WSJ says Instagram is harmful for teens

I read an interesting article today about Instagram and teen girls called “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Internal Documents Show.” Written by Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharama for the Wall Street Journal, the article says that social media may become the youth generation’s tobacco companies.

Waffles the pug. Waffles has his own Instagram account wafflezworldwide.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.

Isn’t this scary? I feel like someone’s unleashed Godzilla on the world. What will we know 10 or 20 years from now? Hopefully, we will move beyond social media and get back to in person interaction. I think if I were a parent of younger kids today, I wouldn’t let my kids have a smart phone, but stick with the flip phones or dumb phones. I didn’t get my kids smart phones until they were in high school.

Another thing I found troubling with this article is that Facebook has done internal studies for several years and they know Instagram has issues at its core. But they downplay them to the public. Our congress and senate have asked for Facebook’s studies and they do not comply with the requests.

Here’s more from the article:

In public, Facebook has consistently played down the app’s negative effects on teens, and hasn’t made its research public or available to academics or lawmakers who have asked for it.

“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March 2021 when asked about children and mental health.

The features that Instagram identifies as most harmful to teens appear to be at the platform’s core.

The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression, March 2020 internal research states. It warns that the Explore page, which serves users photos and videos curated by an algorithm, can send users deep into content that can be harmful.

“Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm,” the research states.

What are your thoughts about Instagram and other social media? Do you spend much time with it? Do your kids or grandkids? Do you notice a change in how they feel after they use social media? I find I’m using it less and less.

The bus stop

Sunrise from my bedroom window
Sunrise this morning.

I got up early today because I had an appointment at the car dealership at 7:30 a.m. There’s a recall on our car. It was at risk of catching on fire, so I took the first appointment I could get.

My husband and I went for a walk in our neighborhood at 6:15 a.m. and I saw something that disturbed me greatly. At our little park a few blocks from our house there were a dozen kids waiting for the bus. They were all looking down at the their phones and nobody was talking to each other. They were all about six feet apart and I guess that’s a good thing? But the lack of interest in each other and their focus on their phones bothered me. They all looked very depressed.

What the heck is this generation going to be like in a few years? I know my kids hate to make phone calls. They never pick up the phone without trying to use a webpage, email or text first. But when they are around their peers, they don’t ignore each other. They joke and have fun together. They light up.

When I was a kid, I also had to walk to a bus stop. I walked with my brother and we’d laugh and talk and kick a rock during the quarter mile walk. Then we’d chat with the other kids at our bus stop. On the bus, we’d all be talking, laughing or singing songs.

I found this group of kids so depressing to see. They seemed isolated. Alone. Glued to their phones. I wonder if this is a result of the COVID shut down? Or, would they be like this anyway? Any thoughts? Have you noticed kids acting like this, too?

cloudy day in Arizona neighborhood
View from our neighborhood on a cloudy day.

I guess the good news is they are going to school in person, right? Maybe it’s the start of a new school year and they’re not happy?

Thoughts on COVID Notifications

Lake Tahoe view from Zephyr Cove hike.
View from a morning hike at Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

A notification just popped up on my iphone. It was from the state of Nevada and it stated it could let me know if I’d been exposed to someone with COVID. This really creeped me out. How did they know I had visited Nevada for the weekend?

Seriously. This is scary. Are we being tracked? I wanted to look back at the notification so I could write down the verbiage, but it disappeared off my phone as quickly as it appeared.

I checked out the Nevada state’s COVID website and found what must have been it: COVID Trace.

COVID Trace is a free, easy-to-use mobile phone app that gives us the information we need to fight COVID-19, without compromising your privacy.

The app will help Nevadans protect each other and slow the spread by notifying you if you’ve likely been exposed to COVID-19. Empowering you to quarantine effectively, seek timely medical attention, and reduce risk for your loved ones.

COVID Trace is a contact tracing mobile app developed by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services that uses a technology called the Exposure Notifications System from Google and Apple. The app exchanges anonymous information with other phones in your vicinity and can notify you if you’ve come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

My question remains. Why did the state of Nevada send a message to my phone? How did they know I was there?

What are your thoughts about this app? Would you sign up for it? How do you think they traced me to being in Nevada and had my cell phone number?

Update on updates

Olive is not convinced this harness and leash is a good idea.

The updates all began because my husband’s wallet went missing in action last Friday. We didn’t even leave the house, but poof! It’s gone. So we cancelled the debit card, the credit card, ordered a new driver’s license, etc.

Then I started getting notifications of charges not going through that were attached to the missing card we cancelled.

Yesterday, I tried to update the payment method on our Apple account. It didn’t work. I went to Apple support and was instructed to update my iphone. In order to do that, I first had to update to MacOS Big Sur on my laptop. To do that, I need to open up 100 gb or so of space. It went on and on.

This morning with everything updated — and backed up — I discovered that my passwords didn’t transfer to the new operating system. I couldn’t get email. Couldn’t log into WordPress (you can see I figured that one out.) I was locked out of my Google account and Facebook. I wondered whether I should create a new password for FB or maybe this is a blessing in disguise?

I still can’t update the payment method on our Apple account. It turns out we are on a family sharing plan — and my son is listed as the account manager — with my husband’s cancelled credit card. And the email address for my son is the one he used as a 12 year old! UGH!

As far as Olive’s update: the harness and leash arrived last night. I had no problem putting it on her, but then she totally freaked out and ran under the bed, through the living room back to the bedroom and hid in our closet. Then flattened like a pancake and wouldn’t move. I could pick her up and transport her to the bed and she laid flat. I put her on the patch of grass in the living room we got for her and she laid there lifeless.

cat in harness on Fresh Patch kitty grass
Olive on the Fresh Patch kitty pack

Then she disappeared. I eventually found the kitty on the top shelf of my closet. For not being able to move in the harness, a miracle must have happened.

Eventually I took her out of the harness for the evening and she calmed down. I tried it on her again this morning. I held her as I opened up the screen door and we sat outside for a while. She seemed fascinated with the fresh air, the smells, watching the birds fly. She was content to sit on my lap. Then she ventured down to the ground and the leash upset her. She pulled away and ran around the corner of our house. I got worried she was going to slip out of the harness while I held onto the leash for dear life. I opened the screen door to our bedroom and she reversed course and ran under the bed. I got the leash off, she is safe inside but still wearing the harness. I can’t find her and haven’t seen her for three hours.

UPDATE ON “UPDATE OF UPDATE:” I searched the house for Olive all day long. She’s been missing since 8 a.m. and we were going on 11 hours. I was calling her. Having the flashlight mode on my camera. Looking into every nook and cranny. Couldn’t find her. I found a can of salmon canned kitty food that I made a production of opening for her throughout the house (she eats Friskies dry Ocean Fish Flavor). I searched everywhere. Many times. Once I thought I found her in the Casita closet. But alas, it was my daughter’s fur-topped Sorel snow boots from her years at Utah U.

Olive was still in the harness/vest that distresses her. Her angry mode is still weighing down on her.

After my dinner my husband said, “I’ll find her. Or leave her alone and she’ll come out of hiding.” He found her next to the Sorel boots in the Casita closet. What a smart Camo Kitty.

cat on top shelf of closet.
Olive on the closet top shelf.

How addictive is social media and what parents should know

Have you watched the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma?” Talk about scary. It has some high tech gurus talking about how they’ve created a monster called social media. Some of them find themselves addicted to their own creations. The number of children suffering from anxiety, depression and suicide attempts has skyrocketed since sites like Facebook and Instagram began. The first generation to be raised on social media, according to the movie, are 24 years and younger. That’s my daughter’s age.

It reminded me of a blog post I wrote two years ago in October about how the high tech geniuses in the Silicon Valley won’t allow their children to have any screen time at all. Zero. They obviously know something they aren’t telling the rest of us.

brother and sister showing off super powers

Robert and Kat showing off their super powers.

Here’s the blog post from 2018:

Talk about hypocrites. I read the strangest story about parents who live in the Silicon Valley and refuse to let their kids see or touch iPhones or any screens of any nature. These are parents who work in the high tech world and themselves use the devices. While they are at work, they hire nannies to shield their kids from the heinous devices they work to create.

Then to even go further, they make nannies sign contracts that they will keep them away from screens. They also hire spies to snoop on their nannies at parks to make sure they don’t cheat and check their phones. When these parents get home, they are locked onto their phones. Maybe it’s because they understand how miserable the phones are making their lives, that they want to keep their kids’ lives free from tech.

Here are a few excerpts from the article I read in sfgate called Silicon Valley Nannies are Phone Police for Kids:

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, said of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.

“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”

The bright side is these parents do care about their kids. They want what is best for them. I wonder if they use their electronics while they are at home? Do they put away the iphones at dinner? Do the parents realize that their kids will model their behavior and learn most from what they do, not what they say?

brother and sister playing cowboy

My cowboys using their imaginations.

What do you think is the scariest part of The Social Dilemma? 

How life changed with a fitbit

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The fitbit tracks my steps around the park.

I wanted a fitbit for Christmas mainly because I’m competitive and my husband started using one last year. We’d compare our steps during walks and his fitbit gave him way more steps than me carrying my iphone.

Now that I’ve used my fitbit for two weeks, what do I have to say about it?

I really like it. It’s helping me stay on track. Every hour it gives me a little buzz to push me away from my computer and on my feet. I found that I am consistently getting more than 10,000 steps a day — not because I wasn’t before — but my phone wasn’t always with me to capture the steps.

The other thing I really like about it is that I can swim with it. It keeps track of my laps and minutes of my swim — except for kicking. For some reason — I guess because my arms aren’t moving — I don’t get the yards in for a kick set. Oh well. I know in my head I did the kicking. I did ask our coach yesterday, “Why kick, if the fitbit doesn’t record it?” His answer was, “Why wear it if it doesn’t record everything?” Well, it’s worth it for everything else.

The final thing that I’m liking about it is the sleep part. Every morning I wake up, let it sync to my phone and then I check how well I slept. It will give me the time I fell asleep and woke up. Also, how much light, deep, REM sleep I got and how much and often I woke up during the night. It’s really interesting stuff. One thing I’ve learned is that on a swim day, my REM and deep sleep is twice that of a day I didn’t swim.

What I think the fitbit does for me is encourages me to be consistent with my exercise and sleep. It makes these things easier, because after all there’s an App for that.

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The fitbit tracks my laps in the pool.

Have you tried a fitbit or an Apple watch? What do you like about them the most?

What happened when college students ditched their phones?

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Without my smart phone, I couldn’t take pictures like this without lugging my real camera.

In a course at Adelphi University called “Life Unplugged” students were challenged to check their addiction to smart phones by giving them up for one week. Adelphi is a private university located in Garden City, NY.

What an interesting challenge. I wonder, should I try this myself? My excuse is that I need to have my phone in case my kids call me. I’m still being “mom” even though they are grown and flown. But, seriously, what if they do need me? Would they think to call the land line? Probably. Yes. I haven’t found a good excuse yet to not try the experiment. Except, maybe I don’t want to!

At first, the kids reported that they felt shaky and went through withdrawal symptoms. Here’s an excerpt from reporting by a CBS2 in New York about the “Life Unplugged” challenge. To read the entire article or see the video click on the link here. I recommend watching it.

‘It’s Really Refreshing And Relaxing’: College Students Say Ditching Their Smartphones For A Week Changed Their Lives

ARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – They survived!

Nearly two dozen Adelphi University students made it a full week without their cell phones!

As CBS2 first told you last week, it was part of a college course intended to break the powerful addiction of smartphones.

CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff went back on Thursday as students were reunited with their beloved mobile devices.

It’s old school in Jacob Dannenberg’s dorm room – with an alarm clock to wake him.

Handwritten notes remind him an actual wristwatch to keep track of time.

No it wasn’t 1999, it was an Adelphi University course called “Life Unplugged.” where students did the unthinkable one week ago – handed over their smartphones.

“I’m freaking out, I could probably cry right now,” one student said.

It was a bold experiment to recognize today’s compulsive relationships with ever present devices.

Seven days later, “who’s excited they’re getting their phones back today?” Professor Donna Freitas asked.

Gone were the nerves and the shakes.

“Everything is perfect right now. I’m having a lot better relationships… it’s a stress free environment no pressure about social media,” Jacob Dannenberg said.

“I think it’s really refreshing and relaxing… I was able to fall asleep a lot easier,” student Adrianna Cigliano.

The results students experienced included better focus on homework, better sleep and living in the present. Although none of the kids is ditching their smart phones forever, they said they would cut down on screen time as a result of the class.

Below are pictures from our family cabin that has no running water, electricity or cell service! Maybe I should plan a stay there for a week!

What do you think about ditching smart phones? Will you give it a try?