Social Media and Your Kid

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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The American Psychological Association recommends parents closely monitor the online activities of their preteens and teens. You may remember an article I wrote warning parents about Tik Tok. I covered the addictive algorithms used by the social media site that take less than 45 minutes to “learn,” hook and manipulate a new user. I talked about the seductive tools Tik Tok provides for producing videos and creating content. I covered the lure of “community belonging” so appealing to the young and the dangers of Tik Tok “trends” encouraging downright dangerous behavior among teens. It is important to visit the effect of social media on mass behavior again. Social media calls to action have resulted in huge and often violent crowds that form within hours. Social media sites have been the springboard for mob activity as well, including organized retail theft. Recently, social media has generated multi-generational demonstrations around the world. It , too, has created chaos and hatred on campuses, not just college level, but high school as well. In a flash, social media can rally large numbers of people and whip them up into an irrational frenzy. Young people are especially vulnerable. Hillcrest High School, Queens, New York “Hundreds of “radicalized” kids rampaged through the halls of a Queens high school this week for nearly two hours after they discovered a teacher had attended a pro-Israel rally — forcing the terrified educator to hide in a locked office as the teen mob tried to push its way into her classroom,” reports the NY Post. How did this happen? First of all, let’s look at the fact that someone saw a picture of the teacher attending a pro-Israel rally on a social media site — Facebook. It had nothing to do with school. The march took place on a weekend, on the teacher’s free time. But, she was holding a sign that said, “I stand with Israel.” A bunch of kids decided to make a group chat about it. Amy Rock, writing for Campus Safety magazine, reports a student said, “…rumors spread (on social media) that the teacher ‘was abusing Muslims’ and had taught that ‘it was okay that children were being killed in Palestine.’ (False) Another said some students were able to find the teacher’s personal information, including her address, her phone number, and details about family members. They wanted to expose the teacher. Then the chat turned to starting a riot. Mayhem at the school ensued, all documented and uploaded to Tik Tok as it happened. Drinking fountains were ripped from the walls. Hundreds of students rampaged through the school, specifically targeting the Jewish teacher. A group of students tried to storm into her room. She was escorted to the principal’s office and removed after the NYPD had brought order back to the school. The teacher is quoted in the NY Post saying, “I have been a teacher for 23 years in the New York City public school system — for the last seven at Hillcrest High School I have worked hard to be supportive of our entire student body and an advocate for our community and was shaken to my core by the calls to violence against me that occurred online and outside my classroom last week…. No one should ever feel unsafe at school — students and teachers alike.” Interestingly, many of the students had no idea what they were rioting about.
Mob Mentality
Social media mobs are fueled by a narrative designed to provoke a target audience. According to Courtroomsciences.com, a triggering event occurs. Then, a story spins the event into a narrative capable of provoking moral outrage. The story goes viral, and influencers manipulate the target audience into emotional, irrational action.

“With roots in social pressure, mob mentality is a circumstance that has occurred throughout human history. Humans are inherently social, and neurobiologists have found that, when they gather into large groups, thinking and acting as one, their brains produce chemicals that cause them to depart from logical cognition and regress into a more primitive state… When it comes to mob mentality and social media, the anonymity of the Internet can diminish the sense of individual identity, accelerating the path of yielding to mob or herd mentality....”

Mindful Parenting in the Social Media World
The manipulation of young people is nothing new. From the Crusades to Mrs. Mao’s violent, vindictive and lethal Red Guard to Hitler’s Brownshirts, impressionable young people are tools for chaos. Jeanne Croteau writes for Forbes, “Once groupthink sets in, an “us versus them” attitude can dominate… When members of the group don’t want to dissent for fear of rejection, the mob mentality will prevail.”

The American Psychological Association recommends parents closely monitor the online activities of their preteens and teens. Communication is essential between parents and children. Matt Travers, writing for Psychology Today, suggests, “While there is no ‘right answer’ to the question of how to parent in the age of social media, a preponderance of the data suggests that more active approaches lead to better outcomes than passive approaches…. Overall, studies find that adolescents report less problematic use when parents use more parental monitoring, restrictive or active mediation, or strict internet and smartphone rules.”

Easier said than done, but worth the effort!
Vamos a ver! In peace!
Paula Labrot

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