The nation’s love-hate relationship with social media and the internet has taken many turns over the last 15 years or so.
We love various apps and sites when we’re building relationships with friends and family or finding life-saving medical information. We hate them when they seem overrun with bullies and wacky conspiracy theorists.
Instagram, for example, can harm teen’s mental health, according to a former Facebook manager turned whistleblower who cited Facebook’s own research. Schools are now on alert because of “challenges” on the video-sharing app TikTok that lead students to vandalize restrooms and more.
In Summit County, Ohio, officials are forced to remind kids that stealing or smashing school property as part of the “devious licks” challenge is a crime. Copley High School officials told parents they might shut down some restrooms so that it would be easier to monitor any vandalism inspired by the trend.
And then there’s cyberbullying – a 2019 federal study says almost 16% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months before the survey.
Lastly, let’s not forget misinformation. Online lies about the 2020 election and COVID-19 have killed – note the loss of life at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and the continuing spread of the deadly virus.
Social media sites sometimes are like the wild West, a dangerous place.
So, it’s a good thing local students can relax with a good book in the school library.
Oh, wait, that’s not safe either. At least not according to some parents and “concerned citizens.”
Having no way to tackle the real monster in kids’ lives – social media – they bark at school boards about books.
Never mind that the “devious licks” videos get hundreds of millions of views. Tempers are rising about the printed word, something people tell us all the time is a dying form.
In Hudson, Ohio, three books came under fire, and in response, they have been removed from high school library shelves.
The district is looking at how books are added to the library collection.
The prize-winning “Lawn Boy” was among the books criticized at the Hudson school board meeting Sept. 27.
The Young Adult Library Services Association, in giving “Lawn Boy” an Alex Award, says the struggle of the main character “is familiar and heartbreaking, and it’s impossible not to root for him as he chases the elusive American Dream.”
We’re not sure the average teen has heard of Jonathan Evison’s acclaimed book.
The Hudson woman complaining about “Lawn Boy” said she was moved to have her son look for it in the school library after hearing news reports that parents elsewhere were objecting to it. At the school board meeting, she read aloud passages about sexual contact between two males and a crude joke about gay men.
We wonder about context in the 320-page book, and also question whether many young students are going to paw through the book in the hope of finding lewd content.
More obviously out-of-line with old-fashioned community values are the graphic novels “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by Maia Kobabe, and “A Girl on the Shore,” by Inio Asano. These were also removed from Hudson school shelves.
Anyone interested in pornography can readily find it on the internet, not one or two drawings or a few paragraphs, but billions of images.
We agree with the idea that libraries must take risks and introduce new books to help turn kids into lifelong readers.
The presence of these three books doesn’t mean Hudson is failing its children. Everyone, we’re sure, has survived walking past the shelves that held these books.
The larger issue so many children will face is social media – and here there is no easy fix.
Even those parents who try to limit their children’s time on electronic devices or monitor what they see can’t be 100% effective. Other students can still pass around their phones to share sleazy music videos.
Urging Congress and federal regulators to pressure giant tech companies, is the usual advice. With the testimony of Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, there is renewed urgency.
Will our local lawmakers state their support for meaningful changes and get the community behind them? We need more debate about real issues, rather than more outrage about masks, vaccines and books.
Now here’s a challenge worth undertaking.