Here we go again. Another BBC News Headline and Fooyah goes off on one to deride the state of news. But first let me tell you where my biases lie.
I have recently decided to stop scanning my general Twitter feed. I follow about a thousand feeds on that account and a lot of them revolve around my interests of religion,
airplanes aeroplanes, science and politics. Given what Donald Trump says and could possibly do after the 20th along with how that affects my interests you can imagine that my twitter feed is filled with horror. Even last year during the post-Brexit week I found that twitter was feeding the news I wanted while the traditional BBC site and radio news wasn’t giving me the detail I wanted. I felt I wanted to know everything that happened when it happened.
I have started to recognise that this was becoming an obsession. Constantly wanting to check Twitter. Missing parts of TV
shows programmes because I was looking at my feed. I was starting to miss out on peace, on enjoying concentrating. I have now stopped looking at that particular feed. I use my normal account highlighted down the right hand side of this site because that feed has only friends and twitter is one of the methods I stay in touch with some friends. I don’t officially do Faceshit so that doesn’t really matter.
From now on I am going to get my news in manageable chunks by listening to the radio and occasionally browsing the BBC website. I gave up TV news a long time ago as I couldn’t cope with the forced human interest narrative they assigned to every story. The human interest of news didn’t affect me, I want to know the news behind the story, not the “this made Chloe from Bakersfield miss her train”.
I watched this video after my decision, it was sent to me by a friend and while I have some criticisms of the things said in the video I felt some of it applied to me and I am far from a millennial.
I do have some issues with some of the things he says and I am definitely not convinced he is right about everything but it is very interesting. I could see some of these behaviours in myself and so decided to change my behaviour to be more positive to my life. One of my current issues was feeling anger at all the Trump tweets or news items and being powerless to affect them in any way. By ignoring them I hope to gain some sense of control and happiness over those parts of my life. I can get on with my life largely as it is and just calmly wait for the end-times.
I have become largely convinced that mobile devices need to be banned in schools. Not because I am a nasty bastard but because we have a SOCIAL DUTY to teach children to concentrate on tasks that last longer than a few minutes. The young need to learn to be able to delay reward. They are in a system where I want them to learn during all my lessons in a week and the pay off is years away in their examination results, in their choice on university and in the pay of their future careers. I don’t have a science study to back this up but I do think we are doing a disservice to the young because they expect reward constantly.
Oh, but they can play computer games and concentrate for hours.
Yes and no. They are constantly rewarded while playing computer games. The tasks are short term and the rewards are built in regularly to make the kids feel good. This is the equivalent of checking an answer in the back of a maths text book and seeing that you got it right. That little hit of success. One of these is “fun” and the other takes place in a structured lesson where the ultimate pay off is years away.
A student I taught a few years ago who, in the run up to his exams, took his phone, turned it off and placed it in a plastic bag which he kept on him for emergency purposes. He did this for three months. He recognised the distraction that his phone is. It doesn’t matter if you find out something has happened 2 minutes after the event or 5 hours after the event. It’s the same thing that has happened. That kid got As and A* at A Level and now studies at a top university.
Look, I love my phone and I like my console and this computer where I am currently typing. I don’t want to throw them away. But I do think there are serious sociological problems that need to be faced. We are failing the youth by not preparing them to concentrate persistently at a task with a delayed reward.
Now, I’m not very good at reading science papers. I have tried and find the language very dense and deliberately obscure. Given my interest in REAL THINGS learning how to read science papers is probably a good thing. I found the original paper from where these headlines derive. It is linked here. The PDF can be found here, or below.
I just want to cover some of my observations from reading the paper before writing about the news articles.
A Large-Scale Test of the Goldilocks Hypothesis: Quantifying the Relations Between Digital-Screen Use and the Mental Well-Being of Adolescents
This paper was a test of the Goldilocks Hypothesis [bullshit name making it seem acceptable or a good thing even though it’s a happy story about a fucking thief]. This paper is to test the happiness-screen time hypothesis. It doesn’t set out to find out if screen time makes teenagers happier than not having screen time. It doesn’t have a control group. All it does is see whether the youngsters have an ideal happiness-screen time relationship. It could have found out that 20 hours a a day was the ultimate happiness value.
Most of the paper talks about the regression curve they decided would fit and how they tested that. Essentially they found an upper limit in the curve.
The number of students used in the study was large. All the data was self-reported and that can cause issues of under-reporting of negative trends. This paper didn’t seek to find out how much happier students were before and after. All they looked into was the happiness of students compared to how much screen time they have. There’s no before and after. There’s no analysis of how increasing or decreasing screen time affects individuals. It could be imagined that deliberately affecting the well being of teenagers negatively would be immoral.
This study sought to confirm a previous hypothesis that a quadratic curve could be used to fit to the data and that from that there would be a maximum [inflexion in the paper]. It didn’t seek to find out anything else.
This study seeks to inform future studies and has nothing to do with optimum time to get students the most well-being. It just modelled that. There were no controls. We do NOT know from this study what happens if a student stops using their phone and does other stuff. This study wasn’t about that. It’s not a before and after study. It’s a study about now.
Interesting, but also obvious, was that different digital activities had different effects on well-being. Being on a phone has a lower time than watching TV. They are very different activities.
The study also says that they did not look into whether academic work was affected or what the possible outcomes are with high or low digital device usage. This study JUST looked at modelling the Goldilocks Hypothesis. My instinct is that the Goldilocks Hypothesis probably exists for most things. Want to eat chocolate? Have a certain amount to get most well-being feeling. Want to exercise? A certain amount will maximise your well-being score, and so on.
So, now a few quotes from the BBC article.
Moderate screen use ‘boosts teen wellbeing’
NOT what the paper says. The paper did NOT compare before and after, just what exists now. They are very different things.
They found a “Goldilocks effect” where a few hours of device-use seemed to boost mental wellbeing.
They were testing for the Goldilocks effect. They didn’t discover it. Their aim was to model it mathematically. Again, BOOST, no it doesn’t say that. Boost implies a before and after effect which was not measured by this study.
In addition, the first hour or two of screen time was actually associated with an increase in mental wellbeing for those using computers, smartphones, video games and watching TV or films.
FFS, not an increase just what is. IF I HAVE THIS WRONG PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I am not expert in reading science papers. Have a look yourself and tell me.
The BBC article is pretty bad but there are redeeming features to the article and even they explain that this paper confirms the hypothesis. It’s good to have some science about these things but the NEWS can’t report it very well. And we wonder why there are issues with fake-news and this being a post-truth world.
I need a few deep breaths now as I take some quotes from the Daily Shit article. I can’t read the whole thing without encountering a rage so I will rely on the bullet points at the top of the article.
Researchers found there is little evidence screen time damages teenagers
NOT what they were looking for. The study was to confirm the Goldilocks Effect. We would need a CONTROL group to decide if damage is done.
The found that, in fact, 257 minutes on a computer is beneficial for them
No, it didn’t. See above.
It is the ‘sweet spot’ when teens have had enough time to develop online skills
No, it doesn’t say that. For fucks sake. If we trained teenagers in developing internet skills properly they would soon realise that the DM website is full of shit.
I’m done. If I tried I expect I could take the whole DM article and pull nearly every sentence apart. The main problem is I don’t want to. I don’t want to read that shit. It’s misleading. The BBC article was misleading but not as bad. It was still misleading.
No wonder we have problems with people trusting the news and sources. No wonder they want to listen to “news” that agrees with their own narrative about how the world works rather than challenge their own understanding. I try to be unbiased in my understanding of the world. I try to give weight to things that disagree with my perception of the world because it challenges me and because, as a human, I am incredibly unable to decide what it correct or true. That’s why science developed. It’s why there are true investigative reporters. The world should be able to cope with REALITY even if they fundamentally oppose what that reality is. We should be accepting of things that challenge us and make us think but ultimately make us more aware of what is really going on.
After all, isn’t the truth what we seek?
Let’s have another look at that graph:
I don’t know about you but a peak happiness going from 47 to 48.5 or so doesn’t seem impressive. Also, we don’t know how many students were at each level, so we don’t know how many students were at the zero hours per day level [I was sure I read this in the paper but can’t now see it].
Also, 20% of students reported more than 12 hours a day engagement.
it was clear that many participants had reported
simultaneous screen use; approximately 20% of the sample
reported a sum of more than 12 hr of engagement on
weekdays, and 35% of the sample reported a total of
more than 12 hr on weekend days
Fuck! These poor kids. We need some serious intervention so we are able to help these people in society as a whole, so they can develop friendships, so they can function.