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  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Beliveau

Enhancing Community Health: Social Media and Our Youth

Four separate media posts caught my attention this week and sparked deep reflection. The first was a call from the U.S. Surgeon General for warning labels on social media, highlighting its potential harm to youth. The second was a New York Times Daily podcast discussing a Georgetown professor's controversial gun usage study, revealing it was funded by NRA-associated organizations. Thirdly, Richard Culatta's LinkedIn post highlighted a Stanford study showing that 70% of U.S. high school students admit to cheating regularly, underscoring a troubling cultural issue unrelated to AI. Lastly, another NYT Daily podcast discussed a novel legal strategy by attorneys representing families of Uvalde mass shooting victims, which aims to hold media companies creating violent video games and gun manufacturers paying to have their product emulated inside the video games accountable.


A Weaving from Bhutan

Confronting Modern Challenges Of Social Media on Our Youth

Social Media and Mental Health: The Surgeon General’s call for warning labels on social media platforms underscores the increasing concern about their impact on adolescent mental health. Constant exposure to idealized images and cyberbullying can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and isolation among youth.

Goals of Surgeon General's Warning Labels:


  1. Calling Policymakers to the Table: Dr. Murthy aims to galvanize policymakers to take action on social media regulation, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the mental health crisis exacerbated by social media.

  2. Parental Collaboration: He suggests that parents form committees to collectively decide on blocking harmful social media platforms, fostering a community approach to safeguarding children.

  3. Legislative Accountability: Murthy's call to Congress focuses on researching and structuring laws that hold social media companies liable for the negative impacts on young users, promoting greater accountability and transparency in the industry.


Integrity of Research and Policy Influence: The NYT Daily podcast highlighted how a study by a Georgetown professor, funded by NRA-associated groups, was used to advance gun rights. This raises questions about the integrity of research and its influence on public policy.

Cultural Issues in Education: Richard Culatta's LinkedIn post revealed that a Stanford University study showed 70% of U.S. high school students admit to cheating regularly, pointing to deeper cultural problems where academic success is prioritized over honesty and integrity.

Novel Legal Strategies for Mass Shooting Victims: The NYT Daily podcast discussed a new legal strategy by attorney J. David Goodman representing families of Uvalde mass shooting victims. This approach aims to hold video game companies, gun manufacturers and social media companies accountable, highlighting the need for creative legal frameworks to address complex social issues and the influence of violent video games and social media on youth.

Drawing Lessons from the Opioid Epidemic?

Reflecting on the opioid epidemic, the Sackler family was forced to pay billions to educate providers, fund recovery programs, and support those affected by addiction. This model of accountability and proactive education could be adapted to address the impact of violent video games. Imagine if the Uvalde lawsuit could compel every manufacturer of violent video games to produce equally viral games promoting kindness, empathy, and healthy lifestyles. I realized this might help one aspect of our current challenges but do we need to think bigger? Much bigger?


Like many of us, I wonder where our country is heading. We see judges deeply aligned with political and religeou ideologies, gaining control and influencing major decisions. Parents are grappling with how to guide their children through optimal social media use without isolating them from their peers. There's a lack of united community action to address these issues, and the connection between bullying, behavioral health issues, mass shootings, and the normalization of violence through video games is increasingly troubling. There is a deep link between community health, discipline, integrity, meaningful connections, and aligned morals.


Leaving my yoga class this morning, I thought about Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness (GNH) versus Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Bhutan, a small Himalayan nation, emphasizes the well-being and happiness of its citizens over economic growth. This model could offer valuable lessons for us in the U.S., where we often feel divided and unhealthy as a society. Bhutan, by many accounts, is thriving, and its approach might be what we need to foster a more inclusive and supportive environment here.


Conceptualizing Drastic Change in the U.S. Inspired by Bhutan

How can we conceptualize drastic change in the U.S. leveraging perspectives from Bhutan's success in designing and supporting healthy communities? While it is unlikely we will become a Buddhist country or a democratic constitutional monarchy, we we will likely strive for continued religious freedom. Within some sort of religious spectrum—say Evangelists to Buddhism —how might we accomplish this without needing either big government or a dictatorship, and become a healthy and engaged constitutional democracy?


What Might it Look Like to Implement Bhutan's Principles


Holistic Development:

Well-being Metrics: Develop metrics to measure societal well-being beyond economic indicators, such as mental health, social support, and community engagement.

Policy Assessment: Evaluate policies based on their impact on well-being and social harmony, ensuring they promote inclusivity and kindness.


Value-Based Education:

Curriculum Integration: Incorporate teachings on kindness, empathy, and inclusivity into school curricula. Promote activities that foster community service and environmental stewardship.

Community Programs: Create programs that encourage intergenerational learning and cultural exchange, reinforcing social bonds and mutual respect.


Community Building:

Parent Committees: Form parent committees to establish and enforce community-wide guidelines on acceptable social media content and video games. This collective effort can create a supportive environment for children.

Recognition Programs: Shift recognition programs from academic achievements to acts of kindness and community service. Celebrating students who exemplify these values can inspire others to follow suit.


Environmental Stewardship:

Sustainable Practices: Encourage sustainable practices at the community level, such as community gardens, recycling programs, and conservation efforts.

Educational Campaigns: Raise awareness about the importance of environmental conservation and its impact on well-being.


Conclusion

As we face rapid societal changes, we are increasingly isolating and focusing on self-preservation. However, by embracing Bhutan's model of holistic well-being, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment. This shift requires radical changes in how we measure success, educate our children, and build our communities. By prioritizing kindness, empathy, and environmental stewardship, we can move towards a healthier and more united society.


Can we take inspiration from Bhutan and work together to foster a culture that values well-being and happiness over material success? The future of our children and our communities may depend on it.


And on a lighter note...perhaps Elon Musk might donate part of his $56B pay package to help us accomplish all this? It was a busy week!


Yours in Health,


Mary Ellen


References

  1. Surgeon General’s call for social media warning labels: NYT Article

  2. NYT Daily podcast on gun usage study: NYT Daily Podcast

  3. Richard Culatta’s LinkedIn post on cheating in schools: LinkedIn Post

  4. NYT Daily podcast on legal strategies for mass shooting victims: NYT Daily Podcast

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