YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok may be detrimental to children's development. So is everything else (unregulated). Welcome to digital capitalism.
So, in the past week, Facebook has come under fire (AGAIN) about the mental health impact of its products on kids. There was a hearing before Congress and Facebook's global head of safety, Antigone Davis, insisted that their products "actually add value and enrich teens' lives" by enabling them to connect with their friends and family. Oh Word?
Today's digital media landscape has an unprecedented amount of digital content coming from the presence of more devices used in our daily lives. The tools that allow users to interact Because we have already heard about the worst of Instagram and other social media...body shaming, racism, trolling, bullying and targeted advertising. The dispersing of misinformation is a whole other topic I discussed in a previous post...
And most recently, Instagram had to halt their effort to roll out an Instagram for Kids app to attract younger kids to their app. They already have a Messenger Kids app derived from Facebook that allows for kids to connect through their parent's FB account. I allowed my kids (against my better judgment) to use it during the extended quarantine of the pandemic last year. But I refused to allow TikTok--which proved to be a good call since there were apparently data security risks associated with its usage.
The Wall Street Journal has already reported on how Instagram could have a negative impact on body image and self-esteem on teenagers, particularly filtered images, posting selfies and hashtagged content.
Let's call a spade a spade. Facebook and social media strategists have used data/analytics to predict human behavior and psychology to their benefit (For a profit). We may see ourselves as smart and savvy, but self-regulation when it comes to intentional manipulation of our innately human tendencies proves to be too much for us as a society. As adults, I have a hard time disconnecting and I'm sure I have lasting effects. But also my executive functioning of my brain has also supposedly developed. Children are a market that has not yet be exploited. So while I'm doing "parent stuff" and my kid is watching YouTube, he doesn't know how to not be programmed. The content is programming him. And if he is watching what they want him to watch, because advertising dollars that keep the product going, then the content is doing its job, as far as YouTube is concerned. The more insights on the consumer, the more data for targeted ads.
The same way tobacco or drug companies want to protect their stakeholders and the bottom line. We have the freedom in this country to make wrong decisions. But at some point, we want to protect the children from predatory behavior. We make labels for dangerous products, we advertise on the dangers of detrimental products. We save children from abusive environments. But this machine just keeps going...and this machine is more POWERFUL as time goes on, than we ever imagined.
SN: Apparently Facebook is down, along with the other Oculus VR. Our overreliance on these apps for our news, connectivity and well-being just got illustrated. Which means they wield a significant amount of power and are more apt to not be controlled. Let's see how this all unfolds.....