SMC logo UPDATE

Do We Love Our Children?

In front of a packed house in Vancouver, NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway presented a collection of statistics showing how we have built a digital world that is putting our children in danger.

“I think Mark Zuckerberg has done more damage to young people in our nation,” said Galloway from the TED2024 Stage. “We are economically attacking the young. But I know, let’s [also] attack their emotional and mental well-being. How can we be this stupid?

“If you acknowledge that our kids are the most important thing in our lives, everything else that we do here is meaningful, but our kids’ well-being and prosperity are profound. If you acknowledge that they’re doing more poorly than previous generations, then I ask: Do we love our children?”

It’s a provocative question: Do we love our children?

It’s the right question, as both our children and our democracy are under attack.

Social media is not sustainable. The damage it’s causing can be seen in the words of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, or the pages of Jonathan Haidt, or the voices of the 25 GenZ leaders on my board of advisors.

The social media business model trafficks in the private feelings, hopes, dreams and fears of our children with ruthless efficiency.

Parents of teens, many of whom I talked to at TED, are trying to build digital walls of safety around their children, but they’re facing powerful forces.

We need to do more and get to the root of the problem.

And so, on the TED Stage in Vancouver, I put out the call. Attendance at TED is by application, and the attendees — scientists, CEOs, designers, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, artists — are often as extraordinary as the speakers.

I challenged the TED audience to use their power to partner with GenZ to fight Big Social. Let’s support legal changes and use our economic power to call on social media CEOs and boards to abandon the hate-for-profit business model that chews at our democracy.

Speaking as the leader of the Sustainable Media Center, I proposed a plan with three key components:

Transparency — The social networks know that their reckless use of private data trades teen mental health for illicit profits. This has to stop — now.

Responsibility — We need to hold the platforms responsible for sending young children provably harmful content. Currently, platforms benefit from unlimited immunity and advertisers who look the other way.

Inclusion — GenZ knows they’re being treated with cavalier carelessness. Now they’re demanding agency and inclusion in their digital media lives.

Let’s be honest with each other: The danger we face is distinctively hard. Today social media has absolute immunity from responsibility. With Section 230 making the social platforms immune from prosecution, no one feels good about where social media has taken us. But the road ahead need not spiral downward. Profits over people need not remain the business model we all face.

“I’d rather give my kids Jack Daniels and weed than Instagram,” is Scott Galloway’s memorable line in the sand.

So, “Do we love our children?” If the answer is yes, what are we going to do about it? Write to me with your ideas at info@sustainablemedia.center. I’ll write about a wide range of proposals in the coming weeks.

Reach out — together, we have the power to make social media change.

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