It’s an often used cliché, the punch line of sitcoms and comic strips, the criticism of parents and grandparents, the love story of a generation: teenagers and their cell phones.
We’re a decade into the smart phone era now and almost everyone knows, at some level, that the time spent by teens on their mobile devices has gotten more than a little out of hand.
In a recent episode of “The Briefing” podcast, Albert Mohler stated the issue more eloquently, “there is now verifiable data that teenagers and children are becoming addicted, speaking of the kinds of behaviors that come with addiction, in ways that affect their intelligence and their psychological well-being and their moral judgment. “
Mohler is here referencing a USA Today article which reports that a large Apple shareholder is encouraging the company to research the effects of digital technology on children.
That article in turn refers to three studies, which Mohler sums up in his podcast : “the USA Today piece cited some of the research these shareholders are sending on to Apple with their call for action. It refers to the fact that one, ‘A study by the Center on Media and Child Health and the University of Alberta that found that 67% of the over 2,300 teachers surveyed observed that the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies in the classroom is growing and 75% say students’ ability to focus on educational tasks has decreased.’
“Two, ‘Research showing 8th graders who are heavy users of social media have a 27% higher risk of depression,’ meanwhile the depression exceeds those who spend time playing sports, hanging out with friends, or doing homework.
“Three, ‘A study by UCLA researchers that showed that after five days at a device-free outdoor camp, children performed far better on tests for empathy than a control group.’”
So all of the time that children and teenagers spend on these devices is changing the way they think, feel, and act, and even influential figures within the digital technology industry are admitting it.
Mohler pulls from two articles in his podcast, the USA Today article quoted above, and a New York Times article, which references several from within the tech development sphere who are uncomfortable with the consequences of technology as it’s unfolded.
“These things can be incredibly addictive,’’ said former Apple executive Tony Fadell.“It’s amazing, but there are a lot of unintended consequences.”
Sean Parker, an early investor, reflected on Facebook,“It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. “It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.”
And Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive, said,“The short term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
As the words of these industry insiders indicate, it’s not only problematic for kids and teens. The constant connection to social sites via digital device has changed, and continues to change, society.
I want to particularly draw attention to Palihapitiya’s comment: “No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
That characterization becomes more poignant in the light of a recent video released by notorious, independent undercover journalist, James O’Keefe.
O’Keefe and his team at Project Veritas are in the midst of a campaign exposing the bias and censorship of opposing ideas at Twitter. From Project Veritas’ website, “In a conversation with former Twitter Content Review Agent Mo Norai on May 16th, 2017, we learned that in the past Twitter would manually ban or censor Pro-Trump or conservative content. When asked about the process of banning accounts, Norai said, ‘On stuff like that it was more discretion on your view point, I guess how you felt about a particular matter…’
“When asked to clarify if that process was automated Norai confirmed that it was not: ‘Yeah, if they said this is: “Pro-Trump” I don’t want it because it offends me, this, that. And I say I banned this whole thing, and it goes over here and they are like, “Oh you know what? I don’t like it too. You know what? Mo’s right, let’s go, let’s carry on, what’s next?”
“Norai also revealed that more left-leaning content would go through their selection process with less political scrutiny, ‘It would come through checked and then I would be like ‘Oh you know what? This is okay. Let it go.’”
So, to the former Facebook executive’s point, how can there be civil discourse when opposing ideas are not allowed?
The Project Veritas videos have several more troubling interviews on social media censorship as well.
And Twitter’s leftward lean is hardly unique in Silicone Valley. Consider former Google employee, James Damore’s current lawsuit against the digital giant.
Google fired Damore when he expressed dissent from the Social Justice Warrior culture within the company.
We often think of these services as being impartial in philosophical, legal, and cultural questions. They are not.
Yet, they are changing, and often defining the way our kids think. The average ten to 18 year-old spends upwards of eight hours a day consuming digital media, and the media that they are consuming is often being filtered through liberal social activists.
And, as the former executives and investor in the Times article reveal, they’re changing the way that society works: certain ways of thinking are just not acceptable. Failure to affirm is intolerance; disapproval is hate. Insofar as Social Media sites are directing our future: this is our future.
How much control we give them over our and our children’s worldview is completely up to us. Can we use these corrupt tools responsibly?
If not, is it worth using them at all?
To support our efforts please click here or mail your gift to American Decency Association (ADA), PO Box 202, Fremont, MI 49412.
American Decency Association is a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.