Struggling with a Moral Panic Once Again

I’ve followed danah boyd’s work for a long time so when she says something I listen. Danah has been researching teens and technology her entire career. In Struggling with a Moral Panic Once Again she weighs in on the “is social media causing the teen mental health crisis?” debate:

I wish there was a panacea to the mental health epidemic we are seeing. I wish I could believe that eliminating tech would make everything hunky dory. Sadly, I know that what young people are facing is ecological. As a researcher, I know that young people’s relationship with tech is so much more complicated than pundits wish to suggest. I also know that the hardest part of being a parent is helping a child develop a range of social, emotional, and cognitive capacities so that they can be independent. And I know that excluding them from public life or telling them that they should be blocked from what adults value because their brains aren’t formed yet is a type of coddling that is outright destructive.

That last point is pretty important I think. Maybe one reason all the arguments about teens and social media resonate with so many parents is that we are the ones with the deeply troubled relationships with it… Anyway, there’s some great advice for parents in the essay as well. Also see The great rewiring: is social media really behind an epidemic of teenage mental illness?

Most data are correlative. When associations over time are found, they suggest not that social-media use predicts or causes depression, but that young people who already have mental-health problems use such platforms more often or in different ways from their healthy peers.