Rikki Schlott: Parents have had a wake-up call about kids and tech. Here's advice from a Gen Z-er

Outrage has erupted over revelations that the company possessed research confirming links between social media and a crisis of youth mental health. Nonetheless, Facebook leadership prioritized profit over people, even going as far as to release plans for an Instagram for kids despite the concerning data. 

With unprecedented technologies come unprecedented consequences. Numerous studies and metaanalyses have uncovered associations between social media use and spikes in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide among adolescents. 

It’s obvious that we have a societal obligation to protect our children but many parents feel helpless in doing so. “Very rarely do we have one of these generational shifts where the generation that leads… has such a different set of experiences that they don’t have the context to support their children,” Haugen testified. 

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Generation Z’s digital fluency can seem quite opaque from the outside, but as a 21-year-old, I know the experience firsthand. I’ve spent ten of my twenty-one years of life on Instagram and struggled with tech addiction myself. I’ve also seen the ugly underbelly of social media’s impact on developing and delicate minds.  

As I come of age, I feel a moral imperative to speak up before more children get sucked into that same virtual vortex. My lived experience may help shed light on what it’s like growing up under the pressures of the digital age.  

FILE – Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing entitled 'Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower' on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. 

FILE – Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing entitled ‘Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower’ on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 05, 2021 in Washington, DC.  (POOL via CNP/INSTARimages/Cover Images)

Parents are facing an unprecedented and multifaceted problem without any quick fixes. Haugen spoke to that complexity last week, “They say just take your kid’s phone away, but the reality is that these issues are a lot more complicated than that.” 

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Indeed, being a tyrannical luddite and banning devices altogether is more likely to breed resentment than anything else. Technology isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As we increasingly connect in the virtual realm, digital literacy will be critical to both personal and professional success. 

As I come of age, I feel a moral imperative to speak up before more children get sucked into the virtual vortex. My lived experience may help shed light on what it’s like growing up under the pressures of the digital age.  

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