Schools should pull back on use of social media

Headlines proclaiming the harms of social media are fairly common these days. So common, I wonder sometimes if we’ve become so desensitized by them that we don’t see the harm we could be bringing on ourselves.

Hitting the news recently was the small country of Nepal banning TikTok because it carried hateful content and was affecting “social harmony.”

In late October, 41 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, claiming the company violated consumer protection laws by unfairly ensnaring children and deceiving users about the safety of its platforms.

“Meta has harnessed powerful and unprecedented technologies to entice, engage and ultimately ensnare youth and teens,” the states said in their lawsuit filed in federal court. “Its motive is profit.” The lawsuit is similar in concept to past action against tobacco companies, which aimed to maximize profits at the expense of public health.

The irony of all of this is that the one place where all our children spend much of their lives, their local school, is the same place using Facebook probably more than any local business or individual.

A review of Facebook use by local schools in my area show very active pages, with a variety of posts including schedule announcements, sports results, student recognition and just day-in-the-life activities of kids.

Some schools were more active than others with posting. USD 108- Washington County had 191 posts in September, with 12 posts on three different days and 17 on one day, which was homecoming. Linn Lutheran School, which is a school with grades 1-8, posted five times during the month.

For the month of September (used because there were no unique sports playoff schedules going on that would impact one school more than others), local schools posted on their public Facebook pages the following number of times:

USD 108-Washington County 191

USD 224-Clifton-Clyde 68

USD 223-Linn 62

USD 223-Hanover 45

Linn Lutheran 5

St. John’s Catholic School has a private Facebook group, so we do not have post numbers available.

While the lawsuit is on behalf of children, adults are susceptible to the adverse health effects too.

From the New York Times – “Adults are susceptible, noted David Greenfield, a psychologist and founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction in West Hartford, Conn., but young people are particularly at risk, because the brain regions that are involved in resisting temptation and reward are not nearly as developed in children and teenagers as in adults.”

Maybe, for the health of kids and parents, our schools should lead by example, and scale back or end their use of social media.

Generations of parents and kids were able to manage school schedules through weekly bulletins and hard copy notes, and more recently, through daily bulletins on school websites. Checking these options once a day is an effective way to keep everyone informed without risking the health of kids and parents.

Dan Thalmann is the owner/publisher of the Washington County News and is a Past President of the Kansas Press Association. He has won numerous journalism awards in many categories over the years, including multiple awards as the best mid-sized weekly newspaper in Kansas.