In recent weeks, many have debated the relationship between social media and the mental illness epidemic in teenage girls. New data show that 57% of American teenage girls report persistent sadness or hopelessness (up from 36% in 2011), and 30% report having seriously considered suicide (up from 19% in 2011). Jonathan Haidt
I have a 17 year old daughter - the main social media she uses is Discord. Other than that - I have banned her from Tik Tok. She has an Insta account but like me she doesn’t like taking selfies or that kind of culture - so she doesn’t use it. The problem is not so much her, but - one of her friends totally changed after getting into that culture and she’s still sad about it (friend puts on pouty pictures of herself in skimpy clothes on Insta). I said to her - hopefully the friend will come out of it in her late teens. One reason we just got a dog is so that the kids are on screens less. But it got REALLY hard in lockdown - all our good intentions screwed up because it was screens, screens, screens, 12 hours a day for school etc. Had to be quite draconian to restore something approaching status quo ante.
Nice finale. Policy and regulations are poor substitutes for parental authority anyway. The people that pay the bills are in control and acting that way solves the problem; hand it over, kid, if you want any access at all. And, yes, nature. Books too. One of the basic issues of online addiction is the fracturing of attention spans, something that undermines sustained reading and therefore entails other toxic downstream effects.
All I can add is what we as a family have tried to do. Our kids are grown but we have grandchildren who are screen addicted. We work to listen to a great deal of music, spend time outdoors and spend time doing things together. Kids respond so quickly to activities they are interested in other than screens.
Personally, I think the best answer will prove to be grassroots and cultural. Spending inordinate amounts of time on social media must come to be seen as unhealthy and low status, with healthy and high status behavior involving in-person socializing. Regulation and age requirements have a poor track record, and can often make the problem worse, eg American binge drinking culture is to a degree a pathology created by the insane 21 drinking age.
Weighing in with an intuition that the relationship between screen time & self-reported well-being is only going to be part of the story here. I have a pet theory that endless cascades of information & opinions (moralising, especially) make it harder to individuate and know who you are.
Gender 'fluidity' is an example of how this might manifest for some.
It used to be a lot easier to figure out where you stood and you you felt yourself to be.
The social problem can only be tackled by governments because it is about group behaviour: if you save your child from social media they will be out-grouped. It is probably the group pressure embedded in the idea of social media that is causing the stress in its users.
However, if we look at the CDC figures dispassionately it is obvious that the rise in LGBT+ numbers is a major component of childhood unhappiness - larger than social media.
We can only be amazed at how even commentators on Substack steer clear of this problem.