023 in The Journal of Paediatrics.

We must provide youngsters with better options if we are serious about reducing their internet presence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *