“I’m bracing for a storm.” Some Toronto-area teachers fear another year of tumult and safety concerns
By Ben Mussett Staff Reporter
Sunday, September 3, 2023
6 min to read
Article was updated Sep 3, 2023
While students held up cellphones to capture the fight on video, the teacher managed to pull the two boys apart.
If she hadn’t stopped them, “his skull would have been cracked open,” reasoned the teacher, who works at a secondary school in Etobicoke. The Star has withheld her name to protect her from potential repercussions for speaking out.
Later in the year, another brawl erupted in her classroom. But this time, the teacher couldn’t break it up. Caught in the middle of flying fists, she took a blow to the head. “I was screaming at the top of my lungs,” she said. “Thank goodness the hall monitor was within earshot.”...
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An opinion piece about taking back the positive use of social media.
WalledIN, the Conversation acknowledges how influential the smart phone, and social media has on teenagers today, mostly teenage girls and most of the effect is negative.
"Let’s not pull back from protecting the privacy of ourselves and our families online. But let’s also think twice about passively scrolling through rather than producing public content on our social apps."
Opinion: Those perfectly coiffed kids you’re seeing on social media signal that we have a problem
Opinion by Kara Alaimo
Published 5:09 AM EDT, Tue September 5, 2023
Social media users have been thoughtful about what information they share online, especially about kids, but some have been too quick to give up public posts, Kara Alaimo says.
Editor’s note: Kara Alaimo, an associate professor of communication at Fairleigh Dickinson University, writes about issues affecting women and social media. Her book “Over the Influence: Why Social Media Is Toxic for Women and Girls — And How We Can Take It Back” will be published by Alcove Press in 2024. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook and X. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own. Read more opinion on CNN.
CNN — Kids are back at school, and many of our social media feeds are full of pictures of children with #backtoschooloutfit inspo (inspiration) — but they don’t seem to have insisted on wearing mismatched outfits or run out of time to stand perfectly still and smile for the camera.
That’s at least in part because so much of the content we’re seeing isn’t just of our friends’ kids anymore — it’s coming from influencers and brands. Mainstream users are posting less of their lives publicly these days, so more of the content we’re seeing on platforms such as Instagram is highly curated by people trying to sell us things.
With our feeds increasingly full of content from brands and people peddling products, “platforms as we knew them are over,” University of Illinois-Chicago communications professor Zizi Papacharissi recently told The New York Times. Business Insider’s prognosis was more dire: “Social media is dead” asserted a recent headline.
In part this trend reflects a savvy realization by users that we have to protect our privacy online; more people are using closed groups or direct messages to share information about our everyday lives. But in going publicly passive on our favorite platforms, we’re also ceding the opportunity to use social media to empower ourselves and our families. Being proactive and cautious is a good thing; going silent is an approach we should all rethink.
Opinion: We’re thinking about teens and social media all wrong
It’s smart for users to be concerned about sharing some of their personal information online. For example, Harvard Law School lecturer Leah Plunkett writes in “Sharenthood: Why We Should Think Before We Talk About Our Kids Online” that when new parents post public birth announcements, they give potential criminals valuable information such as their children’s dates and places of birth that can help thieves try to steal their kids’ identities.
Similarly, if we name our kids’ schools online, we give scammers a potential answer to security questions our kids may use on websites in the future. And we all know the content we post online can be used against us — possibly totally out of context — in the future.
But while we should be thoughtful about how we protect truly private information, we’ve been too quick to give up on public posts entirely. After all, the promise of social media was that it would allow us all to participate in public conversations — to raise awareness of issues that are important to us, talk back to politicians and corporations when they violate our trust and help determine what authors, artists and ideas become popular.
For example, as I argue in my forthcoming book, “Over the Influence: Why Social Media is Toxic for Women and Girls — And How We Can Take It Back,” women in the US are experiencing a tidal wave of attacks on our rights and power. Roe v. Wade was overturned last year. Some of the men pushed out of power by the #MeToo movement are back — and so is “bro” culture in Silicon Valley. Between 2011 and 2021, the number of teen girls who say they were forced to have sex increased by 14%, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opinion: Parents, get your kids off social media
But women could use social media more effectively to fight back against these developments — and the prevalence of misogynist content online — if more of us collectively started using our platforms to share information about issues that matter to us. And if social networks saw that more users had an appetite for this kind of content, they’d adjust their algorithms to show us more of it.
By instead passively scrolling through influencer content without making our own contributions to the public conversation unfolding on social media, we cede that power back to those who control the algorithms. What’s more, the kind of aspirational content to which we’re giving our attention — such as those back-to-school posts by influencers with perfectly coiffed kids — can leave us feeling like our lives don’t stack up.
“Marketers and advertising agencies deliberately capitalize on mothers’ (culturally constructed) feelings of inadequacy in order to convince us to buy stuff,” Sara Petersen writes in “Momfluenced: Inside the Maddening, Picture-Perfect World of Mommy Influencer Culture.”
I’m not trying to hate on influencers here, many of whom are predominantly women who rarely make a living wage from their work and are often under intense pressure to project perfect lives to attract brand sponsors. But I’d so much rather see these women make their money from content that organizes women to call on Congress to invest in child care and demand that tech companies take down the violent, hateful posts about girls that are endemic on their platforms.
Let’s not pull back from protecting the privacy of ourselves and our families online. But let’s also think twice about passively scrolling through rather than producing public content on our social apps. If we all started sharing back-to-school content about what being a mom is really like — whether it’s talking about sending our kids to schools with poor air quality that could be bad for their health or how American workers are often expected to be present in the office long after school lets out — we might change some things. Then, instead of influencer images, it could be our actual lives that look a little more rosy.
Social media presents ‘profound risk of harm’ for kids,surgeon general says, calling attention to lack of research
CNN — There’s not enough evidence to determine whether social media is safe enough for children and adolescents when it comes to their mental health, according to a new advisory from the US surgeon general.
Tuesday’s advisory notes that although there are some benefits, social media use presents “a profound risk of harm” for kids. It calls for increased research into social media’s impact on youth mental health, as well as action from policymakers and technology companies.
The 25-page advisory comes as a growing number of states are aiming to tighten regulations on social media platforms, including efforts in Montana to ban TikTok.
Surgeon general advisories are designed to call attention to urgent public health issues and provide recommendations for how they should be addressed, the new report notes. Previous advisories have focused on youth mental health more broadly, health misinformation and use of the opioid overdose antidote naloxone.
“We’re in the middle of a youth mental health crisis, and I’m concerned that social media is contributing to the harm that kids are experiencing,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Parenting in the era of ubiquitous screens and social media
“For too long, we have placed the entire burden of managing social media on the shoulders of parents and kids, despite the fact that these platforms are designed by some of the most talented engineers and designers in the world to maximize the amount of time that our kids spend on them,” he said. “So that is not a fair fight. It’s time for us to have the backs of parents and kids.”
The advisory includes a review of the available evidence on the effects of social media on youth mental health, noting that social media use among kids is “nearly universal”: Up to 95% of kids ages 13 to 17 report using social media, with more than a third saying they use it “almost constantly.” And although 13 is commonly the minimum age to use social media sites in the US (an age Murthy has previously said is too young, the advisory notes that nearly 40% of kids ages 8 to 12 use the platforms, as well.
“We must acknowledge the growing body of research about potential harms, increase our collective understanding of the risks associated with social media use, and urgently take action to create safe and healthy digital environments,” the advisory says.
The report cites several ways in which social media may cause harm to youth mental health, noting that the adolescent years are a particularly vulnerable time for brain development. It details studies that found correlations between social media use and depression and anxiety, as well as poor sleep, online harassment and low self-esteem, particularly for girls.
One study of 6,595 US adolescents between ages 12 and 15 found that those who spent more than three hours a day on social media had twice the risk of symptoms of depression and anxiety as non-users, the report notes. It also cites studies that found reducing social media use led to improvements in mental health.
Social media use presents a risk of exposure to dangerous content, including depictions of self-harm, “which can normalize such behaviors,” the advisory says. It also cites 20 studies that found a significant relationship between social media use and body image concerns and eating disorders.
Teens should be trained before entering the world of social media, APA says
Murthy told CNN that the three most common things he hears from kids about social media are, “number one, it makes them feel worse about themselves; number two, it makes them feel worse about their friendships; but number three, they can’t get off of it.”
Excessive use of social media can disrupt important healthy behaviors, including sleep, the advisory warns, noting that platforms are often designed to keep users engaged with push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll features, and algorithms that use the user’s data to tailor content recommendations. It cites some researchers’ belief that social media exposure, with excessive stimulation to the brain’s reward centers, “can trigger pathways comparable to addiction.”
The advisory’s summary of potential risks of social media use on youth mental health spans five pages; its description of the potential benefits takes just half a page. It notes that social media can provide positive community and connection with others, which can be especially important for kids who are often marginalized. It cites studies showing mental health benefits from social media use for lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, transgender, queer, intersex and other youth through peer connections, and “identity-affirming content” related to race that was positive for adolescent girls of color. Finally, it notes that social media can be helpful by connecting some kids with mental health care.
The advisory includes recommendations for families grappling with social media use, including creating family media plans, encouraging kids to develop in-person friendships and modeling good social media behavior.
Murthy said it’s something he and his wife have discussed for their children, who are now 5 and 6.
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Their plan is to delay social media use until at least after middle school; to try to find other families to partner with who are similarly inclined, “because there is strength in numbers”; and to reassess when the kids are in high school to see if better safety standards have been put in place “and are actually enforced,” he said.
“None of this is easy for parents to do,” he acknowledged. “That’s why we’re pushing so hard through this advisory to make the urgent case for action.”
Adam Kovacevich, founder and CEO of the tech coalition Chamber of Progress, said online platforms have heard the concerns from parents and researchers and implemented features to protect younger users, such as limiting nighttime notifications.
“I’m sure that efforts to protect kids are well intentioned, but we shouldn’t trade away teens’ privacy by requiring them to verify their age, or shut off their access to supportive online communities,” Kovacevich said in a statement.
Murthy says he hopes the report will spur action at multiple levels, such as increased research and funding for it, policy changes and particularly increased transparency and action from technology companies.
“Independent researchers tell us all the time that they have a hard time getting full access to the information that they need from technology companies about the health impacts on kids,” he said.
Murthy said social media companies should be held to similar standards for protecting children as other industries are.
“We take this approach of safety first with other products that kids use, from medications to car seats to toys,” Murthy said. “We need to do it here, too.”
Why create a film or a play about mental health in our youth? When, I myself am a middle aged white man. I say 'good on yah.' Good for you. We all have to be talking about how we can evolve, grow, support change in our systems that are aching to hold onto the old ways. The old ways. History. Lies we all agreed upon to believe.
There are many reasons why kids today are dealing with more stress, anxiety, uncertainty about the world and their place in it. Parents, too. All of us.
It's a really tough time. It has been a really tough couple of decades. There are millions of people who are finally being heard and some of them feel they are being left behind by the speed of progress. They cannot afford to keep up, change and growth are not supporting them and their families.
The Information Age gives everyone a voice. A lot of these voices are crying out for help and it feels like the world is saying if you can't join us, catch up to us, then you'll be left behind. Well no one wants to be left behind and it makes people really angry if they are. January 6, 2021.
If we can look to the person on our left or right. If we can see beyond our desire to want more, excess, more, and some more. There are people out there just like you who could use a little support, help, understanding and a leg up.
What the hell am I writing about here?
Why not me? I am perfectly capable of hearing the aching voice inside my soul align with the aching voices inside the souls of our youth asking for understanding, support, help, to be heard and to enjoy a healthy connection.
When our coping resources no longer make us feel supported, helped and understood then our thoughts can turn to desperation, depression, bad bad thoughts, helplessness and those thoughts are real. We are helpless. We are alone. We are asking for more.
I believe the school systems can evolve to honor the students who are changing and asking for change. The students are asking for more trained staff in trauma sensitivity. The students are asking to leave class and head to a place down the hall where they can decompress, hit the drums, play a video game, draw, paint, write, take time out from the stress of the class they were in and just be. We can have trained therapists, social workers, teachers in those mental health classrooms being real with the students. I imagine a school with less to no suspensions and expulsions (unless seriously necessary), because a lot of mental health issues can be understood and supported.
Listen to what the students are asking for and try to change your systems to support some of their needs.
I'm not saying let the inmates run the joint. I'm saying provide the soft landings of understanding when they are in needed. Anxiety, Depression and mental health issues are here to stay. It seems like a sad result of the Information Age. We may have seen it coming, but it wasn't a priority at the time.
It's a priority now, isn't it.
Al works in film/tv and the theatre in New York, Toronto, and Los Angeles some highlights include: the award-winning short film Walled IN (written & produced by Al), Workin’ Moms, The Umbrella Academy, The Novice, Nikita, How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days, Showtime’s Street Time, Off Broadway: The Interrogation, Will (written by Al), 2013 Winner! LA Drama Critics Awards for Best Production, Director, Adaptation, CYRANO (World Premiere, DeafWest/Fountain Theatre), 2011 Ovation & LA Weekly Award winning Best Musical, Best Musical Director, Best Director, HOBOKEN TO HOLLYWOOD, The Sunshine Boys (with Hal Linden and Allan Miller) plus, many more. Today, Al is a finalist at the Actors Studio and works as an actor, writer, filmmaker and acting professor in Toronto.