Sunday, January 22, 2023


561. Our culture makes young people mad

My daughter Anouk, a high school teacher , commented on this piece

There are reports that a growing number of people, especially young people, are suffering from psychological problems, with an increasing number of suicides. There are indications that this is associated with the obsessive use of social media, in a form of addiction, where children spend absurd amounts of time, going to great lengths to compete on building profiles that are more glamourous than those of others, to the point of yielding nude photos to lecherous men who then use them to blackmail the children. They let themselves be guided by ‘influencers’, who set examples of how to dress and compete in looks and draw attention Why do young people do that?

My daughter, who is a primary school teacher, gave the answer. First of all, in puberty, children need social interaction to develop their identity, getting away from family strictures, and now they use social media for it, partly enhanced by the closing of schools and lockdowns that closed off those contacts, due to Covid-19. There is also much pressure for performance by parents and at school, which has become a testing factory bent on grades rather than development.

One can ask: Why can’t the youngsters go out to celebrate their interaction in playing soccer on the streets or have rave parties? Many do that, but being tied to a smart phone or laptop for social media is more alluring, and generates a more direct and enticing kick. The behaviour they exhibit is like that of drug addicts, such as isolation, and a decreased ability to make decisions. It produces fear, anxiety, and feelings of uncertainty.

 We are used to see culture as something good, and much of it still is, but now we see part of it destroying our young people. What can be done against this? Keeping young people from access, by confiscating their phone, robs children of the social engagement they need, and only makes them more anxious. Some parents put a ‘track and trace’ on their children’s phones, so they can monitor them continuously, but this increases the children’s feeling of lack of freedom needed to develop themselves. Some parents impose a limited ‘screen time’. That may be a solution, when handled with care and stimulating social activities in between screen times. We would not want to forbid the Internet, and all social media, supposing we could, because they are also used beneficially in fruitful connections across the globe. For suppressed people under censure they are the only means to obtain information. In oppressive societies, suppressing free of speech, social media for some are the only remaining source of truth.

 Schools debate whether they should forbid smart phones in class. The problem with that is that smart phones can be used in teaching, in assignments to kids that use the Internet. But practice shows how difficult it is to allow use and at the same time limit it.

 Children also get addicted to gaming. Here also, forbidding it altogether is not the solution. In games, the children are active, and interaction, even if it is not the kind of interaction their parents would want. Here again limiting rather forbidding it seems the solution.


I can only hope for the resilience of young people to change the culture, in varieties of contact and sociality that curtail the obsession surrender and bondage to social media and phones, in real, physical interaction in joint projects, of sports, parties, cohabitation, maintaining gardens, growing foods together, engaging in adventures, other types of development and education than the traditional constriction to a class and fixed protocols of learning that may be best developed by themselves, guided by teachers who have got it. We see some of this happening.


No comments:

Post a Comment