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EDITORIAL: Tackling societal threat at ground level

| March 6, 2024 1:00 AM

The greatest threat to our future is not coming from the southern border.

Nor is it being launched from Moscow, from Pyongyang, from Beijing or Tehran; from plastic in our oceans or greenhouse gasses aloft.

The greatest threat to our future is in our children’s and grandchildren’s hands.

Smartphones have been around long enough for consumers to understand their benefits in emergencies, essential communications and data access, and in providing efficiencies that should free up time for more important endeavors. 

They have not been around long enough for research to plumb the depths of their destructive capabilities, especially in the hands of children and young adults. But so far, there’s every indication that realization of our worst fears isn’t far over the horizon.

The one-two knockout punch of smartphone+social media takes on ever more ominous undertones for children. If you missed Sholeh Patrick’s column in last week's Press, please take just a moment to catch up: https://shorturl.at/gilJ0

As is so often the case, children are essentially blameless. Parents who might mean well are unleashing monsters on some social media platforms, all because the parents are trying to capitalize on their children’s potential to become models or “influencers.”

At the same time, studies are increasingly showing direct relationships between deteriorating mental health and social media use, particularly in girls. As more time is spent on social media, personal interaction decreases and feelings of sadness and loneliness grow. Where that ends, for some, is suicide.

While Florida is enacting legislation meant to fight this ubiquitous enemy and Congress hauls social media moguls into a withering spotlight, the plague — for that is what it is — spreads. And in time there is every reason to believe that it will only continue to worsen.

Unless…

…we put aside our political, religious and personal differences and work together to address what’s happening and how to mitigate its long-term disastrous effects.

In the name of simply planting a seed today, here’s an idea.

A local organization or an individual with time and organizational talent could put together a group comprised of leaders from our schools, churches, political and public service entities, parent groups, chambers of commerce — there may be others, too. 

Working together, this group could find ways to help local children and families navigate the routes between productive and destructive smartphone and social media use. 

Rather than wait for legislative remedies that may or may not be effective, why not tackle this challenge as a local problem that can be improved locally? The guess here is that other communities are already working on their own solutions; some might already be finding pathways to improvement.

Not only would many of our children’s and grandchildren’s futures benefit, but creating a disparate group ardently pulling in the same direction could have lasting, positive effects for all of us.

Help kids and unite the community. Isn't that better than spending more time on Facebook?