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Schools opened, suicide attempts in girls skyrocketed (bulletin.com)
259 points by aaronbrethorst 54 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 260 comments

There was something very off before the pandemic. Girls were already diverging sharply from the historical norm and from boys over the last few years: https://els-jbs-prod-cdn.jbs.elsevierhealth.com/cms/attachme... "Sex- and Age-specific Increases in Suicide Attempts by Self-Poisoning in the United States among Youth and Young Adults from 2000 to 2018". It's disproportionately a specific method (poisoning) and it is gender-localized and somewhat social class-localized. This hints at a social contagion.

Instagram was founded in 2010.

I am not disagreeing but I am interested to know which specific factors make it so different from things in the past. I remember growing up and the boogeyman was sexualized videos on MTV and violent video games. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t quite believe it now. Not to say I don’t believe social media has negative impacts but this is a pretty sharp rise.

It also coincided with the post-2009 financial crisis. Could be more financially unstable households. Could be a feeling if being left behind as pressure to excel academically and socially increased due to a desire to get into better schools for some financial security. I don’t know. Just throwing out other hypotheses.

> I remember growing up and the boogeyman was sexualized videos on MTV and violent video games

Ironically, I think that generation may have been more or less right about the imagery being a negative, but wrong about the mechanism by which it works on us negatively.

Sexualized imagery does not turn boys into rapists. But it does seem to promote body image insecurity, social status worries, and general anxiety, in those who see it, particularly those of the same sex, and where the person is seen as desirable to emulate. Violence in the media, also, probably doesn't make us violent. But it may well skew how accurately we estimate the likelihood of interpersonal violence. Quite a few studies hint at a link between how terrified someone is of being murdered and how much gory TV they watch, basically.

t;ldr: instead of turning us into sex-crazed impulsives like feared, it turned us into sex-hating neurotics.

You don't need old school MTV to find this. Just go to a grocery store and see all the women's magazines that promote insecurities. It's an entire business model. Female editors are presumably highly represented at these magazines and they don't seem to have a problem with the destruction they wreak.

Yes, but these magazines are something you have to actively buy and read. As the uncle of three girls I'd say what has more impact is peer pressure in social media. Girls from your class/school displaying images of themselves fulfilling certain body stereotypes. Seeing the same images in advertisements makes things only worse.

Putting female people into certain position doesn't turn them automatically into liberal challengers of the status quo, who rationally question the things they learned their whole life, certain kinds of pressure comes in the worst forms from other women (mother, grandmother, aunts, colleagues, etc).

E.g. if you are a girl in a typical family in Italy cutting your hair short, getting a tattoo, or not wearing a bra is something your relatives definitly will mention negatively to you. The only reason being that they have an idealized image of what a woman must look like to be a "propper woman". If you don't look like that they might think you are a lesbian, have psychological problems or similar silly causal connections.

The thorny issue is that your 3 examples might reduce that girl's chances on the dating market, so it might even be reasonable for her relatives to attempt to support her in obtaining a high quality partner.

I'd say the critical part wrt suicides is not that people are competing for attention from the opposite sex, because that has been around for a million years. The critical new aspect is that people are now grossly underestimating their relative standing. And that's because social media makes the one pretty outlier actress from the other side of the globe feel personal and acessible, which tricks us into treating them like a valid comparison point even though most high school girls will never need to compete against a Hollywood actress on looks, because the latter one is unavailable to all of her male classmates anyway.

> most high school girls will never need to compete against a Hollywood actress on looks, because the latter one is unavailable to all of her male classmates anyway.

Is this actually true?

Just because the hollywood access (or porn star) is unavailable doesn’t mean the male classmates are behaving that way.

> Female editors are presumably highly represented at these magazines and they don't seem to have a problem with the destruction they wreak.

Regardless of gender, the people that rise to the top tend to be sociopathic…

All 1-4% of them...

The insinuation that anyone who rises to the top of an organisation must be sociopathic is dillusional.

Yes, there is a higher incidence at the CEO level, traits that help you in a role also help you get there, go figure, but the idea all leaders are sociopaths is a huge stretch based off nothing but your own bias and distain for anyone high up in a power structure, that seems to be going around right now.

> 1-4%

Citation needed, as well as a fully qualified definition of "organisation". It's not fair to equate the leader of the local farming co-op with the editorial head of a major newsgathering (or in present-times: news-aggregation) corporation.

Is there any reason that sociopathy can't exist on a spectrum, and why 1-4% of the population couldn't be somewhere on it? What's the state of research in this area?

Previously, media showed others who were severely removed from the reality of one’s day. Today, media shows you people closer to you, its a presentation of who you know. No longer is it disconnected from your reality, but it is your reality. Social media has sort of changed media consumption from a window into a mirror... and staring at oneself all day long is either gonna make you a narcissist or absolutely hate yourself.

Now take the world of a teenager, which is already small, and blast it at them 24/7 full force. Imagine the insane bullshit you see from adults on social media trying to distort reality... now imagine how extreme a child could be imitating those same adults. The big difference being we (adults) don’t then have to go spend eight hours around some crazy asshole. These kids do. It’s haunting.

Social media seems less social the long we have it. I think “petty media” would have been a better term and communicated its relative importance in our lives much better.

I think the difference is that the MTV sexuality scare was predicated on the belief that sexualized videos would normalize sexualization in youth with negative consequences, whereas in social media applications create the incentive structures for that behavior to thrive.

I assume the fear was girls would sexualize themselves because of what they saw was popular on MTV, which they believed would make them popular as well. I guess the big difference is that girls that sexualized themselves at that time never had an access to large audiences without perceived consequences like girls do on social media today.

I don't think depicting violence in video games is similar because I would say the violent aspect of games isn't the defining aspect of the content that people want to emulate. For example all the video game streamers and influencers, like girls who sexualize themselves, generally want the popularity, and the popularity is derived from being good at the games (or being the entertainer), not by being violent or emulating the violence from games, whereas the popularity of sex symbols is inherently their sexuality. It was starting with internet chat rooms, but there was really no way to broadcast your sexuality to thousands of people back then without exposing yourself to risks like doing it in the public. Social media both removed these risks by creating a physical separation between the audience and the person sexualizing themselves, and provided an audience that provides the attention that those sexualizing themselves desire. It sort of created the missing pieces for the incentive structures that reinforce the behaviors.

It isn't just sexualization too, social media has allowed many communities that were either too niche or 'undesirable' to thrive in offline communities to flourish and become normalized over time.

The problem now is the feedback and amplification provided by the social media platforms. It is an actual slippery slope as opposed to a fallacious one. People are pushed to go further and further to gratify the urges of others for validation proxies in the form of internet points. (Followers, likes, and eventually money.)

There's a reason that the execs at most of those social media companies don't let their kids use their own product. Something we've seen from tobacco execs in the past.

Yeah, like a lot of large industries, big tech exploits the value of data and the erosion of privacy for profit while outsourcing the social costs for someone else to solve. Almost by design they have created something too big to control.

The mistake that was made with video games is that you do not have to live out the fantasy in the real world. If playing a violent video game makes people more video game violent then they will keep committing more video game violence ... inside video games. I will go one step further and say that video games let you video game sexualize yourself the same way you commit video game violence. Case in point: All the female player characters played by men to scam other men in MMOs.

The problem with social media is that it is not a game. It's real life.

TV and other media is easy to tell fact from fiction. TV is obviously fake. Social media blurs the line.

Ordinary but attractive humans curate, stage, and edit snippets of perfect lives. Bleeding edge algorithms inject these false realities into our subconscious.


My friends 16-year-old daughter posts photos from a completely different reality if you didn't know her personally.

She posts glamour shots of her and her friends doing all the silly Instagram model stuff you see, in locations like beaches, in front of Disneyland (She just took a picture in front of it, it wasn't even OPEN) etc. And somehow she always looks thin.

The reality is, her family was pretty hard hit financially by COVID-- and that she's a kinda dumpy teenager whose flunking out of High school. Literally a D and F student.

But she has 700 followers on instagram.

EDIT: I just remembered I have a friend whose a minor fitness celebrity and its the same thing with him. He posts photos of him doing all this wonderful stuff, driving an expensive car (which I know is a rental). I help him with his website sometimes and he questions me about his hosting costs (less than $200/yr) and asks if its necessary it cost that much. So he can't really have much money or glamour in his life.

The self-esteem movement many of us millennials grew up with feels like it has largely the same motivations as all the corporate-sponsored mindfulness initiatives that are in vogue now. It's a way to shift responsibility for dealing with a shitty environment to individuals, instead of fixing the environment. If you have low self-esteem it becomes your problem to fix, maybe you should try these SSRIs, surely it can't be the fact that everything costs 5x what it used to and wages have stayed flat.

The new buzzword in private school now is "resilience", which I feel like is tacit acknowledgement that kids need to deal with things sucking in the future.

Self esteem (1990 - 2000s) = denial: "I don't feel bad!" Resilience (2010 -) = anger: "I feel bad, but I'll fight and come back stronger!"

Maybe the future pattern will be as follows:

"Solution-driven" = bargaining: "I feel bad and here's what you can do so I feel better" "Pragmatic" = depression: "I feel bad and I should feel bad" "Peaceful warrior" = acceptance: "I feel bad and that's normal when the world is a post-apocalyptic nightmare in 2060"

I am sure there are myriad reasons, and surely the underlying fact of income/wealth/security gap widening plays a role in all of the change we are seeing.

But I would posit that it is possible that constant exposure to people in your network's achievements (or appearances thereof) can elicit emotions that have negative consequences over long periods of time. I think tribal species probably have an innate function of trying to sort and rank members for various purposes, and maybe that program can get overloaded.

I think a lot of this might be projection from the HN community. How is this even relevant to schools opening? It seems obvious that forcing kids to wake up at 7:30 to go to a conveniently free and "safe" underfunded facility so both parents can work yet still not make ends meet is the actual culprit. The gender difference is notable, but kids and young girls are very cruel to each other, especially when packed together in close proximity.

> Could be more financially unstable households.

In my schooling experience I don't think I remember there being a correlation between household wealth and mental health issues. There were poor kids who didn't engage at all with the stress of preparing for the future and therefore had a great time in middle / high school (their suffering came later...) and many kids with richer parents who put them through grueling schooling regimens, with very high standards and conditional love, which led to lots of problems with anxiety / depression.

I think a lot of problems came from the remote schooling being really bad for time management. Kids got bad grades, felt like their lives were ruined. This is something I think is happening a lot.

If you really want to see "who" is most affected by this, divide it up by state and income. If we see that most states align with this, we could attribute it to your statement. However, if it's solely based on income, then higher income states will outweigh lower income ones and we'd be able to pinpoint it to affluence and the pressures of innadequacy.

That definitely looks like an impactful year from the graphs there.

I think if I had kids I wouldn’t let them on such sites until 16/17 or never. Granted, I have a strong opinion against social media before this data.

How would you handle it if they begged, pleaded, and explained how all their friends use it and it'd be social ostracism to not use it?

I'm not a parent yet but I dread this situation. I'm good at denying urges personally, so I'd tell them desire is a constant part of life, we can't always get what we crave. Further, I'd state actual facts about girls mental health, they will see and be exposed to unhealthy mindsets on this app.

Some good that'll do. When I have kids, it'll be "dad, why can't we join the VR orgy party? It's not real sex!"

This is totally anecdotal but I have 3 teenagers and I think the most important thing is keeping up with what's going on in their lives and taking an active interest in making sure they are emotionally equipped to deal with the problems that come up.

Teens are just people with very little experience dealing with their seemingly huge amounts of emotion so parents should help them process. We can't protect them from everything so trying to just hide the bad stuff is not going to work, folks will grow up without the tools to deal with it when things go wrong.

Keeping up with what's going on and jumping in when they get stuck, either because the situation is overwhelming, they don't have the proper tools, or they're just putting too much weight on their shoulders, is super valuable.

Unfortunately, with all of the pressures of daily life, combined with the struggles of folks in lower socio-economic environments, lots of people do not have enough time or surplus emotional budget to give it the proper attention, they're just trying to survive.

I have two teens and I like to say that they live in an antique arena. This is a large flat place, with high walls.

In normal words it means that they have a lot of freedom and I am not particularly bitchy about that. I tell them they have to go to bed but I do not care too much if they do when on vacation. One day I will get mad and force them to do that, and they know what they did wrong and that this is the"punition". They usually come, beg a bit and I let go.

So they know that there is a lot of vagueness about the "rules" within this area, which they make use of. Also the fact that they have two parents and when they get a "no" from one, they may get a "yes" from the other (and the first one would not care)

Then come the walls. The walls are rigid and extremely strong. They know that they must not try to break them, because terrible things will happen. The most terrible thing would be a loss of trust - something they do not want. They know that we trust them and that the whole flat area above is because of that.

They also know that they can come to us with questions, to which they will always receive an answer. Some of which they will agree with, some not. There are no taboo topics (though some were complicated, when the older one asked me what a whore is (or later, what cunnillingus is) at the ripe age of 10, and the younger one (8 at that time) ran with a chair from the other room to be part of the audience...).

They also know that they can talk with us about things they will do someday - and how to do them safely. Sex is an obvious one, but also alcohol. The younger one (14) told me today that he would like to try how it feels to be drunk when he is 18. I told him that they are risks and that he must be very careful. To what he said "at home of course! with you around just in case!". I hope it will be this way but I listed the risks anyway.

Now that I think of it, we do not even exactly know what the walls are. Certainly things like theft, but they are so remote from our ethics that we do not list them.

> making sure they are emotionally equipped to deal with the problems that come up

This is a terrifyingly difficult prospect. I guess almost nobody in the world is so well equipped for that. There are really hard problems that nobody can "deal" with alone, like the death of loved ones, or social ostracism from your whole peer group. No matter how "well equipped" you are, some things may be simply overwhelming.

EDIT: I learned this the hard way. I am well off economically and emotionally, always had a cushioned life, I became the father in a happy family, really felt totally invincible. But something happened at the age of 41 (sudden death of my dad, in very bad circumstances) that I was not prepared at all to deal with. I used to mock people who couldn't cope with their own problems, but as an adult I learned that some problems may be really too big to rationalize off. I guess many teenagers find themselves in such difficult situations that cannot really solve (like being a victim of overwhelming social pressure), regardless of how loving and close their parents are.

My parents were liberal in allowing tech but had some practical limits which I think helped. (Dial up cost us $.25 per call.) Time limits and discussing their interests seem like a totally reasonable alternative to complete abstinence.

I think a friend of mine handled it well. He nurtured a trust based relationship with his children, trust was highly valued and it gave his children a lot of free way but he also set up clear boundaries.

They could do try do things behind his back, they had full window to do it but trust was so ingrained that I don't recall him ever finding out huge problems.

Which doesn't mean they wouldn't plead and beg and try to cajole to get something.

At some point he would explain the rationale behind a decision but in the the end when push came to shove if a "no" was spoken it was a final "no". He isn't forced to justify his decisions and it's accepted as is and I think somehow trust plays a part here. Because his children knows that it's not the thing to get (smartphone, movie time, etc.) that is at play but trust (edit_begin) ultimately trust and the only way to get that thing would be by breaking trust (edit_end). They have to keep their parent's trust and parents know they can only get that trust by actually trusting. So, it works out. YMMV.

> How would you handle it if they begged, pleaded, and explained how all their friends use it and it'd be social ostracism to not use it?

Having been on both sides of this, as a teenager and having saw my siblings go through it, I don't envy you either.

But I can talk about my personal experiences. I was very introverted as a kid, and tools like Facebook gave me a bit of social autonomy and confidence, and it absolutely strengthened my in-person relationships. I know others that feel the same.

Not being contactable via the internet definitely can cause social ostracism, but a reasonable middle ground for me is something like Discord or WhatsApp, which is semi private and avoids the toxicity of The Feed.

From what I hear from everyone I know with kids...

>How would you handle it if they bought their own 2nd cellphone, and only used the cellular network to escape your control.

That's what really happens. Lock your kid down? They'll get right around it by going outside of the infrastructure and devices you supply. They'll just carry two phones around, and you just won't be wiser about the second one unless you catch them with it.

Yes. Our collective age is showing, perhaps. One can buy a new phone or tablet, with a month's data plan, with a few days' lunch money now, in some places. This translates into there being no practical way to keep a dedicated teenager off the Internet, unless they're literally never allowed out of the house and monitored 24/7. (And that might well be child abuse without very good cause! And you've probably already lost if you're at that point, anyway.)

It won't work with every child... but I am a big believer in fostering the means for a child to make the right decisions for themselves. Yes, the social pressures are immense. But you know, I do remember following my dad's advice to get up a few times an hour, exercise and stretch, when playing video games. Older children worry about their health, and try to make good decisions within their abilities, just like adults do. Perhaps we can't really protect them from this per se, and can only try to help the next generation save themselves, from this mess we've made for them.

It's a hard one to know. I knew my parents CC details from about 12, and they knew this, they would often ask me when buying stuff online rather than fetch it from their wallet in another room. If I wanted to buy something online, I just asked first, made the purchase and gave them the cash from my own savings from pocket money.

I'd like to think I was pretty mature at that age, and my parents would like to think they had done a good enough job raising me that this would never be a problem, and it never was. But we can clearly see from stories of kids spending large amounts of money in FIFA or mobile games or whatever, that this is not true for every kid.

The fact that online purchases were a slow user experience in the 90s meant that I had the concept of purchases, and paying back my parents in cash reinforced the concept of spending real money. Since I had my own savings, I could also see the impact to myself if I spent more than reasonable on Pokemon cards or whatever.

If it had just been pressing a button in a video game like it is for modern kids, and wasn't trusted to mind my own money (or that money was just numbers in a bank account), would I have realized the same at age 12? Or would my parents ended up as the ones that "should have known better". How much of that is good parenting, versus a different environment? I don't know.

I don't have kids of my own, and my life situation is such that I don't consider it a practical near term possibility, but I'd like to think I could raise my own kids so I could extend that level of trust, but a lot of people would see just the fact that the kids had that kind of information irresponsible in its entirety.

Yup the solution isn’t always about restricting but educating. Teach them the Ill effects in a respectable matter and deal with the consequences in a respectable manner. Parents job isn’t to not make kids mess up but allow environment for them to fail and learn from those failures and to reduce (not eliminate) the fallout.

Nowadays, corporate and govt surveillance is pervasive. Consequences cannot be "dealt with" after the fact, and deletion is no longer an option. Mistakes are a part of your "permanent record," (with a nod to Jane's Addiction).

It's not like the old days when you knew they'd find a Playboy magazine eventually.

For a sec I thought you were talking about Snowden's Book


It’s the same phrase, and related, yes.

Where can you buy a phone/tablet that’s capable of browsing the internet, and a data plan with enough data to be worthwhile, for a few days of lunch money?

Actually, would retail stores even sell a data plan to an unaccompanied minor? You could buy a SIM online I suppose, possibly via a gift card, and watch the mail carefully to ensure the package isn't seen, but it all seems like a lot of work for a small amount of web browsing.

I’d think that in the worst case scenario, the child goes through the process once, browses the internet for a couple of days on a super crappy device, uses up their data, and realizes the whole thing wasn't really worth it. Maybe they do it again in a few months when they're particularly bored; whatever, it's a few days out of the year.

> Where can you buy a phone/tablet that’s capable of browsing the internet

CEX (UK secondhand games/electronics) will sell you a HTC Salsa* for £3 ($4.12) and Argos (generic catalogue warehouse) will sell you a SIM for £1 ($1.37) that you can then top up with £10 ($13.75) at ATMs, etc., for 7GB of data.

Total cost: £14 ($19.24) which is probably under a week's worth of lunch money these days.

* Should still work on 3G HSDPA 2100MHz.

https://www.amazon.ca/ZTE-Z557-8GB-Android-Smartphone/dp/B08... That's about 50 USD. Same day delivery, too! Devices can be found even a bit cheaper sometimes, as little as 35 USD. I see such devices in corner stores, grocery and drug stores. It's a bit of a clunker sure. But it'll stream porn or display Instagram just fine. (That device actually has a faster CPU, though less RAM, than my present smartphone, from 2018, which I have seen no need to upgrade yet.)

A prepaid data plan will set you back about 25 a month here, but Canada has infamously high mobile fees. I know people in the EU who pay about $10 a month for unlimited mobile data.

And yes. They will sell one to an unaccompanied minor. Sure, maybe not a 6 year old, but if a 14 year old comes in with the money, that's a sale. There's no law against it (at least here). And unlike with a 14 year old trying to buy a giant butcher knife or spraypaint or whatever, society doesn't seem to have a "uhh, wait a minute" catch on this particular one. It's just a phone. Every kid has a phone, right? They probably just broke their last one. Again.

> It's just a phone. Every kid has a phone, right?

It's the plan I was thinking the store wouldn't sell, don't those have to be in someone's name? (But I might be wrong, I've never used a prepaid SIM.)

> I know people in the EU who pay about $10 a month for unlimited mobile data.

Perhaps, but not on a prepaid plan. I'm sure you can't buy a post-paid plan as a minor, that wouldn't make any sense!

The going rate on prepaid in my country these days is €20 for unlimited data[1][2], which, while not $10, is totally in kid lunch money range.

Prepaid tends to be cheaper in Ireland. Because postpaid is theoretically subsidising your phone and even sim only plans tend to get price shopped around against phone included plans. The cheapest postpaid plan with unlimited data is €30/month without a phone or €55/month with a phone [3][4]

1: https://www.three.ie/buy/prepay.html#prepay-phone-plans

2: https://www.eir.ie/mobile/prepay/

3: https://www.eir.ie/mobile/simonly/

4: https://www.three.ie/buy/bill-pay.html#sim-only

It depends where you are. In most countries there are KYCs to buy a sim card (post 9/11 regulation). So if you don't buy it physically you'll have to do the process online.

> the whole thing wasn't really worth it

I have the impression that they would be trilled, and develop cravings for those data packet escapes. And the cravings would be much worse because of the artificial scarcity

The lock on my front door could probably be picked, but I still use it. Raising the effort required to do something can have a perfectly good ROI without being perfect. Same goes with reasoning and any other approach you might try to take (preferably in conjunction)

Kids need to learn self control, reason and consequences before giving/using a cell phone. (as well as most other screen based activities).

Parents are relying too much on screens as a form of parenting/entertainment without teaching these critical skills.

What happened to the days where you earned the privilege to have/do things? That there are consequence with breaking the rules? Show them how to use it responsibly, the downsides that can come out of it.

Start with limits and let them earn the right to have more access. When you kid starts riding a bike you don't let them ride everywhere, you let them stay on the block, and if they understand safety and are being safe, you slowly expand the range they can go.

> Further, I'd state actual facts about girls mental health, they will see and be exposed to unhealthy mindsets on this app.

Contra: whether they're online or not, conversations about them will take place. And if they're not online then how can they defend themselves, either as an individual or by herding their friends in their defence as well.

all their friends use it and it'd be social ostracism to not use it?

Is that a thing? I have plenty of friends that use Instagram but they don't look at each other's stuff or talk about what someone they know in real life posted. If they care about people they know seeing it they put it on Facebook or in the group chat.

We have a 14-year old daughter who's been begging us to get her a phone for a couple of years now (we've said she can at 15), and I'm guessing she doesn't experience that much social ostracism, but she does experience pressure, internally or externally, and she hates the fact she doesn't have one and "all her friends do".

Are you asking if social ostracism amongst teenagers is a thing?

They are clearly asking if social ostracism due to not using a social media platform is a thing.

I suppose my comment was a bit snarky because (in my view) social ostracism amongst teenagers is very definitely and obviously a thing for _almost every reason under the sun_ for some groups of kids - it's the nature of being a teenager. Emotional intelligence is not highly developed at that age, so social bubbles/cliques can be (but definitely not always) a bit fickle/fragile. Hence the topic of this article.

Being prevented from using a social media platform at that age, that one's peers are all on would definitely lead to possible social issues in some groups.

I'm assuming the commenter I was responding to is not a teenager (given mention of Facebook being their peer group's primary social media platform), so their experience of their peers being able to use social media in a more healthy manner is unlikely to map to the teenage experience.

Some assumptions on my part. Not the most constructive "best possible interpretation" response, I'll admit. I'm also not expressing a strong opinion that kids should be "allowed" or "blocked" from usage of social media. It's a very tricky issue but absolutely not one to be dismissive of.

Because you're not a parent, here's a tip: kids are tougher than you give them credit for and they're tougher than they understand. Your responsibility as a parent is to figure out how to toughen them up without crushing their self-esteem.

Instagram is not an essential part of any of this. If the worst thing your kid can say about you when they hit adulthood is "daddy didn't let me on Instagram," then you did a phenomenal job.

You're missing the point. It's not "Dad didn't let me on Instagram". It's "Dad didn't let me have shared experiences to build relationships with my peers."

To be fair, it’s a 50/50 shot whether your high school peers turn out worthless or not. For the children of the HN crowd, I give better than even odds that their real lifelong friendships won’t be formed until college.

If a shared experience is toxic to the mental well-being of my kids, then they're not going to share in the experience. I'd rather my kid hate me for a couple years as a teenager for not letting them engage in harmful things than never getting out of their teenage years.

Oh, they'll going to hate you a lot longer than that.

I bet you have a ton of evidence to support your viewpoint too.

I'll wait here with bated breath for proof of your intellectual and emotional superiority.

Dad didn’t let me get drunk and do drugs. It’s dad allowed me to explore my emotions and expand my horizons.

If you want children to have valid and engaging social experiences then encourage them to do so without a screen.


Speaking from experience, if you keep that up, your kids will break contact with you as soon as they are old enough. If you decide that your parenting style is “fuck off,” you can expect the same attitude from your kids towards you when you are older. Hope you are ready to die on this hill.

This is the I better be my child's best friend or do what they want or they won't like me and will never talk to me again parenting dtyle.

In the end you don't want to be friends you want to set clear guidelines and expectations.

Venting f-bombs teaches them to vent f-bombs.. not great.

Your kids will be back for money regardless..

> > If you decide that your parenting style is “fuck off,” you can expect the same attitude from your kids towards you when you are older.

> This is the I better be my child's best friend or do what they want or they won't like me and will never talk to me again parenting style.

No, there's a great honking excluded middle there between the “fuck off” parenting style and the “I must be my kids best friend” style.

While that’s true the GP mentioned children breaking contact and never speaking to their parents again as though there is some permanent catastrophic trauma which is out of scope to the example expressed.

If that’s what happens only because you set boundaries around social media there are far deeper failures already in place.

> only because you set boundaries around social media

Social media is social interaction. It's an inextricable part, if not the centerpiece for many kids these days. This is the modern equivalent of saying "no friends allowed"/"you can only see and talk to your friends for a couple of minutes a day", as hyperbolic as that may seem. Extreme rejection and rebellion is a logical outcome from that.

A lot of folks addicted to social media think it's important that kids get addicted too, like smoking in the old days.

Truth is they'd be better off without it, for as long as possible. Focusing on media instead of school is a great way to end up working at a gas station later in life.

Anecdotally, focusing on school and "your future" 24/7 is a great way to end up alone, sad, and directionless in some apartment later in life.

Or in a ditch somewhere, when the pressure gets too much.

Those types typically land in the corner office in a skyscraper, or riding a dick into space. A problem few of us will have, with a simple solution.

If its that simple, why arent you riding a dick towards space?

The solution to workaholism is simple.

What is wrong with working at gas station?

Here at my times kids were told they would be shoveling dirt if they had neglected school. It may be anegdotal but I know many of such school low performers who today own excavators, dumper trucks fleet, construction businesses. The point is they do much better than some of their now blue collar school peers burned out after years of studying and "career" often pushed to impress parents and social circle.

> What is wrong with working at gas station?

It’s a dead-end job with no fulfillment, low pay, low flexibility, and not much free time for intellectual growth.

> who today own excavators, dumper trucks fleet, construction businesses

Cool, those are great things that are explicitly not “working at a gas station”.

Nothing wrong, but you’ll probably be happier achieving a little more.

It’s not the centerpiece if you are doing your job as a parent.

> Extreme rejection and rebellion is a logical outcome from that.

If that’s the result then you are failing as a parent.

Network effects: your kids don’t get to hang out IRL if everyone else’s parents let their kids meet all their social needs from social media.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the world would be a much better place if the big players in social media ceased to exist, but no single person can act as an island, and you need to understand the problem well enough to give your kids alternatives rather than just put your foot down and say “no” — even us adults have trouble staying off whichever social network our friends and family use.

How is it an island if they socialize in the real world? They text their friends from the real world and share memes with each other all day. They don’t need a social media account to do any of that.

Here on this website, we spend an awful lot of time discussing how one person remote working on a team who are in-person can easily lead to being forgotten. This is similar. When somebody is putting an event together and goes through their contact list on FB, you not being there puts you at a small disadvantage. If you're socially awkward in-person, it can really set you back.

It makes me wonder how these socially inept people lived life before Facebook ran their lives for them. Perhaps they cared about things more than following some high school drop out they once knew in a prior life decades before.

Facebook is a misaligned AI whose sole purpose is to put adverts in front of as many eyeball-seconds as possible. It is trying to manipulate us to that end, and with 2.8 billion people to practice on, it’s also very effective; much like junk food, it gives users the sensation of being good even though it isn’t. All of the big networks are trying to do that, with varying degrees of success.

This isn’t about being “socially inept” — if everyone simultaneously agreed to not use social media, we could and would all go back to what we did before[0] — but even knowing the nature of the beast, dismissing its power, its pull, its allure, is a Canute move.

[0] @iamstupidsimple was saying people not on the contact list would be more likely to be forgotten, and that’s true regardless of if the person not on the list is socially awkward or highly charismatic; before Facebook, the list was a piece of paper, but the same applies to that paper list.

There is nothing wrong with forgetting people you don’t care that much about. Expecting software to solve problems you never had before is the very definition of artificial.

Missing the point. Everyone else is using software to solve problems they never had before, and failing to use it makes you the one out.

When your kids’ friends send a request to all their social media contacts list, it takes extra effort for your kids’ friends to realise your kids are one of the few people who aren’t in that list and need to be contacted separately.

Is that fair? No.

Is it nice? No.

Is it fun? No.

Is it malicious? No.

Is it a lack of interest on the part of your kids’ friends? No.

Is it a reason for your kids to secretly make their own accounts without you knowing about it? Yes.

Constantly hearing "oh, I thought I sent everyone an invite [on Facebook]" will hurt a child deeply.

I suspect you may be in for a rude awakening in your relationship with your kids, and probably your kids are doing things behind your back.

Why would you suspect that?

Not GP, but agree with them. In my opinion: because you don't show respect for them. What would your reaction be if someone said that to you and you were powerless to do much about it?

Of course, this is all judging just by the tone of your posts, so it might not be (and I hope it isn't) a true reflection of reality. Kids are smart, they just lack experience. But they still deserve respect from day 1, and if they have it then most of the usual parenting problems never surface.

If I didn’t respect them I would let them do anything they wanted.

> Of course, this is all judging just by the tone of your posts

That is quite the assumption. Perhaps I communicate less delicately than you are accustomed.

Caution is warranted on the you can have it if you can pay for it route.

An enterprising teenager may earn money in undesirable ways.

I’m a parent and I’m thinking I’ll handle this as a clear you can have it or you can’t to avoid the grey and black market incentives.

While that sounds unpleasant the initiative is worthy of praise. It’s something to work within. I would probably prefer that outcome over drug addiction to Facebook or TikTok.

> they can pay for their own damn phone.

What do you do when they mow some lawns and do just that?

Reward them for their hard work and responsibility.

When it comes to parenting, I think the soonest you can healthily get your children to functioning with the independence and maturity of an adult (or at least the upper end of their age group), the better. And by contrast, the further you hold them back, so much the worse.

What you're describing sounds like it would hold back your child's social development. I wouldn't recommend it.

Freeing children from nonsense like drugs and social media isn’t holding them back. My children’s social development occurs in the real world where they participate in sports and educational activities and spend time with friends offline. Social media isn’t real socializing.

> Freeing children from nonsense like drugs and social media isn’t holding them back

But surveilling on them will. You're using your own active involvement as a crutch to compensate for the fact that you can't leave them to their own devices and know they'll do the right thing.

But how can they do that if you don't teach them and you don't give them the right chance to show they can do it? You're not teaching them to independently use the technology responsibly (or not at all), but rather you're forcing a behavior into place.

It's a very short-term solution that will backfire when they're put out there on their own and you're not there to push them in the right direction. Sooner or later they'll need to figure out how to do things independently. Maybe some active handling is okay for a while, but eventually, you've got to take off the training wheels, no?

I am not allowing them to grow and learn right from wrong… only because social media? Seriously? They aren’t locked away from people and sunlight.

They engage socially in the real world. They don’t need social media to fail and learn from failure. They have every opportunity to fail for real among real people.

When they get out on their own hopefully they learned they don’t need social media to be happy or drugs or alcohol. At that point they are free to make their own decisions and face all the consequences without the help of a parent.

> hopefully they learned they don’t need social media to be happy or drugs or alcohol

Ah, but how would they have learned that? After all, they're not doing it because they "learned" it, they're doing it because you're forcing them to do it. You're never actually "unit testing" their ability to come to the right independent judgment on their own, because you don't trust them to. But because you don't trust them to, they may not develop the experience to independently come to probably the same conclusion you came to. And if they do, you certainly aren't helping them.

Rather, what they're learning is that they'll have to go and buy their own prepaid cell phone on their own and get better and better at hiding it because "Dad is an uptight Boomer so what he doesn't know about this prepaid cell phone won't hurt him" which is probably not the lesson you're trying to teach them. If that mentality gets to drugs, alcohol, and sex, you may be in for more than you bargained for -- whether you pick up on it or not.

Kids are very, very smart. They have much more time than you, the vigor of youth, the ability to see everything with fresh eyes and work things out from first principles -- and not just that, they have a whole network of /friends/ who have the exact same resources and who they can work with as a team.

You're not going to stop them from experimenting. You'll just stop them from being open about it with you.

I was part of the set of kids who had the first versions of Net Nanny and “find my iPhone” equivalents rolled out.

NetNanny, which was basically a very visible firewall, automatically incentivized a search for more network access, and treating that access like a fat kid in a candy store for much longer than I’m happy with today.

The early “find my iPhone” tech that cell providers rolled out probably worked well until it sent me, a 16 y/o with angst issues, a text saying my cell phone was now enrolled and being tracked. Fairly enraging at the time.

The counter though is with some knowledge of silent firewalls and IAM, I could see considering something similar But significantly More silent, as a parent.

There is fairly shocking discussion around kids<>porn access<>serious issues with healthy sexuality. Screen time is turning young kids into zombies; there is just no planet where unrestricted tech access is good for the growing brain. The current Gen pop attitudes towards tech don’t offer much form of support - their kids are buried in an iPhone, my personal parenting policy will be a inherent critique of their parenting. PTAs see no issue with default Facebook use, thus enrolling my children in an data logging system I specifically work to avoid.

Add in disinfo campaigns and the young mind…

All this to say: invisible training wheels, or rather invisible walls and some tracking, seem to be the only way to raise a kid who must know tech, but won’t learn how to handle full exposure to it until well after 18 (bc adults are struggling too). Conversely, if that surveillance is discovered, it’s hell to pay as a parent. Tricky.

Why are you on HN, instead of in the real world?

South Park, season 3 episode 11, "Chinpokomon", covered how this really works:

Kyle: [enters] Mom, Dad, can I have money to buy Chinpokomon?

Sheila: What's a Chinpokomon?

Kyle: I'm not sure.

Sheila: Well, why do you need one?

Kyle: I don't know.

Sheila: ...Well then, the answer is no, Kyle. You just got money to buy your Cyborg Bill doll.

Kyle: Yeah, but Cyborg Bill is totally gay now. Please Mom? Everybody else has Chinpokomon.

Gerald: Well, Kyle, that's not a reason to buy something.

Ike: Neah Kyle doh.

Gerald: You see, son, fads come and go. And this "Chin-po-ko-mon" is obviously nothing more than a fad. You don't have to be a part of it. In fact, you can make an even stronger statement by saying to your peers, "I'm not going to be a part of this fad, because I'm an individual." Do you understand?

Kyle: Yes. Yes, I do, Dad. Now let me tell you how it works in the real world. In the real world, I can either get a Chinpokomon, or I can be the only kid without one, which singles me out, and causes the other kids to make fun of me and kick my ass.

Gerald: Hm... Good point; here's $10. [hands it to him]

Kyle: Thanks.

Gerald: Wait, here's 20. Get one for your brother, too. [Kyle receives the other $10 and walks out]

Ike: Hey, Chih-paw-ko.

When I was young I really, really wanted a tamagotchi. My parents wouldn't buy one for me with the same reasoning as in that South Park episode. So I wrote one for myself in Quick Basic. Several years later I become a professional software developer. :D I guess thanks mum thanks dad. :)

(Because I never really played with a real tamagotchi I had to figure out for myself what a tamagotchi should do. So mine was a pig. And I had this "game design" problem that every time you feed it it got just a bit heavier. And of course unbounded weight gain is not good, so I added a menu point to slaughter the pig. I even went to the library to research how many kgs of sausage and bacon it should generate per 100kg of raw pig. Turns out real tamagotchis don't work this way.)

You might be interested in "Many Tamogatchis were harmed in the making of this presentation" https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c4PkcZScBV8

And more the next year https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbTgDfB0cao

Just like nobody lets their kids do drugs or have sex? (Do you remember being a teen?) Kids are sneaky and resourceful. Harm-reduction works better than abolition; authoritarian parenting erodes the trust you need to effect durable change in your kids' behavior.

> authoritarian parenting erodes the trust you need to effect durable change in your kids' behavior.

authoritarian governing erodes the trust you need to effect durable change in your citizens' behavior.

OK, but if you're stuck at home, you're probably using Instagram more, not less. And when you're back in school, your Instagram usage probably declines.

Very unlikely that Instagram has a net psychological benefit, but being in school seems to have had a more direct effect.

If you had kids, you would know that you can control what they do up until about middle-school age, at which point your ability to control them begins to decline. They're starting to grow into independent adults.

Best not to try to control them before that age either. Best to try to develop a relationship where you can express your concerns in a straightforward manner and hear their concerns and get their buy-in on some solution that safeguards them from your concerns but let’s them have some semblance of what they want.

Agree. Those tend to be the most functional relationships/young adults that I remember interacting with in the past. Social media though is clearly a thing to approach carefully. I personally just block it all at the firewall and watch for the day society gets through this phase.

Terribly basic question, but, can they not just use a VPN to tunnel through? I've heard kids are doing that kind of thing now.

It all has to pass through a router at some point, and the VPN will have a specific signature especially around connecting to the VPN server itself. Might have to put your threat hunting hat on to find it though. If my kid really does start getting clever there, then we start talking about CTFs and the wonderful world and compensation of Infosec.

If cellular, I’d roll with family iPhones and app restrictions on the kids’ phones, plus a lot of careful messaging.

Indeed. The best thing you can do is to teach them how to think for themselves, how to think freely, what is really important in life etc. Takes a lot of time and effort but it gives them the best defense against peer pressure and ‘social media’

> I think if I had kids I wouldn’t let them on such sites until 16/17 or never

Social media is damaging, but not having social media is also damaging since you may as well be the kid coming to school in a potato sack

This is the wrong approach.

You must realize that every generation of youth from here on will face some unique challenges of their own, and the only way to overcome them is to help them tackle it head on and not let them become defeated by it. Attempting to time travel back to some simpler time is not an option. The simpler time is gone, and will never return. This is their life now.

Do your kids do meth? It's very popular now.

This seems disingenuous.

Meth is extremely unpopular in the 13-18 demographic, and in particular it’s far less popular than social media.

> or never

How does that work?


Thank goodness!

Seems like instead of educating your kids, you prefer to control them.

> I think if I had kids I wouldn’t let them on such sites until 16/17 or never. Granted, I have a strong opinion against social media before this data.

I can't imagine how impossible it would be to shield them from all these toxic technologies like smartphones and social media while still being in the continental USA. Even if you managed it, they'd be in constant exposure on the periphery, and incessantly reminded of their otherness vs. the masses. It just doesn't seem healthy to me.

If I had kids today, I'd buy an undeveloped island somewhere like coastal Panama and raise an army of them off-grid while homesteading on it.

But I've opted to just go childless instead. Humans are like a wildfire raging across the planet, it doesn't need me to throw more fuel on it...

> Instagram was founded in 2010.

You may not be far from the truth: last year I watched a talk given by Jonathan Haidt (sp?) and he specifically showed the suicide numbers increasing when the "Like" button appeared... the increase was not an anomaly, it was obvious.

I can't find the video unfortunately :(


He talked about it here on the Joe Rogan Podcast

While this may not be the exact video, would this[0] be a worthy substitute? I'm not in a position to view it in its entirety at this moment, but I would be interested later when there is time.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhwTZi3Ld3Y

I fear that it may be as simple as that. Because if that's the cause, I'm not sure we can fix it.

Pi-hole blocking Instagram works pretty well for me, although not perfectly.

We can also treat this like smoking and opioids and lawsuit/tax excessively instagram and use it to pay for public mental health services.

It seems like there will be a clear evidence trail that Instagram knowingly marketed and permitted use of their app by children under 13. So that’s some future administration/state AG payday, I think.

You are right. I should not be defeatist. If social media is truly ruining our mental health (it's not really an "if" anymore, is it?) then it is both reasonable and necessary to start doing something along those lines.

This is like people reading research in the 50s that smoking causes lung cancer. Even if true what are we going to do? Everybody smokes so lets just keep smoking instead of trying to quit.

The Clean Air Act provided a legal framework to fix air pollution. We need a similar approach to fix mind pollution. I don’t think this is impossible because Zuckerberg has managed to piss off apparently everyone across the political spectrum. If it was someone like Steve Jobs I would say the problem would be much harder.

I see regulation as a last resort. Bigger government is rarely the answer. Social media is certainly exacerbating the mental health crisis, but I believe the smarter play is to better prepare our children for social dynamics, healthy communication, and emotional intelligence. I prefer to improve the people than to restrict their freedoms.

I think somewhat “bigger government” is a perfectly appropriate response to vastly bigger corporations. Three years ago there were no companies worth $1 trillion and now there are three companies worth $2 trillion.

Then the problem is not Instagram.

When IG first arrived it was basically Flickr for mobiles. It didn't have a horrible algorithm or any real novelty other than being a slick mobile interface for sharing the same stuff that was being shared on the web.

Also, as a working adult, I didn't get my first iPhone until my boss handed it to me in 2010. I doubt a critical mass of 10-14 year old girls were bullying each other on IG from 2010.

My girlfriend and I broke up that year too. Sharon, if you see this, you need to get back with me. Little girls are dying because of what you did.


Yeah but it was quite diferent back then, a lot more niche and photographer-y. Its a totally different network today.

That was also the year that mobile phones became common for children to have in classrooms.

Jonathan Haidt is if the same opinion

In my abnormal psychology class, we learned that men had a much higher success rate in suicide, except in places where women had ready access to highly lethal poison.

Of course we do, our toxic masculinity demands us to excel at everything...

I understand that your comment is facetious, but I think there may be something to this line of thinking. Men are more likely to follow through with their actions, due to immense social pressure for success. Even if that success is killing yourself, I think a lot of men would rather a successful attempt than an unsuccessful, just to avoid the shame of failing at something so serious.

It's because men are more likely to use a gun to commit suicide while, for whatever reason, women are more likely to down a bottle of whatever there is in the medicine cabinet that they think will do the job. This ladder approach backfires if you dont know whether a specific medicine is designed to induce vomitting in large doses or how to negate that concern (and with suicide being tied heavily to moments of impulsiveness, by the time you finish the research your resolve may have left you)

In places where guns are not available, men are more likely to hang themselves; this is also a fairly deadly method.

Those graphs only go back to 2000. Do we have older data?

Not specifically on self-poisoning hospitalizations in those age groups. But this is longer term data for completed suicides, for US teenagers: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/figures/m6630qsf.gif

And since someone may well ask, the enormous difference by sex in those two charts is because the first chart I linked is hospitalizations related to self-poisoning. The above CDC chart is completed suicides. Girls tend to choose techniques that are generally less fatal, like poisoning. Boys tend to hang or shoot themselves, while the latter of those is very rare with girls. It's rather fascinating, and disturbing, how intensely localized these things can be, and how they're driven by social factors and what's culturally familiar.

Cry for help vs giving up.

Instagram kills, from Coddling:

> U.S. hospitals going back to 2001 and were able to estimate self-harm rates for the entire country. They found that the rate for boys held steady at roughly 200 per hundred thousand boys in the age range of fifteen to nineteen. The rate for girls in that age range was much higher, but had also been relatively steady from 2001 to 2009, at around 420 per hundred thousand girls. Beginning in 2010, however, the girls’ rate began to rise steadily, reaching 630 per hundred thousand in 2015. The rate for younger girls (ages ten to fourteen) rose even more quickly, nearly tripling from roughly 110 per hundred thousand in 2009 to 318 per hundred thousand in 2015. (The corresponding rate for boys in that age range was around 40 throughout the period studied.) The years since 2010 have been very hard on girls.

Has anyone checked Instagram use among those girls and others?

Yes. Social media use is correlated with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, particularly in girls, in a growing number of studies. And in the studies that compare different social networks, Instagram usually ranks the most negatively. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/04/depression-i...


But of course, an isolated, depressed, anxious child is likely to withdraw and spend a great deal of time online. Whether it's a symptom or a cause, or both and to which degree, seems unclear.

That said, just anecdotally, as a man in my 30s, I cannot look at the typical popular Instagram profile targeted at my demographic. It evokes horrible feelings. Jealousy, image insecurity, sexual insecurity, sexual frustration, FOMO, social status insecurity... all bundled up in a nasty ball. And quite reliably induced after ten seconds and three photos of inhumanely sexy men in implausibly photogenic homes that cost 10x as much as I'll ever make. No thanks. I believe that walling that whole thing off mentally, has been good for me.

Can you give some exaples of a typical popular profile targeted at your demographic? My Insta feed is currently filled with only machining and related topics, but I also don't check the "what's hot" or things like that.

Well, disclaimer -- I'm gay so that's a bit of a confound. The object of desire is also who you want to be. Some studies suggest we are particularly susceptible to this kind of image-relational problem, and maybe for that reason. (I can believe it.)

Anyway in the name of research, I pulled some Instagram URLs from a Telegram chat with some friends. To their credit they mostly seem to post memes and jokes from Instagram, not Instagram models. But the first non-meme account I pulled up is a good example, actually: https://www.instagram.com/benjaminbenz/ (somewhat NSFW?)

Exotic vacations, mountain-top kisses, ATVs, cute dogs, fast cars, jet-setting, gym gains, beautiful mansions, fishing trips, big muscles, sports, a too-sexy boyfriend, and a good dose of almost-tasteful butts and some sexual suggestiveness. No cares. All happy. In love. Damn, I want all that. Why isn't my life like that? Sure, it's mostly fake. But good luck convincing my amygdala of that.

I really appreciate this explanation, thank you.

Our national broadcaster NRK had a series[1] specifically about suicide amongst teenage girls and their use of Instagram. From what they found[2], one suicide would trigger other attempts, often copying the method used.

It seems clear to me this isn't random.

[1]: https://www.nrk.no/emne/trigger-warning-1.14739155

[2]: https://www.nrk.no/spesial/det-skjulte-nettverket-1.14739159

I have a theory I'd propose:

The biggest cause of teen suicide is essentially feeling rejected in some way by your peers: being bullied, a breakup, "mean girl" switches from former friends, etc. When schools closed, the immediate pressure of any of these negative social interactions went to the background (or at least simmered on social media). When schools reopened, kids tried to figure out where they fit back in the "totem pole" of adolescent social hierarchy, and the rise in suicides is a result of kids not figuring out where they fit in when they went back.


I was bullied a lot in school. When I became avoidant and just stayed at home, I was a lot happier because I didn't have those stressors.

I concur. Perhaps the break from schools opened their eyes to the notion that life didn’t have to be the total hell that it is for a lot of young kids and then being forced back was too much to handle, on top of all of the other stuff everyone has been struggling with this last year.

Public school was probably the most miserable part of my life, especially as one of the only asians in a black and white heavy school district. The few years my parents afforded private school to get me away from the violence was only a little better. Moving to Southern California where the schools had significantly more asians was a big improvement.

Needless to say, I'm not a fan of public schooling and the one size fits all approach

Agreed. Honestly, there are many times I've been very thankful that I grew up in an age before social media. At least when I went home the torment would stop and I could relax somewhat. I think kids who are bullied today have it so much worse with the ever presence of cellphones and the internet.

Same here.

I spent most of my time in front of TV and PC until I was 17.

The only thing that changed was getting Internet on the PC when I was 15. So, I could finally talk with people that had something in common with me.

I was bullied a lot in school and then I quit going to school and started staying home and never felt worse in my life.

> a result of kids not figuring out where they fit in

or a result of kids figuring out where they fit in and not liking it

This is my theory too. A friend of me noted that one positive thing about lock-down is the complete lack of FOMO (fear of missing out). Which seems particularly important at that age.

There are likely a lot of factors powering the correlation in the article. Absence of school social pressures could be one. Better access to your family as a support network and subsequent loss could be another. Since it is morally questionable to do experiments to isolate the level of contribution we'll likely never know.

I think it's premature to dismiss the suggestion that school closings are the cause. Suicide is a complex topic, and the pandemic introduced a lot of disruptions not immediately felt. The suicide attempts could very well be a delayed effect, as proposed by the parent comment.

Perhaps, but the desired effect (reduced suicides) was clearly visible during the lockdown. SOMETHING(S) changed that helped more of our children stick around for at least a little bit longer. So what?

Whatever the cause, I'm willing to forgo scientific correctness to say what was obvious before the pandemic: OUR SCHOOL SYSTEMS ARE TERRIBLE FOR YOUR HEALTH

They are a bit like modern day prisons, are they not?

Expensive modern day prisons.

A bit? Most schools look like and feel almost exactly like prisons. Only the most rich private schools look different.

Are those causes or just symptoms of a society in which parents and schools are inadequately preparing the youth for emotional trauma, how to handle it, and how to not be a sociopath?

"We found the correlation to be very strong, which is the highest category statistically possible"


I can see the Far Side Comic that never was.

"Having been burned one too many times by putting lines through shotgun blasts, scientists switched to correlation categories."

Divide study results into tranches with AAA, AA, and B ratings.

Get a former journal reviewer to claim the tranch of B papers contains, in sum, the same amount of good science as an AAA paper.

I like where this is going

Meta analyses as collateralized bonds that let scientists argue whatever they want!

Not exactly an n-sigma statement with the result of double blind, or look elsewhere...

Disappointingly that does read a little close to "I found what I was looking for so stopped looking" which makes me want to grab the author and interrogate them over zoom into they hang up.

This data isn't that convincing, a lot of factors go into this messy correlation between ED visits for girl suicide attempts and covid closure of schools. The title of the link doesn't mention ED visits for attempts, which is the actual outcome of interest here, so IMO the link title is too strongly worded from an epidemiologists viewpoint.

Now conjecturing as to correlation confounders. Maybe the girls need more time at home with pets, family, hobbies, more time in their yard, less time exposed to commuting and classes they don't want to take or people they don't want to see. School is such a diverse set of stressors and the data here isn't clear to begin with...

A more verified takeaway is that girls attempted suicide around 2X more often than boys. This we know has something to do with technology and social media, whereas the schools opening is still potentially spuriously linked.

The higher attempt rate for girls is probably due to boys being more effective at killing themselves (4x as effective, in fact).


What does the effectiveness of suicide have to do with the rate at which people attempt it?

A successful attempt results in no further attempts.

That's true. However, do the statistics count the same people reattempting?

I'm not sure, but that is a good question. I tend to think that the data sources could count the same individual multiple times because the report ("2019-methodological-summary-and-definitions") says so:

See: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2019-methodological-summa...

> An important issue for users of NSDUH and TEDS data to consider is that the unit of analysis for TEDS is admissions to substance use treatment, whereas NSDUH estimates are for individuals who received substance use treatment. Consequently, individuals who were admitted to substance use treatment multiple times in the reporting period would be counted more than once in the TEDS admissions data.

Earlier in that same document, the authors state that they only ask these two categories about suicidal thoughts:

- the individual is over 18

- the individual is under or over 18, but has had a major depressive episode (MDE)

The statistics also include multiple studies with variable sampling beyond NSDUH and TEDS. I think the best one can do is to presume mixed data, which would indeed include repeat attempts for the same individual.

The confounding factor that I find most interesting is the fact that parents were likely also home much more during this time.

“ In writing this, I have found the surprising reverse correlation between suicidal behavior and time spent in school—both prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and during it—gnawing at me. Could it be that the pressures around school itself are among the most important stressors related to suicidality among teens? If that’s so, the underlying reasons could be related either to academic or social pressures. Regardless, no one would argue that we should do away with in-person learning just because more time spent in the classroom appears to be associated with increased rates of attempted or completed suicide.”

One could argue that in person schooling should be an option moving forward.

>One could argue that in person schooling should be an option moving forward.

Would that have an impact longer term / have any other consequences?

I feel like there's just so much more to this than 'more suicides, in person school optional now... problem solved?'

For someone contemplating suicide is just not going to school a solution to their struggles?

> For someone contemplating suicide is just not going to school a solution to their struggles?

It could be if you're suffering heavily from bullying.

Getting rid of public school because we cannot class-action Instagram or whatever would be a truly profound failure.

What is supposed to be meant by "reverse correlation"? Correlation is a symmetric phenomenon, and the final part of the quote makes it clear that the correlation between these two behaviors is positive, not negative:

> more time spent in the classroom appears to be associated with increased rates of attempted or completed suicide.

Common parlance. The assumed situation is that isolation would increase mental health problems and suicide risk. Instead it went in the other direction. To distinguish this from positive correlation for nontechnical readers, “reverse correlation” makes sense.

Would it not be inverse or negative correlation, instead?

Something has gone wrong when you want to describe a positive correlation as "negative".

Well that can easily be switched just by the variables... for example:

isolation factor (ie, lockdowns) vs depression rates. When isolation factor decreases (lockdown releases), depression rates increase. Negative correlation.

Social contact (ie, lockdown releases) vs depression rates. When lockdowns release and social contact increases, depression rates increase. Positive correlation.

If it was straightforward coordinate plane values like to describe the slope of a line, you can't really easily reverse the correlation just by redefining the variables.

Technically a negative correlation, but I'm not sure that this wording would be more clear for readers.

> in person schooling should be an option

It always has been an option.

Could that just be... delaying the inevitable? Sorry to phrase it like that. At some point your daughter has to come into contact with others. If it's a social effect -- and I suspect it is -- then exposure to the self-image issues, or bullying, or status competition, or whatever it is at work here, might just lead to suicides when exposed to these things in college, rather than in high school. While the focus is mostly on teenagers, young adult women of college age, also seem to have been strongly affected by the pre-pandemic spike we were seeing already.

The school system is a highly abusive environment, in many places. Young adults doing meaningless busywork in a highly-restrictive environment with artificial social dynamics is bad enough without some of them being modelled off prisons.

"Young adults doing meaningless busywork in a highly restrictive environment with artificial social dynamics", unfortunately, also sounds a lot like college and many jobs. (I personally found school a torment -- ignored and bored -- but somehow I was fortunate enough not to be outright bullied... until my first job.)

Hmm… A cynic¹ would say that school is intended to train children to put up with such an environment. I think a greater effect is bad environment design, people copying the familiar without paying attention to the trade-offs, and the inertia of how things used to be done.

¹: someone overly cynical; not an adherent of cynicism

The busywork is a huge aspect of it. I used to have very compulsive behaviors that pretty much ended when I had the responsibility of a family to take care of. Teenagers have too much mind power and too little responsibility for it... when people were getting married at 17/21 there was not as much time to stew over things.

Women can be bullying and status-seeking at any age, but it's at its worst in high school. By early 20s many have developed some maturity and the beginnings of a sense of perspective on social things, maybe because they've seen enough of themselves, their friends and peers suffering.

It's almost as if putting kids in a peer-pressure-cooker environment is a bad idea?

I might be biased, I'm autistic and my high school experiences were abhorrent and ended up scarring me for life. Primary school and college were fine, but high school? Forget about it, absolute bloody nightmare :)

I witnessed this first hand. My daughter is in this age bracket and our school was 100% remote up until the spring of 2021. The return to school was hybrid, two days a week, and divided 50/50 by alphabet.

Her anxiety levels went through the roof. Thankfully we didn't get to an extreme case of suicidal ideation but things were pretty bad for a while. Medication has helped, but getting a therapist appointment is nearly impossible. They're 110% booked.

What we understand is that during the shutdown the 'alpha' girls all coalesced on social media and shut everyone else out. They also took vacations, had slumber parties, and did a ton of things that everyone else was avoiding because those families tried to listen to the current advice.

When the return to school happened these cliques instantly had fresh prey: the unconnected, the minorities, the non-english speakers, the ones that didn't purchase new clothing over the lockdown, the ones that didn't go to the slumber parties and vacations. And half of your friends/allies were in the other side of the alphabet and working from home.

This is all stuff that boys of this age don't care about. But the girls are vicious. Two of our friends have physically relocated out of the district, two others are going to change schools.

TLDR: Preteen girls are awful, and always have been, but the lockdown concentrated and amplified it to horrific proportions.

> This is all stuff that boys of this age don't care about. But the girls are vicious.

That's not totally true. Sure the buys may not care about new clothes or slumber parties (though I doubt it), but they will care for other reasons. Bullying doesn't have a gender.

Bullying may not have a gender but in the aggregate it's different between boys and girls. Note the word "aggregate". There are invariably anecdotes the contradict the aggregate view but the point is that it's not an absolute, just an aggregate.

There's lots of research on this topic.

You see the ripples of this well into adulthood. You see it as the expectations placed on girls and women where they're held to a higher standard than boys and men are. And who are the agents of that? Other girls and women.

I'm not female but all of my experience has been that no one tears women down more than other women and that female bullying is generally much, much worse than male bullying (at least until male bullying graduates into violence including sexual violence).

Why? Because it seems to be much more multi-faceted. Instead of being primarily physical dominance and signaling, it encompasses social alienation and psychological torment.

> at least until male bullying graduates into violence

My experience is that it mostly starts there. Most of male "bullying" is establishing physical dominance. It's almost all intimidation, physical threats, pushing/shoving, fighting. The psychological, gossipy, demeaning sort of bullying is more from the females.

> Most of male "bullying" is establishing physical dominance. It's almost all intimidation, physical threats, pushing/shoving, fighting. The psychological, gossipy, demeaning sort of bullying is more from the females.

Not true. Guys are very effective at spreading lies about people and in using condescension and insults. Men and boys are very effective in demeaning other people.

They absolutely not limit to physical violence - especially at teenage age. In fact, their most common way to get at others are words. The physical violence happens on top of it.

Maybe 5-10 years ago, but from my experience you rarely see physical bullying anymore. Its has been cracked upon way to harshly for it to really be the huge issue it once was. I have personally seen a physical form of bullying maybe a few times in my whole entire high school and middle school experience. And I went to 3 different high schools with each one being made up of students from completely different backgrounds, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels.

That doesn't sound true at all. Male bullies don't just prey on the weak, they also prey on the out groups. An example of this would be bullies who picked on brown people after 9/11, who would call these people horrible names to make them feel unwelcome.

If someone calls you a racial slur to your face, what they're saying is that they (or the people they are surrounded by) can beat you up. It's a dare.

Not true at all. It could also be they want you to be humiliated. It's not always about the threat of a physical altercation. Much like the cases of girls bullying brown girls after 9/11, boys bullied brown boys after 9/11 in identical ways.

My point was more about the victims but I guess I wasn't clear enough about that. The thing is, boys and girls bully in different ways. Most people go to mixed schools, so there's not a clear separation between boys and girls.

> You see the ripples of this well into adulthood. You see it as the expectations placed on girls and women where they're held to a higher standard than boys and men are. And who are the agents of that? Other girls and women.

The part about girls and women being held to higher standards than boys and men is news to me. Is this your impression, or is this backed up by data/studies/something?

I've noticed this too personally in my social circle since childhood - my female friends in the circle are often more direct and personal (and thus seem more vicious when they are discussing something unpleasantly personal about you or others), where as the guys are often more diplomatic and / or laid-back. And some of the ladies do get pissed at you if you don't support them in avoiding or alienating someone they have tiff with.

Yeah this person I don't think understands what school is like at all. Boys were getting bullied for the exact same stuff that girls were getting bullied for, sometimes even by girls themselves. I can't stand when adults who haven't been to highschool in 20 years try to make vast generalizations about something they have absolutely no clue about.

> Two of our friends have physically relocated out of the district, two others are going to change schools.

how would that even help though? was what you are describing specific to this school then? would moving to another, unfamiliar group of preteen girls just add to anxiety?

(in my case, relatively sheltered boys so i don't see much of this... for now, anyway)

The goal is just for time to pass in the least unpleasant way possible, so moving to a fresh group would buy some time before the same problems become unbearable again.

Pretty much the same reason we change jobs.

As someone who relocated to many different schools, I can tell you that a different school can work wonders. It's a fresh start, in a new environment, without the local prejudices and grudges.

It works, because it is not true that all girls are evil bitches.

But, if parent thinks that, the parent won't teach girls how to find better friends, how to deal with issues nor curb asshole behavior in his daughters.

Not sure why the hyperbolic headline, when the article itself just says, paraphrasing, "there might not be any causal relationship between schools being open and suicide attempts, and that goes against the prevailing anti-closing narrative".

There’s no contradiction between your quote and the headline: schools opened and suicide attempts in girls skyrocketed, but the relationship isn't necessarily causal.

Kind of a silly reply. The headline could've just avoided the implication. Imagine the headline: "women started eating more beans, and birth defects skyrocketed". What will people assume, regardless of the content of the article? It's clickbaity, that's the problem.

What's clickbaity about it though? Schools opened and suicide attempts in girls skyrocketed. I didn't necessarily think it was causal, but rather a correlation. I mean if you read the article then what they're trying to say is clear in any case. YMMV.

The number of reported suicide attempts decreased during school closures. That might mean actual attempts decreased too, but it could also be another piece of fallout from people deferring treatment because they or their families didn't want exposure to COVID. Or mental health services were over burdened by increased issues from other areas of the population.

Or it really was going back to a school environment that is often socially toxic. Or some combination of these and other factors.

To me it seems school environment always is extremely toxic. Probably the most toxic thing I can imagine. Perhaps prisons are worse but I'm not sure.

While I believe schools to be terrible (great for seeing, meeting people; terrible for the forced curriculum down your throat part), I disagree with the author's reading (even if correlation doesn't imply causation) that points at school being bad for kids.

This could very well be the effect of a year of lockdown and having to go back in the real world. If that's the case, we'll see the number of suicides drop over the next years.

Lockdowns caused me to fall into depression again but I never thought about killing myself. There was always hope that things would eventually go back to normal, you were .

Now that the normal is back and I'm confronted with a reality which is partially worse than lockdown times (eg. having to go back to the office for employees, having to go to school instead of studying on zoom for students) I have a year of mental issues which I didn't fix, I'm burnt out, there is nothing else to wait for which will magically improve my life and I'm faced with the challenges of the pre-lockdown world. It doesn't surprise me to see suicides going up.

Do they have split stats for girls attending all girls school? Bullying is often the root cause of teenage suicide, and I wonder wether a mixed environment makes it better or worse...

I would think worse. The underlying driver of the social posturing and inter-clique battling by adolescent girls is trying to be more visible/popular with boys.

If there are gender segregated schools that just means heightened fomo+posturing. There is no way in which post-pubuscent humans are going to ingore the other gender school's existence.

All-girls schools are pretty rare in the US aren’t they?

They're uncommon outside of pricey prep schools. Interesting question, but the data would be tough to speculate with since there would be such an income difference between those girls and the statistically average American girl.

They are mostly catholic schools. E.g.,


Can you say "Social Media"?!

The connection to anxiety, bullying and depression has already been demonstrated with adult women. It should be a surprise that young girls are worse affected.

Men/boys mostly don't care about social attention and approval in ways that are amped up on Social Media. Yes we are different!

Not a fan of "skyrocketed" in this headline. Just tell us the statistic.

> During February 21–March 20, 2021, suspected suicide attempt ED visits were 50.6% higher among girls aged 12–17 years than during the same period in 2019; among boys aged 12–17 years, suspected suicide attempt ED visits increased 3.7%.


Comparatively speaking, at least gender-wise, this data should be taken with a grain of salt.

Males are historically more effective at killing themselves. This data only looks at ED visits and you don't go to the hospital when you're clearly dead. And if you assume "suicide attempt" is using the technical definition [1], they're only looking at ED visits where the patient did not die.

Males aged 15 to 24 were 4x as likely to succeed in killing themselves in 2019. [2]

[1]: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide (see Definitions)

[2]: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide (see Figure 2)

I'm not clear on what you're arguing. In Year 2019 there are N suspected suicide attempt visits for females; in Year 2020, there are 1.506N attempted visits for females. Regardless of comparing males-to-females, the year-on-year comparison is valid, unless you can make a convincing argument that there's been an abrupt change in the method/effectiveness of suicide that females are using.

In terms of comparing male to female, the comparison is still valid as well, assuming that males haven't gotten more successful than they were last year. Assuming that males are successful some proportion of the time, P, if that proportion hasn't changed, a bump of 3.7% in their total number of failures should give a general indication of the trend. If you'd take a position like "a 3.7% increase in failed attempts was accompanied by a 30% increase in successful attempts," you'd have to support the argument for why they're not only committing more suicide, but why it's more effective than it was before. That's hardly where occam's razor falls.

Yet did the successful suicide rate in males increase to compensate? It seems like you have a duty, out of politeness, to at least address whether you attempted to address this.

Bringing up makes suicide rates vs female without trying to address if that explains a 50v3% increase in attempts isn’t very helpful, or interesting.

Maybe instead of complaining, you can look it up yourself and contribute the data to this thread.

I thought about that, but it’s the duty of the person bringing it up. I don’t want to spend my time fixing the mistakes of others when it’s outside my direct interest.

My hope was to encourage the parent commenter to add some basic data to their worst.

EDIT: I find it gross that some people always want to take over a discussion about women and make it about men.

Not quite. I'm saying that the Male % and Female % should not be compared as-is.

Supports the "Hell is other people" theory.

Also supports my "School is hell" theory.

Could not access the article but it appears to reference this CDC MMWR from June 18, 2021: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/pdfs/mm7024e1-H.pdf

[I've included the link to the CDC report above and the summary below because this information is important and should be accessible (i.e. should not require allowing fbcdn.net trackers). I also prefer the source to somebody's interpretation. If the original article provides additional insight I'd like to see a non-FB link to it, my admittedly quick scan of the comments did not spot one.]

From the SUMMARY of that report:

What is already known about this topic? During 2020, the proportion of mental health–related emergency department (ED) visits among adolescents aged 12–17 years increased 31% compared with that during 2019.

What is added by this report? In May 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, ED visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among adolescents aged 12–17 years, especially girls. During February 21–March 20, 2021, suspected suicide attempt ED visits were 50.6% higher among girls aged 12–17 years than during the same period in 2019; among boys aged 12–17 years, suspected suicide attempt ED visits increased 3.7%.

What are the implications for public health practice? Suicide prevention requires a comprehensive approach that is adapted during times of infrastructure disruption, involves multisectoral partnerships and implements evidence-based strategies to address the range of factors influencing suicide risk.

I have a personal knowledge of what comes from suicides and suicide attempts. It is something that needs to be addressed.

I have issues with this article, as well as with the owner of the 'bulletin.com' domain. This article flips between discussing 'suicide attempts' and 'suicides' as if they are interchangeable, while only showing the data on 'suicide attempts'.

This bothers me.

"In fact, suicide attempts in adolescent girls dropped to rates similar to those seen in the summer of 2019. That’s not unexpected. Suicide death rates (for which we have decades of reliable data) among teens and young adults predictably fall during summer months, and also in December—that is, times when schools are the least in session." (emphasis mine)

'Suicide deaths' and 'suicide attempts' are not interchaneable.

Did they attempt to take the analysis back in time to use the larger dataset of schools being closed.

I.e. Has teen suicide in America always been higher when schools were open always, or is this somehow unique to the extra closures?

> That’s not unexpected. Suicide death rates (for which we have decades of reliable data) among teens and young adults predictably fall during summer months, and also in December—that is, times when schools are the least in session. So, what our graphs above show, an apparent inverse correlation between school closings and suicidal behavior, is not unique to the Covid-19 pandemic.


Ah hadn't noticed that and was struggling to paste the info graphic. Would love to see the decorrolation displayed graphically but that's just the way I read data

> Regardless, no one would argue that we should do away with in-person learning just because more time spent in the classroom appears to be associated with increased rates of attempted or completed suicide. But it is an upsetting insight, nonetheless.

This suggests that the predisposed or susceptible population is weeded out by adulthood, yes?

Seems like a good enough reason to keep the status quo, while others continue research about the actual reason, assuming there is consensus on decreasing it.

This reminds me of the documentary Race to Nowhere. They talk about the high suicide rate amongst teens due to burn out from school and how some were brought back from the brink. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_to_Nowhere

"When schools closed, suspected suicide attempts actually decreased. When schools reopened, suspected suicide attempts skyrocketed in lockstep."

From the way the data is presented, it's not clear that there was a net change either way. Maybe this just concentrated suicides around school reopening times.

Do you guys mind not providing links to website that insist that you they allow you to every damn data collection agency to track you before you enter?

The way they handle cookies is very questionable to put it mildly. Their popup asks if I want to accept cookies but then there is literally no other button than the one saying "accept all".

site does not load with javascript disabled. But does show me a <title> tag that implies it's a Facebook product, so I'm definitely not going to enable javascript.

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