Are Smartphones making our children mentally ill?

Are Smartphones making our children mentally ill? This sensationalized headline above the March 21 story by Peter Stanford of the London Telegraph is a prime example of the principle in media that you get their attention any way you can- facts will follow later (usually much later, or not at all). Interest mounted quickly as thousands of outlets ran with the story. The media frenzy was not because it revealed any great previously unknown secret to saving our children; but simply a recognition by outlets that the headline would sell papers and light up the phone lines. Translation: circulation up, ad revenues up, business model secure.

I will not use this reality to attack capitalism or to impugn journalistic resourcefulness. My caution is not to the media outlets or the journalists scrapping it out for attention anywhere they can find it. Media overstatement or even downright fabrication has been with us for many years.

When I first heard the headline and the accompanying talk radio commentary, I was prepared to launch immediately into a tirade against such a ridiculous assertion by obviously intellectually deficient liberal psychoanalyst. Then I actually read the story.

The subject of the Telegraph piece, Julie Lynn Evans is concerned about the explosion of suicide and other traumatic events in the lives of teenagers in the past ten years. Ms. Evans does note the correlation of smart phones and internet access with this rise, but she by no means makes the leap to labeling technology as the culprit. She does however make a completely valid argument for greater intervention by parents and caregivers in the technological lives of youngsters.

While there is a stark correlation between rapid increase in technology and negative outcomes for teenagers, one of the first things we are supposed to learn in statistical analysis is that correlation is not causation. The article detailing Ms. Evans’ concerns makes it crystal clear that she understands that.

The irrationality arises when over-zealous media personalities deliberately hype the headline and then proceed to make up their own story to fit the narrative they want to promote to light up their own switchboards and websites. Again, I have no argument with the free pursuit of capitalism, but it is imperative that we as consumers take time to evaluate the information we receive and form logical conclusions based on facts.

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