Sunday, August 06, 2017

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

The article excerpted below does raise a real concern.  Children are moving even further away from the hunter-gatherer life that they are genetically programmed for. So the indications that smartphones have increased various sorts of mental illness are credible.

So the only question is what to do about it.  And the answer is fairly clear.  Parents have to step up to the plate and do active things with their children: Hiking, camping, sports etc.  Even taking them on to the rifle range would probably work well

We must however be careful about causes.  The upsurge in touchfone usage seems to have coincided roughly with an incredible upsurge of only marginally sane advice from influential Leftist sources. 

For instance, we hear a lot these days about people being "cis" this or that.  To be "cis" means to be happy in your own skin but there is apparently nothing worse than a "cis" male.  That awful creature is the source of all the world's woes. And in most ways boys have to become like girls to be approved of.  And the real heroes of society are the sexual deviants.  With young people on the receiving end of messages as addled as that, is it any wonder that anxiety and depression proliferate among the young? 

So simple outdoor activities may not help greatly with that. Close parental involvement with their children's education may be the only remedy. I will never understand why conservative parents pay good money to send their kids to the Leftist madrassas that the major universities have become

I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys.

Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.

At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys. The changes weren’t just in degree, but in kind. The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time. The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them.

What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior? It was after the Great Recession, which officially lasted from 2007 to 2009 and had a starker effect on Millennials trying to find a place in a sputtering economy. But it was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.

The more I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone.

The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

To those of us who fondly recall a more analog adolescence, this may seem foreign and troubling. The aim of generational study, however, is not to succumb to nostalgia for the way things used to be; it’s to understand how they are now. Some generational changes are positive, some are negative, and many are both. More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Even when a seismic event—a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud—plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

You might expect that teens spend so much time in these new spaces because it makes them happy, but most data suggest that it does not. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.


Transgender Activists Are Seeking to Undermine Parental Rights

Radical feminists aspire to revolutionize society in three ways.

First, they seek to eliminate the different ways boys and girls are socialized, so that they will come to have very similar characters and temperaments.

Second, they seek to cultivate financial and emotional independence of women and children from the family.

Third, they hope to erase sexual taboos, embracing new ways for individuals to achieve sexual satisfaction outside of monogamous, procreative marriage.

Winning public sanction for same-sex marriage was the last great feminist victory. Same-sex marriage undermined sex roles within marriage. It put children ever more outside the purpose of marriage. It reinforced the idea that all means of sexual satisfaction are equal.

Where will the radical feminist revolution roll to next?

The new field for the rolling revolution with the greatest possibilities is transgender rights, especially as applied to children.

Despite the accomplishments of radical feminism, the state has protected parents’ rights to raise their children. Children, after all, seem rightly under the charge of their parents, who provide personalized care for their development.

Parental rights are related to the age of consent, which states protect in order for children to give time and space to become mature, independent adults. Americans do not want their children overly sexualized, and they respect the right of parents to educate their children.

Transgender rights activists are seeking to abridge parental rights by elevating the independent choices of young children. Respecting the sexual and gender “choices” of ever-younger children erodes parental rights and compromises the integrity of the family as an independent unit.

This can be seen in the Canadian province of Ontario, which passed a law allowing state agencies to prevent families that will not affirm a child’s chosen “gender identity” from adopting or providing foster care to children.

Children in Ontario can now make life-altering decisions before the age of consent against their parents’ wishes.

But the principle in Ontario’s law has an even wider reach.

The bill’s chief advocate thinks that it is “child abuse” to deny a child’s chosen gender identity. If this principle guides the law, Canada would come to deny what all political communities have traditionally acknowledged: that birth parents direct the education of their children.

This is already playing out in Norway, where a new law allows the state to decide about gender reassignment for children as young as 6 years old when both parents cannot agree on the child’s gender.

American states such as Minnesota are now promoting the transgender ideology in elementary schools against the wishes of parents. They have made “gender identity” toolkits available to kindergarten teachers, so that 5-year-olds can learn to explore their identities.

These laws, and others like them, aim to make children independent of their parents and to bless their sexual exploration even at a young age. They undermine the foundation of educating children toward marriage and family life.

Under both of these scenarios, the line between the family and state comes to be drawn and redrawn by the state.

Once the state takes on this role, all civil society, including churches and private businesses, are vulnerable to its intrusions. The family will find it harder to function when its integrity is compromised.

Around half of American women of childbearing age do not have children, so parental rights will not in the future be respected because majorities of Americans are actually parents.

Those interested in securing parental rights must see these rights protected in law and promoted in public opinion, and more and more must come to see that the public interest is promoted through respecting parental rights even though they are not parents.

A respect for parental rights and childhood innocence are bulwarks against the advance of transgender ideology.


The Leftist hegemony

From Sean Gabb in Britain

When, back in 2007, I published my book Cultural Revolution, Culture War, I thought I was making an original contribution. Sadly, I had not yet read my American precursors – Paul Gottfried, for example – and I was reinventing the wheel. But I was original in the British context, and I have had much influence on conservative debate in Britain. The point I make in this book is that politics are downstream of culture. There is a cultural base, and this determines the political and social and economic superstructure. The bounds of what is acceptable in electoral politics are set by the media, by the schools and universities, by the churches, and by the general administration of the State. Anything outside these bounds is automatically “extreme,” and therefore unthinkable – or, at least, unsayable.

Now, these cultural forces have fallen entirely into the hands of the cultural leftists – I use this term for lack of anything more precise. Since about the 1960s, a hegemonic discourse has emerged in Britain, within which no conservative can flourish, and in which he can barely survive without making fatal compromises, or just keeping quiet. We can elect Conservative Governments. But these will be dominated by charlatans – I used to call them “Quisling Rightists.” They imply promises without actually making them. If forced to make promises, they will find ways to break them. If any Conservative politician tries to do something unambiguously conservative, he will be stopped by the cultural hegemons.

This is not a state of affairs unique to Britain. We see it in America. Somehow, and with much gritting of teeth, a moderate anti-leftist was elected President in November 2016. Since then, he has been blocked at every move. I will not discuss current American politics. My readers will know far more about these than I do. But it is plain that Donald Trump is more in office than in power.

The difference between our two countries is that most of the American cultural leftists are formally outside the control of the central government. In Britain, they are nearly all funded by the State. The BBC is our largest media organisation. It is funded by a licence fee set and collected by the State. Its senior management is appointed by the Government. The British film industry is mostly funded by the State. The universities are indirectly funded by the State, and its vice-chancellors are appointed by the Government. The big charities are largely funded by the State. The Church of England is a branch of the British State, and its bishops are appointed by the Prime Minister.

We have an immensely enlarged and centralised state apparatus. This is controlled by the cultural leftists, and all its satellites are therefore stuffed with cultural leftists. They form a critical mass of gatekeepers, rather like the ulema in a traditional Islamic state. Government is conducted by and with their consent. Elections are a formality in which the people are called on to answer questions asked by others.

But the fact of state funding is the weakness of this state of affairs. Unlike in America, total sovereignty is possessed by one institution. A majority of one in the House of Commons, and a clear electoral mandate allows the Government absolute and even arbitary power. So long as the formalities are observed, the courts cannot stand it its way. A government of conservatives could sweep away the cultural leftists in one fit of legislation or ministerial commands. Bodies that cannot be purged can be shut down. Tens of thousands of commissars and apparatchiks can be thrown out of work. Change the cultural base, and the bounds of what is acceptable within the political superstructure will change with it.

The Conservatives have been in government with a working majority since 2015 – 2010, if we take into account the coalition propped up by the increasingly captive Liberal Democrats. Yet nothing has been done. Nothing has even been done at the margins. Cultural leftists have retired from leading positions in the cultural base, and they have been replaced by other cultural leftists. The universities remain one vast Gramscian project. Anyone employed there is tied by what amount to loyalty oaths – and only those are employed who already wish to obey – and is required by law to spy on his students. The BBC sprays leftist propaganda without hindrance. The only question is how many women are employed to spray the propaganda, and how much they should be paid.

The Church ignores preaching the Gospel. It ignores the persecution of Christians here and elsewhere in the world. Instead, it is allowed to consume itself with arguments over the ordination of homosexuals and the solemnisation of marriage between homosexuals. On its days off from talking about sex, it preaches the virtues of an enlarged and centralised state – a state run by cultural leftists. I am not sure how many sees have fallen vacant since 2010, or how many other offices in the ultimate patronage of the Prime Minister. But I am sure not one has been filled by anyone remotely to be described as a conservative.

To say that the Conservatives have lost the cultural war is too kind. To say that they have not fought it is too kind. The truth is that most of them have shown no awareness that there ever was one to fight. Hardly surprising if the matter of how we are to leave the European Union cannot be discussed in the cold monochrome of purely British interests. Of course, there are other problems. These too cannot be properly discussed. If, by some freak of circumstances, they can be properly discussed, no workable solution is allowed to be put into action.

I never expected anything of a Conservative Government, and so I have no right to be disappointed if nothing has been delivered. But I am concerned. The ship of state is going at full steam towards an iceberg, and the crew in charge is made up of those unable to see the mountain that looms before us, and of those who believe that being pitched into ice-cold water is no more than we deserve, or is to their own advantage.

If things go other than very badly, I shall be surprised.


Some thoughts on the Scandinavian and Nordic Utopias

The following thoughts were provoked by Michael Booth's fascinating and enjoyable book 'The Almost Nearly Perfect People - Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia' Vintage, 2015.

The Financial Times used to have a Nordic Correspondent called William Dullforce, which always seemed to me to be rather unfair. Before you even read his reports, an image formed your mind of a blond giant, his frowning face set in profound thought and his hair streaming in an icy wind, wielding a huge hammer as he constructed vast articles which were both boring and forceful. I never met him, so for all I know he was a small, slight man with dark hair, who never hammered anything more weighty than a picture hook. But his articles were not dull, for the Nordic countries are not dull. Like Canada, often idiotically dismissed as boring, these small nations are fascinating and full of interest and unusual things.

In almost every argument about major social issues, the Nordic factor is advanced by one side or the other. I have seen it argued cogently that these countries are successful not because of their high taxes and colossal welfare systems, but because of their smallness, their homogeneity and their consensual societies, and the very high levels of trust which result from this. It is precisely this trust which enables them to demand such high taxes, in the expectation that they will not be thrown away on mad projects ( as ours tend to be).

In fact their economic performance, in many cases, has been damaged by the high-tax model. I think there is something in this, and I also think that recent immigration, especially in Sweden, may be about to change this picture completely. For such a small society, migration at this level (especially since so much of it comes from outside Europe) is surely going to be revolutionary.

The area is also full of political and historical anomalies. World War Two is full of strange moments. While Britain accepted the aid of the horrible Soviet despotism to fight off the threat of the horrible National Socialist tyranny, Finland did roughly the opposite, not-quite-allying with the Third Reich to fend off Stalin. A tone point there were minor hostilities between Finland and Britain as a result, in the far north, which is especially strange given that Britain had come within inches of sending troops to aid Finland against the USSR in 1940.

Sweden, now universally admired as a land of neutrality, social democracy, liberalism, niceness,  peace and brotherhood, discreetly opened its railway system to Hitler in 1940 and later, first to allow him to attack Norway, later to help him in his fight against the USSR. You may well ask what else they could have done, but Norway fought Hitler and Finland fought Stalin, when the odds were terrible. Sweden’s long, cruel  policy of sterilising those it regarded as unfit to reproduce is also pretty horrible.

And Denmark’s strange period as a German-ruled, yet Social Democratic state is one of the strangest kinks in modern European history.

But that’s not really the point of this article, which is about Michael Booth’s fascinating, funny and enlightening book ‘The Almost Nearly Perfect People – behind the myth of the Scandinavian Utopia’.(Vintage Books, £9-99) which I have recently read.

Mr Booth, who is married to a Dane, is a bit of a lefty and so the book isn’t exactly excoriating about the Nordic countries and peoples. I think he may be too kind to Finland’s ceaselessly over-rated schools. But it is knowledgeable, and amusing and often surprising, and he does feel able to criticise these strange societies. I can thoroughly recommend it.

But the reason for this posting is an astonishing passage in his chapter son Sweden, the dominant Nordic country, which he saves to the end. He is very funny about the Swedes, especially an experiment in which he tries to provoke them by behaving in an utterly unSwedish manner in various situations.

But on pages 357 to 360 he produces one of those blinding-light moments that finally link up and solidify long strands of thought. This comes just after a disturbing passage on Sweden’s ugly experiments in the eugenic movement and its inexcusable forced sterilisation of supposedly inferior types, which continued even after World War Two. This is worth breading because in Britain and the USA the embarrassing association of the enlightened left with eugenics is now largely forgotten, or concealed. He quotes a Swedish historian, Ulf Nilson, as saying ‘They really thought that by eliminating the inferior unborn, a cleaner, healthier race would gradually be produced’. Now, of course, we associate such ideas only with the racialist utopians of the Third Reich. But we are mistaken. What else might we be mistaken about?

Well, here it comes. Mr Booth then moves on to nice, Social Democratic Sweden’s’ modern adventures in what some would see as Utopian totalitarianism, its habit of snatching away large numbers of children from homes it disapproves of. He says this was often for ‘spurious, even ideological reasons’. Does this sound at all familiar?

He quotes a Swedish journalist, Brita Sundberg-Weitman , who wrote ‘This is a country where the authorities can forcibly separate a child form its parents to prevent them from giving it a privileged upbringing’.   In Sweden this got very much out of hand in the 1960s and 1970s. There is some evidence that the forcible removal of children from their parents is now ouyt of hand in Britain, too.  Michael Booth, in a very balanced way, complains 1) that modern-day Sweden can be astonishingly hard on a transgender person (read the book to find out how hard, though I am pretty sure this must have been changed by now) and 2) he sympathises with ‘ a Swedish mother [who wants] to stay at home with your young child, but [finds herself] accused of being old-fashioned, a traitor to feminism’.

But here comes the kick to the groin: Michael Booth concludes that Swedish Social Democracy  'was driven by one single, over-arching goal; to sever the traditional, some would say natural, ties between its citizens, be they those that bound children to their parents, workers to their employers, wives to their husbands or the elderly to their families. Instead, individuals were encouraged - mostly by financial incentive or disincentive, but also through legislation, propaganda and social pressure - to ‘take their place in the collective’, as one commentator rather ominously put it, and become dependent on the government’.

But he notes that this can also be truthfully described as liberating Swedish citizens from each other allowing them to become autonomous entities. 

But of course (and this conclusion is mainly me)  they are only autonomous within the embrace of the strong state, which substitutes itself for family, employer and all other social ties, and seizes most of their wealth in return for requiring a loyalty and submission as great as any imposed in feudal times, in return for ‘social protection’. Thus did the peasant whose hovel lay in the shadow of his Lord; castle offer up his fealty in return for safety.

He quotes the Swedish author Henrik Berggren:

‘The Swedish system is best understood not in terms of socialism but in terms of Rousseau…Rousseau was an extreme egalitarian and he really hated any kind of dependence – depending on other people destroyed your integrity, your authenticity – therefore the ideal situation was one where evry citizen was an atom separated form all the other atoms…The Swedish system’s logic is that it is dangerous to be dependent on other people, to be beholden to other people. Even to your family’.

Egalitarianism, the unshakeable dogma of our time, set loose in the 18th century by the French Revolution, and still prowling to and fro, seeking whom it may devour, even now ruining the educations of thousands of children near you, far more enduring and persistent than its close relatives, socialism and communism. Why cannot reasonable conservatism defeat it once and for all?

There’s an interesting mention here of the fact that Germany (probably one of the last socially conservative, pro-family major states in the world, and for how much longer?) funnels its welfare through the family, whereas Sweden's state provides its largesse directly to the individual, bypassing family.

And here was the blinding light. Here was where the stern paternal authoritarianism of modern egalitarianism met the stroppy 'libertarian' individualism of the post-1960s generations. There was no conflict. There was in fact an alliance.

I had a major epiphany in 1990-91, living in Moscow, when I realised that the real profound difference between Soviet life and my own life up till then in the Britain which existed between 1950 and 1990, was that in the USSR the state was ferociously strong and the married family (what was left of it) broken and weak, and that this was deliberate and conscious. The other differences,  in state ownership of the economy and even in personal liberty, were superficial compared with this. In fact, it seemed to me that the state’s demand for mental submission was part of its war on private life and family life, rather than the other way round. Hence my near-obsession with the sinister cult (barely noticed by most foreign visitors to the USSR)  of Pavlik Morozov, the mythical child revered for denouncing his own parents to the secret police.

And when I came, a few years later, to write my book The Abolition of Britain  and several subsequent books on the same general subject, it was this conflict between private life and the married family on one side and the cold, parental all-encompassing state that was the real battle. Who cared about nationalisation or trade unions? This was the issue, the conflict whose outcome would decide all our futures..

And then came the great and growing explosion of popular atheism, and the open surrender of the state to drugtaking. What were all these things about? Why, personal autonomy. Their central slogan was ‘I can do what I like with my own body and nobody can stop me. How dare you tell me what I can do with it?’

The paradox, well understood by Aldous Huxley, is that the person who proudly yells this battle cry also meekly accepts   that in return he must surrender his mind, his privacy and his wealth to the power of the parental state.

In Michael Booth’s book, it all came together in an intentional, deliberate pattern. These things are connected. And it is the absence of the Christian conscience which makes them possible, and which is their enemy and rival. The new all-powerful parental state, the war against the married family, the scorn for conscience, the loud demand for personal autonomy and the rage against those who suggest it is in any way limited by morality or law, are all one cause, reborn in the West since the collapse of the USSR and advancing fast on all fronts.  I saw it in Moscow and after my return from there, but instinctively. As so often, my instincts were right, and it has taken long years for my understanding and knowledge to catch up with them

When I was researching The Abolition of Britain,  I often found that quotations in various books and articles were incredible. How could such and such a person have actually said anything so brutally honest and thus so risky to his or her own cause? So I would nervously track them down to their sources, and was repeatedly amazed to find them accurate. It is one of the great joys of research. The one I was most amazed by, and the one I still wonder about is about the parental state.  As I wrote here some years ago:

‘Still to be found in the archives of The Times for February 1980 is a letter from Helen Brook, who spent much of her life obsessively pressing contraceptives first on unmarried women, then on schoolchildren. The triumph of her creepy beliefs has brought about a pandemic of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, the very things she claimed to be preventing.

‘She let her real aim be known when she wagged her finger warningly at those who dared get in her way, hissing: ‘From birth till death it is now the privilege of the parental State to take major decisions - objective, unemotional, the State weighs up what is best for the child.’

She knew power was on her side.

When, back in 1967, she offered contraceptive 'help' to under-age girls - behind the backs of their parents and their GPs - most normal people viewed her actions as shocking. In 1995 (under a Tory government, of course) she got the CBE. Now her view is the law of the land.’

And next?



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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