If I Were a Parent of a Pre-Teen or Teenager

If I were the parent of a pre-teen or teenager, I would not allow him or her to use Facebook or Instagram.

Both platforms are highly addictive (in fact, they’re designed to be addictive) and potentially harmful to children’s health and well-being. Moreover, Facebook is the epitome of predatory capitalism. And young people are particularly ill-equipped to spot its abuses and defend themselves against such tactics.

Neither platform is held to even a minimal standard of decency. Facebook has even allowed itself to be used by foreign agents to undermine our democratic process. All for the sake of Facebook and its founder and executives — not even with the pretense of being in our and our country’s best interest.

In short, Facebook and its leaders, Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, care about their wealth, status, and influence; they don’t care about your kids or mine.

Companies that have more social conscience and ethical bearing in their fingertips than does Facebook include Apple and Starbucks. Both are highly successful by any measure, showing you don’t have to be an immoral predatory capitalist to succeed.

But should any of this matter to a parent? That’s up to you. God knows I made enough parenting mistakes. I’ve been humbled. I have no interest in telling others how to rear their children. All I’m saying is, I’ve been too lack in recognizing the harmful effects to our kids of certain things, and right now its Facebook and Instagram that leads the pack. On a cost-benefit analysis, it’s clear to me the costs far outweigh the benefits for children.

I could provide lots of data and studies to back up this claim, but you’ve probably already seen them. If you haven’t, then it’s probably because you’re not interested. Or believe the benefits outweigh the costs.

Here are the reasons cited by those teenagers who believe social media is having a mostly negative effect on people their age:

As an aside, my best guess is they’re underestimating the addictive and distractive effects. After all, the person addicted is often the last one to identify and acknowledge the addiction.

In any case, what’s clear, when you look at other society data, is something isn’t right, and there’s every reason to believe platforms like this are a contributing factor. One-quarter of college students are now considered disabled in some way. More teenagers are anxious, depressed, and suicidal than ever before. Indeed, suicide rates have been skyrocketing. The wheels are coming off and we’re focused on Likes, “friends,” and selfies. For heaven’s sake, don’t we care where this is leading us?

Living on one’s device is a poor substitute for real, authentic personal interactions and relationships. And it’s not conducive to developing the habits and skills that will serve one well later in life, either. Is it any wonder so many of our high school and college students seem unable to engage in deep thinking and critical analysis? Is it any wonder our society is so susceptible to manipulation by those skilled in the art of propaganda?

Indeed, is it any wonder reality television shows and culture “stars” dominate our attention and public discourse? Is it any wonder we elected a narcissistic reality-TV star to lead the Free World?

I’ve experienced personally the addictive power of certain internet platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. I disengaged from all of those platforms except Twitter and haven’t missed any of them.

But that’s me. Each person must decide what’s in his or her best interest. More importantly, those with kids must decide what’s in their children’s best interest. As much as my kids might grumble about it, I’ve come to believe the grumbling is nothing compared to the potential damage these internet platforms can do to our children.

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