Massive, careful study finds that social media use is generally neutral for kids' happiness, and sometimes positive

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/05/21/mostly-a-wash.html

How about “some people who use social media find it makes them unhappy so they stop and don’t become long-term users”.

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I’ve read that ~14 and older the down side of Social Media doesn’t seem to affect most kids that much. But 10-14 there has been an increase in mainly young girls practiciing self harm and even suicide that has been linked to social media. The theory is that kids that young don’t have the congnative defenses to ignore negativity fully developed yet.

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What’s that you say? The latest thing the kids love and has parents worried would rot their kids’ brains and/or damage them beyond all hope, turns out to not?

I would not have guessed. Not after having survived the scourge of rock n’ roll, video-games and skateboards anyway. It’s a wonder anyone makes it to adulthood.

One of these day though, I’m sure something will turn out to make our kids more violent, less smart, unable to socialize. Probably it just won’t be very popular.

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Or how about, kids who are routinely bullied, ostracized and/or antisocial already don’t even bother engaging in the first place creating a skewed sample set.

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Where in this paper does it say “long-term social media use is correlated with a slight improvement in life satisfaction scores”? I don’t see anything of the sort.

This is one of those times where differentiating between antisocial and asocial is useful. Asocial kids aren’t engaging, antisocial kids are engaging in a very negative way.


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You raise a fair point that we should be wary about the latest scare-mongering and keep things in context, but I think we should also be wary about dismissing too readily the possibility that something can be truly be new/different with new/different effects on us.

Who knows what we’ll see in ten years re: phone and tablet use by kids, but it sure bums me the hell out when I see kids in a public place with their family, sitting completely silent and still with their attention buried in a screen. There’s a lot we don’t know about brain development, and it’s probably not so difficult to imagine that devices specifically engineered to capture and keep attention focused on a glowing screen to the exclusion of other stimuli might have an effect.

Right, thanks for the clarification.

This reminds me of the time I met Percival Dunwoody sometime around the time books became fashionable. He said the same thing.

I wonder if the reason that there’s nothing new under the sun and we’ve been down all these roads before to realize it was all a bunch of concern over nothing is the same reason our childhood obesity rates have increased dramatically in the last few decades as processed junk food increased in prevalence and was marketed to kids?

Nothing is new or different, until it is. Context to avoid unnecessary panics is one thing, dismissal out of hand that there can be something substantively different about a new technology or phenomenon is another.

(to be clear, I’m not arguing that phones & tablets are turning kids into zombies or that they will ruin a generation, but I am saying that we really don’t know what the effect of these devices will be on developing brains, and it’s not exactly far-fetched to suspect that there may be some negative consequences)

I agree but am of the opinion that this is inevitable and a moot point. Of course new tech will change brains. However, there is no way to determine if this is a positive or negative thing.

We can’t say that we’d be better off today if mankind had never invented books, or screens or whatever people are worrying about today.

What even is “good” when it comes to a topic so large? We might have less obesity if we used our technology to make healthy food rather than junk food, but we’re currently living through an era of the healthiest, most nutritious food in the history of mankind. And it is available to the largest percentage of the population ever. We’re living longer than we ever have before and we’re staying healthy into our old age.

Things have never been so good for such a large portion of mankind since the beginning of time - while at the same time we’re clearly destroying the world. Mass extinctions. Pollution. War.

So which parts do we blame on technology affecting our brains and to which do we give credit for? We can’t. We just keep keeping on.

Sure there is. Study the people who used phones/tablets during their developmental years and see if & what effects that use may have had. I’m not sure why it’s any different than studying the effects of lead paint or drinking soda or living next to a chemical plant.

It’s different because nearly everyone is affected. It’s like trying to bite your own teeth. How to ascribe the effect books have had on mankind? Or computers? Or now, constantly connected mobile devices.

Anyway, it is what it is. We can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

I’m not sure I agree that we are powerless to address the use of phones and tablets by children, any more than we’re powerless to address young children drinking soda or wearing seat belts.

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