Surgeon General Issues Warning on Social Media Use for Young People

The report says “a highly sensitive period of brain development” happens between the ages of 10 and 19, coinciding with a period when up to 95 percent of 13 to 17 year olds and nearly 40 percent of 8 to 12 year olds are using social media. But the Advisory notes that frequent use of such platforms can impact the brain development, affecting areas associated with emotional learning, impulse control, and social behavior. Murthy has previously said he believes even 13 years old is “too early” for children to be using social media.

Murthy also says more research is needed and while there are good effects from social media use, the risks may outweigh the rewards.

Here is the link to the full article:

From Generation Gap to Generation Chasm

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this past December 30 that Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, is in big trouble. Per the Journal article, “When you look at Americans born after 1995,” Mr. Haidt says, “what you find is that they have extraordinarily high rates of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide and fragility.” There has “never been a generation this depressed, anxious and fragile.”

Research by Haidt and others, shows that depression rates started to rise “all of a sudden” around 2013, “especially for teen girls,” and “By 2015 it’s an epidemic.” (WSJ notes that his data are available in an open-source document.)

Research by Haidt and others shows that the rate of clinical depression began rising around 2013, “especially for teen girls,” and by 2015 had become an epidemic. Per the Journal quoting Haidt, this is due to a “combination of social media and a culture that emphasizes victimhood.” 

This excerpt from the article summarizes Haidt’s explanation for why this has happened:


What happened in 2012, when the oldest Gen-Z babies were in their middle teens? That was the year Facebook acquired Instagram and young people flocked to the latter site. It was also “the beginning of the selfie era.” Apple’s iPhone 4, released in 2010, had the first front-facing camera, which was much improved in the iPhone 5, introduced two years later. Social media and selfies hit a generation that had led an overprotected childhood, in which the age at which children were allowed outside on their own by parents had risen from the norm of previous generations, 7 or 8, to between 10 and 12.


The article is well worth reading in its entirety. Here is the link:

Seattle Public Schools Sue Social-Media Platforms for Intentionally Harming Children

According to an article in the Seattle Times cited by the National Review’s Ryan Mills…

“Facebook, YouTube, and other social-media giants are intentionally hooking vulnerable children on their platforms and flooding them with harmful and exploitive content, according to a new lawsuit by Seattle public-school leaders that accuses the tech companies of creating a youth mental-health crisis in the state of Washington and elsewhere.”

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat have all been named in the suit.

Here is the link for the full story:

Bob Dylan on the Medium of Music

Today’s online Wall Street Journal has a wonderful article that has revelatory insights into Bob Dylan and his thoughts about music, the lockdown…even social media.

Here’s an excerpt:

I think social media sites: bring happiness to a lot of people. Some people even discover love there. It’s fantastic if you’re a sociable person; the communication lines are wide open. You can refashion anything, blot out memories and change history. But they can divide and separate us, as well.

I’m with Bob on that!

He has a new book out, The Philosophy of Modern Song, and it sounds like something I need to buy and read.

Here’s the link to the article.

I hope you enjoy it as much or even more than I did!

Is Social Media Anti-Social?

That’s what Ian Bogost writes about in the current issue of The Atlantic. He notes that “social networking” morphed into “social media” sometime around 2009, thanks to the debut of smartphones and Instagram. The difference is simple but profound.

Social networking promotes ties between people who actually know each other and communicate intentionally. Social media, on the other hand, radically expand an author’s audience to hordes of people that are unknown and anonymous.

While this transition has proved quite popular, it has also proved to be highly anti-social, per Bogost. That’s because the social media platform owners quickly discovered that emotionally charged content (and all its ill effects) drew the most eyeballs and this created enormous profit-making potential, thanks to marketers who wished to disseminate commercial messages to as many people as possible. Platform algorithms are designed to broadcast the most emotionally charged posts. Social media posters, meanwhile, revel in their seeming popularity, thriving on likes, shares, retweets, and the like.

Bogost says, “…social media produced a positively unhinged, sociopathic rendition of human sociality…” that has been actively fostered by Big Tech firms “…where sociopathy is a design philosophy.”

Bogost’s condemnation is unrelenting and unforgiving. His conclusion is: “We cannot make social media good, because it is fundamentally bad, deep in its very structure. All we can do is hope that it withers away, and play our small part in helping abandon it.”

Nonetheless, I for one think that Bogost wants to throw out the baby with the bathwater. This very post by me on this blog is itself a social media transmission. I use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to make as many people as possible aware of my blog posts. Ironically, this post serves to make Bogost more widely read to an audience that doesn’t read The Atlantic.

I don’t dispute what Bogost says about the various platforms’ business models and their toxic effects. But I hold the view that tools are tools, and they can be used for good or ill.

It seems to me that the likelihood of social media’s demise is nil. People are people, human nature is human nature. It may well be that growth is slowing and perhaps may stagnate. Will it actually start to shrink? Only when the world’s population starts to decline. There may be consolidations and mergers as the various platforms lose their distinctive attributes as they all copy each other voraciously. They all seem to want to be all things to all users. But social media are like hammers. And they will be around for millennia to come.

Here’s the link to Bogost’s article:

One School’s Cell Phone Ban Experiment

Most of what I have read about schools trying to regulate or even ban cell phones during class says it’s pretty much a hopeless task. Students are going to check their phones on the sly and the dominant suggestion has been that, instead of banning or regulating them, one should instead modify one’s pedagogy to include them in the classroom routine.

Much of this discussion has included the trend to move away from the “sage on the stage” model of teaching, which relies on professorial lectures, and turn to the “guide on the side” model, which emphasizes in-class small group discussions on topics that students are presumed to have studied prior to showing up in class, with the professor making occasional short commentaries and circulating among the groups to elicit their discussion points. Cell phones in the latter context are used as research tools by the students, a laudatory practice, although the students are no doubt checking emails and social media sites at the same time.

One small, private boarding school in Massachusetts has taken the road less traveled by instituting a total ban on phones in class for both students and professors. The school felt that cell phone use in class was “splintering” the school’s otherwise close-knit sense of community. Despite some initial negative reactions, the school stuck to its guns and at the end of the term, it seems that the students had come around to accepting the policy and even finding positive things to say about it.

During the Covid pandemic, electronic media replaced person-to-person contact and so using smartphones became widespread. Once in-person classes resumed, however, it seemed that cell phone usage had become entrenched.

The article relates how a top school administrator reacted: “Mr. Kalapos realized something needed to be done late last year after a student live-streamed a physical altercation. Watched on social media by many students, the fight became the talk of the school. He and other administrators began discussing a ban. Many students thought that the school wouldn’t actually do it—and that stripping phones from teens was unrealistic.”

I think this article has much to say about this alternative approach. See what you think.

Here’s the link to the story from the Wall Street Journal.

Media that Stir One’s Emotions has just released the winning and honorable mentions for its photography competition and the images are truly images that need to be seen. The photographers have all demonstrated both superb technical skills as well as the ability to exercise levels of creativity that must truly be seen to be properly appreciated. Here is the link to the site. I suggest that you go “full screen” when you view these remarkable images.

Gaming and Gen Z Teens

A recent report from Deloitte as reported on in the Wall Street Journal reports how Gen Z teens differ from other generations in their attitudes toward and uses of online games. The graph below sums it all up nicely.

To view the entire WSJ article, click on the free link below, which will allow you to read the article without needing to have a subscription. It’s interesting reading and something to keep in mind, no matter if you’re in marketing or parenting, education or entertainment. There are significant differences between male and female teens.


Media Confidence at an All-time Low

The Gallup organization has just published its latest findings on Americans’ confidence in newspapers and TV news. As Gallup author Megan Brenan notes, “Just 16% of U.S. adults now say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers and 11% in television news. Both readings are down five percentage points since last year.”

The article goes on to break down confidence ratings for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Brenan goes on to say that the only institution ranked lower than TV and newspapers is the U.S. Congress.

Taking a look at the breakout by political identification, “Republicans’ (5%) and independents’ (12%) confidence in newspapers is the lowest on record for these party groups, while Democrats’ (35%) has been lower in the past. Democrats’ confidence in newspapers rose to the 42% to 46% range during the Donald Trump administration but fell when President Joe Biden took office.”

When one stops to consider that the owners and staff of “mainstream” media are clearly left of center, the ratings’ differences make sense.

The article is well worth reading. Access it here:

My Latest Movie Review

A while back, I wrote a review of Peter Jackson’s “Get Back,” his almost eight-hour-long paean to the Fab Four. Unlike almost every other reviewer, I took exception to the work.

My review has now been published in The Amplifier, the official publication of the Society of Media Psychology and Technology, to which I belong. Here is the link:

I would be interested in your feedback.

%d bloggers like this: