The Surgeon General of the United States just announced to parents that Social Media is dangerous to their children’s mental health. A lot to “unpack” there, to use the journalist jargon of this era.
As I told my students whenever they wrote persuasive prose, “first, you must define your terms for your audience.”
1. Social Media
4. mental health
Why? Because many lawyers take days to argue about some terms being used in trials around these United States. We live in an “adversarial system” of justice, in case you haven’t noticed. Folks who don’t like conflict had better stay out of a court room. Or, perhaps even a family dining room (if there even is one).
What’s ironic about the Surgeon General’s need to explain the medical problems of Social Media is that he’s not a “primary source.” He, most likely, is like my doctor brother-in-law. All he reads are medical textbooks, medical journal articles, and other professional information online. So, what a researcher must do is definitely have sources that are “primary,” which means information from those who are directly in contact with teens and children in the United States.
Having read his “suggestions” to children, teens, and parents/guardians, I must say that his argument is mostly “top-down,” meaning it’s something I used to read when I worked for a Navy Admiral in the Armed Forces.
When I became an actual teacher, inside a classroom, I learned probably in the first week that unless the “primary sources” and key terms of the argument stem mostly from children, teens, and parents, and not the “higher authorities,” even well-meaning authorities, then you will get no real reaction, discussion, or meaningful conflict to discuss.
Not much in these suggestions shows that we’re hearing any definitions of the terms I mentioned. Also, no quotes come from the actual people who are using this so-called “social media.”
As a professor who taught both inside a walled classroom and online, in addition to a hybrid of the two, I know these surgeon general suggestions would only be called “secondary sources” in my assignment, at the best.
The reality in today’s technology online is that each of these named groups: children, teens, parents/guardians, and authorities above them, has its own content and “rules of order,” and they’re not shared much, if at all, because of the nature of the means of communication they all use. This is probably one of the biggest disagreements I have with the Surgeon General’s method of top-down communications.
Anyway, the problem of social media manipulation might even affect the “authorities in charge” of these top-down rules, and this must be part of the discussion as well.
If you’re interested, I created a way for adults to communicate with their families that may elicit “cross generational” communications if used correctly. Why? It’s private, it’s secure, it’s multimedia, and it’s fun for all ages. It’s also a platform for users to market and sell their creations!
Have a great “hump day” and the rest of your week!
Professor James Musgrave