According to a study in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, children today experience higher anxiety levels than the average child psychiatric patients of the 1950s. While some of these findings were the result of the rise of environmental threats, Jean M. Twenge, PhD reported that a decline in social connectedness and trust produced a large amount of that anxiety.
To many researchers, parents, and concerned citizens, the culprit is obvious: social media.
In an age where social connection is touted as being more accessible than ever before, information has never been communicated faster, and we are constantly consuming stimuli from others, how is it possible that we have produced the loneliest and most socially disconnected generation?
Timmerie Geagea spent a segment of Trending with Timmerie discussing recent announcements from one celebrity couple that is embracing the online world and one celebrity parent that is not.
Last month, Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila Alves, made an Instagram video wishing their son a happy fifteenth birthday and at the same time, welcoming their son into the social media world. For good reason, they had been waiting to allow their son into the social media universe, but they had apparently determined that since he’s turning fifteen, he is ready.
But why? What about that age would suddenly allow him to be capable of handling the toxic deluge that is the internet? Why expose an adolescent mind to a nonstop stream of stimuli from people neither he nor you know? Granted, this is a very personal and difficult decision to make, and as his parents, McConaughey and Alves are absolutely free to grant permissions to their son as they see fit. However, they not only made a video telling the internet that he was now accessible, but they invited the public to follow their son.
Their son is still a child, and he is the child of an Oscar-winning actor and a Brazilian supermodel: He is already in the spotlight. Announcing to and inviting the world to access your teenage son will only put him under more scrutiny and make it more challenging to navigate the waters of adolescence, young adulthood, and beyond. Growing up is hard enough without the murky waters of social media and the pressure of being the child of two celebrities.
One mother who does not share McConaughey’s excitement for social media is decorated British actress Kate Winslet. In 2022, Winslet and her daughter Mia Threapleton acted in an episode of a British TV Drama called I Am… on an episode titled Ruth. In I Am Ruth, Winslet portrays a mother who is struggling to connect with a daughter (Threapleton) who is becoming progressively consumed by social media. The heart-breaking drama watches a mother fight to rescue her daughter from the grips of addiction many fail to recognize in their own lives today.
Winslet won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for her performance, and in her speech, she said several significant things:
“If I could cut this [award] in half, I would give the other half to my daughter, Mia Threapleton. We did this together, kiddo. There were days when it was agony for her to dig as deeply as she did into very frightening emotional territory sometimes, and it took my breath away.
I Am Ruth was made for parents and their children, for families who feel that they are held hostage by the perils of the online world, for parents who wish that they could still communicate with their teenagers but who no longer can, and for young people who have become addicted to social media and its darker sides. This does not need to be your life.
To people in power and people who can make change, please criminalize harmful content. Please eradicate harmful content. We don’t want it. We want our children back.”
There’s a reason the engineers in Silicon Valley send their kids to schools with no technology and don’t allow them to use certain devices and services. They know firsthand that it was designed to encourage addictive, obsessive, and impulsive behavior.
“It is, and it will continue to become, more mainstream to not give kids cell phones and to not allow kids to be on social media,” said Timmerie. “What’s scary is that [technology] is built to draw children in, but it’s not built for children: It’s not human-centered for the sake of edifying, glorifying, and raising up children.”
These things that we have made are tools. They are a means to an end. If we become, or allow others to become, so infatuated with these tools, we lose sight of what we are trying to accomplish.
Tune in to Trending with Timmerie weekdays at 6pm CT