When our children are online, they are the product

“Privacy is an outdated issue,” he announced. mark zuckerberg, in full swing of Facebook. Privacy has, among other functions, protecting intimacy, that place where the inner voice resonates, which can only be formulated and heard in stillness and calm.

Can you live without being minimally aware of what happens deep inside yourself? Can you do without the hidden corner from which the deepest and most authentic thoughts of the human being arise? Which are the consequences of siege privacyletting it bombard us, dull and consume the wild and nervous information?

In the midst of a pandemic, billions of young people stayed hooked on the networks for lack of more excellent alternatives. The pandemic led to a large-scale experiment that made it possible to study the consequences of unprecedented use of the networks.

What happens when one becomes a thoughtless prey to the tow of algorithms? What can happen to the mental health of a young man whose motivation depends on external stimuli and whose self-esteem depends on the appreciation of an army of anonymous profiles?

In 2021, Common Sense Media published a study on the relationship between mental health and the use of social networks during the pandemic in the age group between 14 and 22 years.

To contextualize, Common Sense is the name of an American entity that conducts surveys on the consumption of new technologies in childhood and adolescence. since 2003. We owe you valuable information. Since its inception, it was considered a serious entity, managing to earn the respect of many researchers and the population in general.

The study compares the presence of moderate to severe symptoms depending on the use of the networks in that age group. One of the results of the study is shocking. He concludes that there is almost 3 times more likely to experience symptoms of depression (from moderate to severe) in those who use networks, with respect to those who never use them.

The question that Common Sense asks is: are the symptoms of depression a consequence of being in networks? Or, are depressed people online because the networks provide relief from their depression? let’s examine both hypothesis.

1) The fact of spending more time in networks could be the cause of the symptoms of depression. Why? After all, social network algorithms are designed to isolate us. And a human connection is not the same as a connection on-line. A study published by YouGov concludes that 22% of millennials say they have no friends. Following this hypothesis, one should reduce the use of networks.

2) Young people would go to the networks because they are depressed before using them and they do it to alleviate their depression. Following this hypothesis, one should empower the use of networks.

Depressed teenager looking at mobile.

Common Sense states that it is not possible to know in which direction the relationship is going. But opt ​​for the second option when choosing the title of the study: 2021. Coping with covid-19: how young people use digital media to manage their mental health. Arrives at the conclusion, without providing any arguments or data that allow you to conclude in this way, that those who suffer from symptoms of depression use the networks more because they are depressed. It is assumed that they suffered from these symptoms before using the networks.

Therefore, the networks would be a kind of balm for the depressive state. In short, the title of the report suggests that it is not the networks that can lead us to feel depressed, but that the networks would be a privileged space for depressed people. Or even, as the title seems to indicate, the networks could be a place of healing or with a therapeutic effect. In short, an oasis for the depressed.

In order to assess this position, context must be provided. At the time that study was published, common sense this sponsored for Twitter, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and those of Zuckerberg and Bezos, among others. In this study, specifically, Hopelab intervenes as a collaborator, an association that defines itself as a “social innovation laboratory, committed to supporting and improving the health and well-being of young people to co-create interventions based on the science of behaviour”.

Summarizing, said entity distributes technological products for health and well-being in collaboration with partners, which are technology companies.

Since a few days ago, we can find even more context to this question in the 95 pages of the legal suit just filed by the Seattle Public Schools district in the United States against the technology companies who hold the reins of TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat.

The applicant, who brings together 109 public schools and 53,973 students, considers that these companies are responsible for having worsened the mental health of their students and prevent that their schools carry out their educational mission. The public school cluster alleges that these companies purposely designed their products to create dependence towards them, alleges that they are exploiting the mind vulnerable of millions of young people through a reward cycle that leads to excessive use and abuse of social media, thus contributing to an unprecedented mental health crisis.

According to the plaintiff, who is seeking damages, students with mental health problems perform worse, forcing schools to take expensive measures, such as training teachers to identify the symptoms, the hiring of trained personnel, as well as the creation of additional resources to warn students of the dangers that the use of social networks entails.

It should be remembered that technology companies are not in the business of providing content to their consumers or users, but rather they are in the business of delivering the attention of their users or consumers to those who sponsor their content. Therefore, When our children are online, they are the product.

And the raison d’être of the platform is not to provide cultural or educational content, but commercial content. those companies they need to develop mechanisms that allow us to maintain the attention of our children and students as much time as possible online to get the maximum economic benefit. To achieve its purpose, privacy must become obsolete, as Zuckerberg suggested.

Now, it is that same business model that acts as the engine of technological innovation that currently occurs in our schools. Schools represent another gold mine for that sector.

The commercial logic of the monetization of attention is the reason why, under the banner of innovation and the clever disguise of constructivist educational methodologies, these companies have spent years deploying all their commercial muscle to also enter our classrooms. And the time has come to draw a red line putting a stop to all that nonsense.

Published in The reason.

We would like to say thanks to the author of this short article for this outstanding material

When our children are online, they are the product