Watch CBS Reports documentary “Are the children okay ?: Internet” in the video player above or broadcast it live on the CBS News app, Sunday, May 8 at 20:00, 11:00 and 2a ET. The CBS Reports series “Are Children Good?” Examines the transformational changes facing today’s youth – in their own words.
Generation Z members were among the first to pass from screen to adolescence to adolescence. They are also among the first to say they have had enough.
“I had a wonderful time and I felt I had the world at my fingertips. I was able to contact Olive Garden, I commented on the photo and they commented back, the best day of my life, “said Emma Lembke, a 19-year-old freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, recalling her first experiences on social media. -young teenager.
“And yet there was a feeling that I was entering these platforms and I just felt like I had no control,” she said. “I left feeling more anxious, more depressed.
The sheer number of hours spent online, complicated by a global pandemic that connects teenagers to their devices for both school and personal life, prompted Lembke to take action. From her bedroom in Mobile, Alabama, she launched the LOG OFF movement in 2020.
“The LOG OFF movement has just started as a youth movement for teenagers, largely hyperfocused on providing this space to talk, talk about the multifaceted nature (of social media) and promote healthier use,” she explained. .
Although she originally created it as a blog to discuss the negative effects that social media has on her own life, what she has discovered is a generation of teenagers and children who are beginning to demand more from Big Tech. The movement is engaging with thousands of teenagers in more than a dozen countries, documenting stories of a generation increasingly anxious to leave their mental health in the hands of technology companies for profit.
In Los Angeles, 18-year-old Amy Kim was among those struggling to find a balance between what she calls social media addiction algorithms and her need to stay connected to her friends during the COVID-19 blockade. .
“I deleted everything. I installed everything,” Kim said. “I know that many children spend their time at home to increase their presence on social media and try to strive for it.title. And now that we are busy again with school and extracurricular programs and just life in general, people still have this desire to be the star of YouTube. “
Prior to the pandemic, children aged 10 to 14 reported an average of 3.8 hours of screen time per day, excluding school work, but according to a study published in JAMA Pediatricsin May 2020, this figure rose to 7.7 hours.
Lembke believes that much of this increase in time is intentional – the result of deliberate strategies by technology companies, as opposed to a lack of will to stop the phone.
“My friend told me, ‘I’m just getting bogged down in these cycles. I see the next video, it just keeps playing, it just keeps going. ”It’s obviously such an ingenious thing to use within an algorithm because it maximizes attention … it encourages a sense of endless scrolling, like gambling, like a slot machine. But also what I think it does is make it much easier to promote content to its users, which can be harmful, “Lembke said.
Lembke teamed up with freshman Aliza Copans of Brown University to take advantage of LOG OFF’s success to form another organization called Tech (nically) Politics, a youth-led organization dedicated to pushing for regulation of Big Tech.
The group supports the Children’s Internet Design and Safety Act or the KIDS Act. The bill was introduced again in September 2021 by Senators Edward J. Markie and Richard Blumenthal and the representative Katie Castor from Florida.
The bill aims to “stop online practices such as manipulative marketing, amplifying harmful content and damaging design features that threaten young people online,” a statement from lawmakers said.
“Big Tech continues to clearly prioritize the accumulation of revenue over the protection of children and teenagers, and this must stop. We know that these companies will not change their ways unless Congress forces them to do so, “said Markie.
Pressure to regulate gained momentum after the revolutionary testimony of a former Facebook and Facebook employeewho filed a complaint with federal law enforcement and told Congress that Facebook has an internal investigation that shows that its platform and affected the self-esteem of young people.
According to leaked documents first reported according to the Wall Street Journal, company data show that one-third of teenage girls say Instagram makes them feel worse than their body image. The parent company of Facebook and Instagram, now called Meta, said Instagram “helps a lot of teenagers who are struggling with some of the most difficult issues they are experiencing.”
Lembke reflects on her personal experience: “I was a young woman who went through social media as I developed my image of myself and the standards of my body for myself. It completely changed the future trajectory of the way I looked at myself. “
According to Pew Research, 45% of teens say they feel overwhelmed by social media, although the number of hours spent on apps continues to rise year after year.
“There is so much pressure to be the perfect thing that you can’t stop admitting that everyone has flaws. And it feels like you’re the only one who has flaws, “Kim said.
In 2021, Kim joined the EXIT EXIT movement as the director of LGBTQ +, where she helps teenagers in this community find and navigate safe spaces online.
“If we can get to a point where people don’t feel insecure online, I think we can call it a job well done,” she said.
But this is a challenge without a clear end point – and one that no previous generation has had to contend with in the same way.
“No other generation, no other category or group of people can say, except the members of Gen Z, I grew up with a phone in my hand when I was younger,” Lembke said. “Technology is embedded in the DNA of our generation.”