Thursday, August 10, 2017

To Control The Social Media Scourge Parents Need To Ration Kids' Smartphone Use

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A youngster is distracted from her regular class work because of text messages from bullying imps.

Let me get it out there that if wifey and I were parents (never had the inclination),  we'd be seriously rationing our offspring's use of social media - whether Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook. We'd also limit access to cell phones: only for emergencies or official business except maybe for a half hour of social contact a day. Indeed, we'd probably be much tougher than even columnist Minda Zetlin allows in her recent piece in the Sunday Denver Post ('Shut It Down!').    The premise being the grown ups have to get control of the kids' social media addictions as opposed to allowing the kids and their addictions to run them. Or in the worse case, lead to a kid's suicide.

Don't laugh or sneer. A McAfee survey report that also appeared in the Post (3 days ago, p. 12A) noted that cyber bullying has now reached epidemic proportions especially in the U S of A.  The platforms most used for bullying in the order of their percentage of young users affected included:

- Facebook  71 %

- Instagram  - 62 %

- Snapchat  49 %

In the survey, which ranged over more than 3,000 kids in multiple countries it was found there was a 22 percent overall reporting of cyber bullying, compared to 30 percent for U.S. students. This is ridiculous and shows: a) too many kids are spending way too much time with these media, and b) the parents have abdicated control to their addicted kids.

Ms. Zetlin for her part, in her article, presented these bullet points:

-  Instagram and Snapchat have the greatest negative effect on young people's emotional health, with Instagram topping the stats.

- Spending more than two hours a day on social media is detrimental to kids' mental health and a "seriously bad idea".

As I told Janice, and she agreed, if we had young teens they'd be allowed no more than one hour per day on such media.  Do what you wish within reason in that hour but once it elapses, that's it. Finito!

- Social media can mean sleep deprivation which exacts a terrible toll on kids' brains

The problem here is that "social media can be deeply addictive, even more than nicotine".

This alone screams out for parental intervention to make sure one's kids don't get hooked. In fact , if one can monitor their messages - to and from  - it's even better, lest they get snared.

The main culprit parents need to control is the pervasive  FOMO syndrome, i.e. "fear of missing out". Kids can get so hooked, even on nasty, negative images, they keep glancing at the stupid cellphones to make sure no new ones have come in.   This has to be nipped in the bud, and kids taught the Buddhist mind mode to not allow the external world or people to manage one's interior world.

Rather than waste hours on Instagram staring at stupid text messages (or photos) from deadbeat peers, far better to use that time in meditation: clearing the mind -brain of all extraneous stimuli, thoughts. They can use a master word as they close their eyes, the best being "A-U-M" (Ah-ooo-mmmm)..  If they need practice or a model - get a hold of Joseph Campbell's DVD series 'The Power Of Myth' - the specific episode on the Buddhist Monks. They will see and hear the "AUM" as never heard before, every chord and note.

- Cyber bullying is a worse problem than many believe

Indeed! Already my psychologist niece Shayl in her research on the deleterious effects of social media has found that cyber bullying imposes the most serious adverse effects, leading many to contemplate suicide.

Zetlin herself cites a recent survey that discloses that 70 percent of young people claiming they experienced cyber bullying, with 37 percent "on a high frequency basis".  Again, they can't experience such levels if they have no access to the devices.

Ration their use and watch the stats drop!   As Zetlin concludes:

"The problem of cyber bullying on social platforms is largely up to parents and teachers to solve and that's one more reason to know how much time their kids are spending on which social network".

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I do admit that I regard Twitter especially as a "cartoon medium" that doesn't permit the full expression of thought. Having to relentlessly truncate communications to 140 characters like Trump does, inevitably breeds immaturity  - and also invites more bullying - since that's about all a truncated message is good for.

The most incredible aspect of the McAfee study that really pissed me off as a former physics lecturer? The stat that "29 percent of students used their devices to cheat."

One kid actually cited the method in "taking a photo of notes then peeking at them during a test".

Say WHAT!??  What the hell is the teacher doing? Did she or he suddenly become a zombie? How about you confiscate ALL cellphones before the kid even enters the room?  That's what I'd do.  AT the end of the test the kid can collect his or device from the security box (similar to those used in TSA lines).

The rate of teen suicides,  owing to cyber bullying,  is increasing at alarming rates and it's time thoughtful,, intelligent parents take control of their kids' devices before it's too late.  As Ms. Zetlin put it: "SHUT It DOWN!"

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