Did you know there are Big Tech employees (or former employees) that won’t let their kids use social media?

As technological insiders to how these platforms operate, some have gone as far as to say, “The foundation of what drives this industry is fundamentally against the safety of our children.” It’s not hard to see how social media may not be the best for the developing minds of children. Do we really think deeply about just how dangerous it actually is?

The concern on U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s mind is that we don’t give the harms of social media the attention it deserves. This led to his plea for Congress to approve a warning label for social media sites that gives users — parents and children alike — the chance to think twice before flippantly walking out into the electronic universe oblivious and unguarded.

But even with some compelling arguments Murthy laid out in an essay he published this week, many continue to scratch their heads wondering if such an action is worth it or will have any effect.

More pointedly, given that the surgeon general’s request requires congressional action, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins asked on Tuesday’s episode of “Washington Watch”: Is this a move Congress should even consider in the first place?

“Given the growing body of research that has uncovered the intentionally addictive nature of social media platforms,” Perkins said, there’s much to consider. “Obviously, parents should monitor what their children consume online and whether or not they should be online, but could some extra help in the form of a warning be warranted?”

Tim Clinton, president of the American Association of Christian Counselors, joined the discussion, urging first and foremost, “[W]e better do something, because at the end of the day, we’re losing our kids.”

Clinton acknowledged “there are a lot of factors related to” why social media is harmful. But ultimately, “we all know that those phones, those devices that we have in our hands,” are being manipulated through algorithms to target children.

Take a kid who’s already “discouraged, depressed, or getting bullied,” for instance. What happens to them when they turn to social media to numb their pain or distract them from worry? According to Clinton, they just “wind up getting targeted with messages and images and more that only drive them further and further in those kinds of directions.”

Not only do kids get sucked into a wormhole of cheap entertainment that makes existing symptoms worse, but Perkins said “there’s such a thing as instant gratification by the likes that someone gets … [and] the immediate response which actually releases dopamine … a feel-good neurotransmitter.”

As such, the final analysis reveals that a child who needs real interaction, real processing, and real life is simply putting a technological band aid over an emotional wound. There’s a real and oftentimes damaging “physiological effect on the users.”

Clinton took a step back to talk through “two types of real patterns that stand out” in the realm of mental health and addiction research. First, he said, “is substance abuse addiction,” which injects chemicals that “hijack the brain.” Not only is this “highly addictive,” but it’s also often not immediately recognizable.

Second, Clinton explained the concept of behavioral addictions, which include examples of gambling or viewing pornography. Similar to substance abuse, engagement in behavioral addictions also “hijacks the brain.” And Clinton underscored that, regardless of which route a person finds themselves on, “it’s intoxicating.”

He continued, “We’re finding that is happening with this whole online world,” and it doesn’t take much to see how “everybody, everywhere you go … [is] on their phone from church to restaurants … to school.” It’s almost hard to believe how dominant the use of technology has become, Clinton sighed. But “when you’re targeted, it’s consuming.” Perkins agreed, concluding it’s akin to a “vortex” that “just sucks you in.”

And what are children getting sucked into? Clinton described the three P’s of what kids are exposed to online: pressure, pornography, and predators. For a developing mind, the pressures that come from the comparison and hate that occurs on social media platforms are detrimental.

Additionally, Clinton emphasized that roughly 50 percent “of online sites are porn in nature,” which then reaches young children. Finally, there’s plenty of research and evidence of the countless number of predators that strategically use social media platforms to victimize unsuspecting kids. “We’ve got to do something,” Clinton said, “and we’ve got to help parents get control here.”

On that note, Perkins asked why so many parents are hesitant to engage. Furthermore, for those who choose to engage, what can they do?

Clinton first explained that a lot of parents’ choice to stay distant boils down to them doing what seems simplest. They say ignorance is bliss, and “it’s pretty easy just to let the kids have the phone or to let the kids go do their own thing,” he said plainly. “You’re tired. You’re exhausted. The pace, the pressure, the pain of modern-day life is chewing everybody up.” As such, it’s easy to just “let people drift away” online.

And it’s even easier, Clinton added, to keep it that way. “When people get consumed in it, they get defensive, they get grouchy. You try to get them off the phone … and the next thing you know, you’re in a fight.” Many “just don’t want to go there,” he noted. But then we have to remember “the tragedy” that “our kids are getting lost in this cyber world.”

So, what can be done? As for Murthy’s idea, Clinton said that a warning label may help, but “we’d better do more than that. We better figure out how to tell parents how to manage this well, so that we can see the benefit side and make sure we protect ourselves on the downside.”

When you see your child chronically online, and especially if you notice the birth pangs of depression such as defensiveness, grouchiness, and an overall disinterest in real life matters, that’s when parents can step in and get connected with their children.

“I’m big on relationship connection,” Clinton said. “There’s a beautiful word out there called ‘attunement.’ Can you see your kids where they’re at, what they’re going through? The busy, preoccupied parent misses all those cues or those opportunities to be in those special moments.” But “kids want a relationship with mom and dad, so we start there.”

Clinton concluded, “Let’s build that bridge back, and … make sure that they’re seen, that [they] know what you love about them. Make sure your kids know that. And figure out how to help them soothe that emotion regulation stuff, that chaos that’s going on in their life.” If parents “would just step in, the number one thing that still makes kids happy is a good relationship with mom and dad.”

This article appeared originally on The Washington Stand.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.



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