A deep dive into social media addiction
The word addiction generally conjures up drugs and alcohol. However, over the past 20 years, a new addiction has crept into our lives without warning.
It’s legal, and it’s in our hands.
We are talking about social networks.
In this three-part series, The Digital Drug, we dig deeper into social media addiction, how parents manage their children’s usage, and solutions that can help your children navigate this digital world.
It can be all-consuming; pings, likes, follows.
Social media sites like Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are deliberately created to be addictive.
“When we look at companies like Google and Meta, we find that they hire a lot of marketing and advertising people, which makes sense, but also addiction specialists,” says Dr. Josh Nadeau, director Senior Clinic and Addiction Specialist at Rogers Behavioral Health.
Dr. Nadeau says that many social media apps are designed to gradually build habituation.
“They’re designed to boost very strongly, very quickly, very consistently and it hits those dopamine centers in our brains, it’s like with any drug that we use to ring about that feeling of getting this dose,” he said. “And when you talk to children and teens, it starts to use language that sounds alarmingly similar to substance use and abuse,” adds Dr. Nadeau.
Every click, like, and scroll constantly fuels addiction like a no-jackpot slot that almost anyone can access.
According common sense mediamore than half (53%) of children in the United States have their own smartphone by age 11, 69% by age 12, and nearly 20% of 8-year-olds now have a smartphone.
To date, 16 years after Facebook first opened to the public, public schools in Wisconsin are not required by the state to teach social media safety.
However, in 1983 Drug resistance education or the DARE program was created and later implemented in public school curricula nationwide to teach children about the dangers of drug use.
In the 1980s and 1990s, schools introduced sex education into classrooms in response to the AIDS epidemic.
Currently, there is no such system in place for social media security. It is up to each local school district to put systems in place to educate and help protect our children.
“I think we have a really good base from which to start. And, knowing that the internet is changing every day, knowing that there are always things we can teach and learn,” says Raquel Rand, media coordinator for the library in Green Bay. Public schools in the region.
Green Bay Area Public Schools and Appleton Area Public Schools have implemented educational tools for students and parents on social media safety.
“We talk about digital citizenship and the appropriate use of technology and it’s kind of modeled throughout the program, we talk about being a responsible citizen,” says Jeremy Kautz, Appleton math teacher and technology coach. East High School, from Appleton East High School.
But many schools in northeast Wisconsin lack formal education for students and parents.
Aiden Olson, a senior at Appleton East High School, says: “I personally don’t think it’s covered enough in our normal curriculum. We cover the basics. But it’s basically like anything I’ve ever heard through the classroom experience. Other than that, you just learn as you go.”
“I think it would be nice to have a minimum required by the state,” says Leslie Rodrigues, a mother of two young children from northeastern Wisconsin.
“I think it’s something that should be put on the schools,” says Jacob Tease, a father of two in Green Bay.
If social media education were to follow the same path as drug and sex education in public schools, some educators we spoke with say that leaving it to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to deciding on the program could slow down the process.
“The Legislature has enough trouble agreeing on anything and they would probably be stuck trying to figure out what’s the best way to move forward,” says AASD professor Jeremy Kautz.
Some Appleton-area moms we spoke with say it’s overwhelming to leave it up to parents to teach their children how to navigate the world of social media.
“It’s exhausting as a parent and it’s a constant fear of thinking, ‘Am I doing it right, am I supervising enough?'” says Denise Willis, mother of four ages 4 to 15.
Lyndsay Schumacher, a mother of three, faces similar difficulties. “With video games, with YouTube, there’s this instant gratification and it’s like every 30 seconds it’s like they’re getting dopamine, dopamine, dopamine and it’s hard to compete with that.”
Wednesday nights on NBC 26 News at 6:00 a.m. listen to five local mothers talk about what it’s like to watch their children struggle with social media addiction and the pressure parents feel to control it.
Also this week, we’ll look at some solutions that could offer parents, children, and educators ways to navigate this digital drug.