The founder of an internet safety initiative warned Catholic school teachers and administrators April 20 about the appeal and impact of social media on today’s students.
Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes, told participants at the annual conference of the National Catholic Educational Association in New Orleans that the world has changed for children because digital technology has been designed slickly to grab kids’ attention and keep them hooked….
“Please try not to start another conversation, ‘When I was a kid …’ because if TikTok existed when you were a kid, you would’ve been addicted, too,” said McKenna, a father of four.
“When I see a young boy who’s looking at porn and he says he can’t stop, I look at him and say, ‘That’s not all your fault.’ … To me, it is a perfectly predictable response to a perfectly tuned machine. You would have done it, too.”
Contrary to the common wisdom that kids are “resilient,” McKenna said that while children with developing brains are “incredibly adaptive,” the bottom line is that “trauma is trauma.”
“We live in a time, with digital doorways everywhere, where the opportunities for trauma to our young people are more prevalent than ever,” he said, noting that the digital pornography today is of a type far removed from the “2D” pornography of the 1970s….
McKenna said he was exposed to pornography as a child, which led to an addiction.
“I know what it’s like to not be able to stop clicking, with an adult brain that supposedly had a prefrontal cortex that knew better,” he said.
When he explained brain chemistry to a mother whose churchgoing, lovable son was addicted to porn, McKenna told her it was nothing she had done wrong as a parent….
“The brain operates according to a very simple principle: Whatever I feed my precious brain is what it learns to love, especially before age 16, and this is exactly when we give them all of their technology,” he said.
The technology of platforms such as YouTube — the most popular app with kids — TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram know the adolescent brain “full well.”
Snapchat does something very enticing to grab kids’ attention: A feature called “Snapstreak” provides additional rewards for keeping a daily chat going with another user.
McKenna said Snapchat developers have “figured out” that breaking the streak causes stress, and “if I’m a young person, I’m stressed out about losing that streak.” A hormone released inside the brain nudges the teen to release that stress by returning to the “safety” of Snapchat.
TikTok’s algorithm, McKenna said, “is like nothing else I have experienced on earth.” He said he found himself unconsciously intrigued by a video of a woman harvesting bees and he watched related videos for 90 minutes.
“All this means our kids can’t pay attention to anything longer than about five seconds,” McKenna said….
The above comes from an April 21 posting on Angelus News.