What are the impacts of violent media, pornography, and video game play on the behavior and mental health of boys and young men?  How do male gender roles portrayed by social media and digital platforms influence boys’ developing identity? What can you do to help your son navigate unwanted or harmful content and messaging in his digital life?

Boys are bombarded online with conflicting notions about what it means to “be a man,” from violent and overtly sexual content to broad stereotypes about masculine behavior. On September 14, 2022 at 12pm, Children and Screens’ #AskTheExperts webinar “Bringing Up Boys in a Digital World” featured a discussion of identity development, social pressures, and media content and behaviors uniquely affecting boys. A panel of psychologists, researchers, and parenting experts shared existing research on how the prevalence of pornography, video games, and violent media content can affect boys’ mental health and behaviors, and how parents and educators can help male youth engage more thoughtfully with the media influences in their lives.


  • Andrew Reiner, MFA, MS

    Professor, Towson University
  • Desmond Upton Patton, PhD

    Brian and Randi Schwartz University Professor; Director SAFELab, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jason Nagata, MD, MSc

    Assistant Professor Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine University of California, San Francisco
  • Ed Spector, PsyD

    Licensed Psychologist
  • Soraya Giaccardi

    Senior Researcher Norman Lear Center University of Southern California

Digital media’s growing influence on children during their critical developmental years affects youth of all gender identities. In this “Ask the Experts” webinar, the impacts of these online interactions on the identities and experiences specific to boys in their journey to “manhood” is examined by a panel of experts, researchers, and health practitioners. Impacts of technology and digital media on risk-taking behavior, body image, self-esteem, and perceptions of gendered norms is discussed, as well as tips for parents to help their child maintain a healthy relationship with digital and social media influences.

00:00 Introduction

Introduction from Kris Perry, MSW, Executive Director of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development regarding the pertinence of acknowledging the diversity of experiences with digital media that male youth have.

01:47 Andrew Reiner, MFA, MS

Moderator Andrew Reiner, MFA, MS, writer, author and a masculinity and cultural studies expert and professor at Towson University, delineates the differences between digital platforms used for socialization and entertainment by children. He notes that such differences are partially defined by gender identity and points out that boys view digital spaces as “blueprints” for developing conceptions of self, as well as for creating and maintaining friendships.

05:48 Jason Nagata, MD, MSc

Dr. Jason Nagata is an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. Demonstrating the potential of popular media’s detrimental effects, he shares the story of a 16-year-old patient’s attempts to fit conventional body standards. Nagata then addresses how male eating disorders in youths are exacerbated by social media, educates the audience on the symptoms of muscle dysmorphia, and gives recommendations for promoting healthy digital activity levels for children and adolescents. He highlights the influences of screen time in both excessive and inadequate physical exercise, calling attention to the need for balanced use of digital media.

16:17 Desmond Upton Patton, PhD

Dr. Desmond Upton Patton is the Brian and Randi Schwartz University Professor and the 31st Penn Integrates Knowledge University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as Director of the SAFELab. He details how social media exposes boys to certain types of behaviors that glorify organized violence and gang activity. In addition to this “internet banging,” he analyzes the importance of Internet communities as affirming spaces to reinforce masculinity and self-validation, replacing hip-hop as a conduit for these mannerisms. Patton encourages parents to talk to their children about their social media, who they’re interacting with, where they’re posting, and why.

28:14 Soraya Giaccardi

Soraya Giaccardi is a Senior Researcher at the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. She explains how risk-taking behaviors, negative body image, and emotional withdrawal are correlated with high media use in male children and adolescents. She emphasizes how patriarchal gender roles are enforced by online media, creating a “precarious manhood” that is hard to earn but easy to lose. Giaccardi encourages parents to teach their children media literacy, be open and honest about media use, and model vulnerability and communication.

40:55 Ed Spector, PsyD

Dr. Ed Spector is an expert on digital addiction and treatment of compulsive tech use. Spector reveals that all of his clients for technology addiction are male and explains that maladaptive dependence on technology often coexists with other mental health concerns. He advises parents to cultivate ongoing dialogues about technology with their children, monitor screen time on an individual and collaborative basis, and ask questions about activities like gaming. He concludes by outlining the importance of curiosity and open discussion about technologies and the importance of video games to people that play them.

54:36 Group Q&A

Guided by questions submitted from the audience, Andrew Reiner leads the panel in a discussion of how to limit exposure to pornography and other inappropriate or violent content, whether representations of masculinity on the Internet are shifting gender norms, and the importance of modeling positive media habits and healthy communication about technology use. The panelists also touch on positives they have observed in male media behaviors and what to expect from emerging technologies and their impact on male development (including what parents should watch out for with each new technology their child may adopt).

[Kris Perry]: Welcome to today’s “Ask the Experts” webinar, “Bringing Up Boys in a Digital World.” I am your host, Kris Perry, executive director of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. Many of you joined us last week for our webinar on Girls and Digital Media, and we’re glad to welcome you back with another fantastic panel of experts to address some of your most pressing questions about boys and their interactions with technology. We must first acknowledge that not every issue can be addressed by this dichotomous approach to gender, as each child is unique and faces their own individual opportunities and challenges. However, we often talk about the topic of today’s discussion from a broader viewpoint, and we would be remiss not to acknowledge the differential experiences that boys have across their development. Their interactions with digital media are no exception. After listening to our experts today, we expect you’ll come away with a better understanding of how social media, video games and mainstream representations of masculinity are influencing boys self-esteem, body image, mental health, sexual development behaviors and other risk taking behaviors and addictions. Some of you may have been seeing these very same impacts on your own sons or boys in your lives, and we hope that you will feel empowered and equipped to talk with them about the issues they’re facing online. Now, it’s my great pleasure to introduce you to today’s moderator, Andrew Reiner. Mr. Reiner is the author of Better Boys, Better Men: The New Masculinity That Creates Greater Courage and Emotional Resiliency. He’s written about contemporary and healthy masculinity extensively for The New York Times, The Washington Post and NBC THINK as well as Rome’s La Repubblica, among other publications. He also teaches at Towson University. Welcome, Andrew.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you so much, Kris. Thank you. Thank you. A few thank yous real quickly before we get going, everyone. Thank you to Kate Blocker, who’s tirelessly working behind the scenes with these Children and Screens workshops and webinars. Thank you, of course, to Children and Screens for hosting this very, very important conversation about boys and their digital lives. Thank you very much, of course, to the esteemed panelists who are here with us today and being part of this webinar. And thank you to all of you who are out there taking time out of your day, or night, or evening to listen in. So panelists just a really quick reminder that I’ll give you a one minute warning if you’re getting down to the wire during your presentation. So some of us may think that many of our children use the same digital platforms for socializing and for entertainment and for the same purposes as well. There is some crossover and there are considerable differences based on gender identity. For many girls, trans and bigender children, their digital consumption largely centers around social media. So think Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, where they can hopefully maintain their social connections, their relevance, and align with their identity, with their peers. Now, many boys, many trans and bigender children use these same platforms, but a little bit less than girls and for different reasons as well. Boys are more drawn to digital spaces where they too can develop social connections and bolster, yes, also flex, their social status. But for boys, their digital lives are also spaces where they look for blueprints about their gender identity, about what it takes to become a competent man. This is why many boys look to cyberspace as a place where, apart from parents, they can have their present and idealized identity as competent as sending men reflected back to them. These are also spaces where boys are getting the same messages they receive offline from fathers, yes, even mothers too sometimes, from teachers, coaches and peers who identify often as male and female that being cocksure, physically strong and aggressive will make them more successful men. So when boys are spending a lot of time on “First Shooter” games, for instance, they’re immersed in a violent world that research shows can leave them feeling more hostile and aggressive afterwards. But these are also games that have a primary space for boys to create and maintain friendships, which can also contribute to the emotional disconnect and isolation crisis that we’re seeing in boys and men. YouTube is perhaps an influence with even greater depth and breadth. YouTube is, among many things, a haven for young male influencers who have more sway for boys than many of their fathers do. As with the social media, this is a space where many boys are taught about the need to have what I call a “monobod,” which can lead to body dysmorphia. A big chest, biceps, six pack abs. We’re all familiar with this. It’s also where they’re directly and indirectly swayed in their political and cultural worldview, where many white nationalist groups first engage with, and lure boys, who feel alienated and culturally rejected. Finally, YouTube is in orbit, where many male influencers preach unhealthy forms of masculinity that often discourage hard work and encourage style over substance. For example, how wealth and its trappings are key to successful masculinity. So clearly we have a lot to talk about today. So let’s get started with our first panelists. Jason Nagata. Dr. Nagata is a pediatrician and researcher specializing in adolescent medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He researches digital technology use, body image and eating disorders among teens, and edited the book Eating Disorders in Boys and Men. Dr. Nagata.

[Dr. Jason Nagata]: Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you today. And as I mentioned, I’m a pediatrician who specializes in the care of adolescents with eating disorders. And my particular research focus is on eating disorders in boys and young men. I wanted to start off by telling the story of one of my patients who I’ll call Johnny, a 16 year old runner. As a result of his varsity track season being canceled at the beginning of the pandemic, Johnny became more sedentary and gained 20 pounds. Stuck at home, he spent countless hours browsing Instagram and other social media sites where he discovered muscular teenage boys who publicly shared their workout and dieting regimens, gaining thousands of followers in the process. He began to emulate these influencers, counting calories while upping his fitness goals. When sports seasons resumed, Johnny hit the gym with his teammates, but he also added on individual runs, peloton bikes, hiit training workouts, exercising an excess of 5 hours per day. He became so obsessed with fitness and dieting that he stopped seeing his friends in order to keep up his intense workout schedule and minimal calorie count. His behaviors persisted for months before anyone realized that he had developed a full blown eating disorder. And by the time he was evaluated by a physician, he needed to be hospitalized for medical instability. Johnny’s story highlights the understudied and underrecognized aspects of body image and eating disorders in boys. Most body image and eating disorder research has focused on thinness and weight loss, particularly in females. And there’s relatively limited body image, an eating disorder, research focus specifically on males. But we do know that the idealized masculine body image has become increasingly large and muscular. To illustrate this point, I wanted to cite the work of Harrison Pope at Harvard, who examined trends and muscularity of male action figures over time. Here we see the Batman and Superman action figures from prior to 2000. Now we see the Batman and Superman figurines our current children play with. Pope found that over a 30 year period, boys’ action figures have become increasingly muscular with larger biceps, shoulders, chests and more defined abdominal and serratus muscles. And of course, these action figures reflect what kids are seeing on television and in movies. So similarly, let’s look at earlier Hollywood stars from past decades and the male body image that they portray. In contrast to the current Hollywood stars, Marvel superheroes, who also appear to be bigger, bulkier and have more defined musculature. Social media is also on the rise, and unlike traditional Hollywood movies or television, which are generally limited to a small group of celebrity actors, social media now allows any team to have the potential of becoming an influencer or a celebrity if they put their bodies on display. Last year, Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, shed light on social media’s impacts on teenage girls, which received a lot of media attention. However, I also wanted to note that social media can have impacts on boys’ body image as well. And so I wrote this op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, highlighting some of the research that has been documented on social media’s impacts on boys’ body image. So the research has shown that boys are actually more likely than girls to allow for public followings. Male selfies are more likely to be full body photos that show muscles, whereas female selfies are more likely to focus on the face and a majority of male body image-related Instagram posts depict muscularity and leanness. Other studies have shown that Instagram use in boys and men are associated with some disordered eating or muscle dysmorphia behaviors such as meal skipping, disordered eating, muscle dissatisfaction and even use of anabolic steroids, which are illegal and can be dangerous. So while the initial press of the Facebook whistleblower focused on the impact on teenage girls, there has been more research and media attention recently on how boys can have eating disorders and social media can contribute to this phenomenon. In order to achieve the idealized, muscular body type boys and young men may engage in muscle enhancing behaviors that includes protein overconsumption, while restricting carbohydrates and fats and use of appearance and performance enhancing drugs and substances such as anabolic steroids, androstenedione, creatine, and a number of other supplements. And of course, there may be a drive for compulsive or excessive exercise. I wanted to highlight that in addition to eating disorders, one condition that may be relevant is muscle dysmorphia, more colloquially known as bigorexia or reverse anorexia. It’s a subtype of body dysmorphic disorder and it’s characterized by a preoccupation or obsession with insufficient muscularity, though in most cases, an individual’s build is objectively normal or even muscular. It occurs more commonly in boys and men and may present with engagement and muscle enhancing behaviors. To finish out, I just wanted to highlight a few tips for parents from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations in terms of media, social media, screen time and general screening guidelines. First, it’s recommended that you have a family media use plan. So just talking to your children about screen and social media use. And I think one important aspect is to role model for your children with your own screening practices, because a big predictor of child screen use is parent screen use. And so if you set rules for the household, you should also follow them yourselves because your kids will tend to emulate what you do. And just having these open ended conversations with children and often, you know, kids themselves will realize that social media may have some risks or be related to poor mental health. And if children find that social media is causing more stress or anxiety than enjoyment, then they may consider alternative activities to make them feel more connected with others. I think one factor in social media addiction is constant notification. So if you get a notification every time you get a like or a post or a comment and so potentially encouraging turning off notifications for social media may help with that. And then also, as part of your discussion for your household, thinking about potential screen free times, whether it’s at school, maybe during important activities, family meals or before bedtime. Thanks so much.

[Andrew Reiner]: Okay. Thank you so much, Dr. Nagata. So a question for you. What kind of conversations should we as parents be having with sons about this often compulsive need, as you talked about, to work out excessively, to have this kind of superhero/action hero bod?

[Dr. Jason Nagata]: Thanks. I think that’s such an important question. And I actually just want to commend you for that thought. I think any conversation actually with boys about some of these pressures to work out excessively or about body image is so important because most people, most boys will never have anyone talk to them about this because it’s so underrecognized. You know, pediatricians, teachers, counselors are mostly trained to look for this in girls. And so I think just even having any conversation about these issues is a really important first step. And I do think that there is a conversation about balancing benefits versus risks, because, of course, some amount of physical activity and exercise is healthy and recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 60 minutes a day for children, 6 to 18. But on the flip side, we actually know that overall, boys who are on screens a lot of the time, especially for television, Internet browsing or video games, actually are mostly sedentary. And most kids actually don’t get the recommended physical activity. But then there’s a subgroup, perhaps those who are more exposed to social media or certain types of content like YouTube, who will actually have excessive exercise, like the patient that I was talking about, who was exercising 5 or 6 hours a day. And then that extreme can also have health risks. And so I do think that having a balanced discussion about risks and benefits is important. And then if somebody is sort of on that line where there’s concern that they’re having too much, I think some warning signs for a parent to know about is like if a boy is having any kind of preoccupation about their appearance or body size, weight or exercise in a way that’s really worsening their quality of life, they’re not benefiting them. So, some of these teens will tell us that, you know, they feel bad if they aren’t at the gym all the time and they can’t see their friends, they can’t eat out with family because the meals at restaurants aren’t high enough. And protein content, when it starts to impair your daily functioning and daily lives, that’s when it’s time to get help.

[Andrew Reiner]: So helpful. Thank you so much again, Dr. Nagata. So let’s hear from our next panelist. Desmond Upton Patton. Doctor Upton Patton is the Brian and Randy Schwartz University professor, and the 31st “Penn integrates Knowledge” University professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He has joint appointments in the School of Social Policy and Practice and the Annenberg School for Communication, along with a secondary appointment in the Department of Psychiatry in the Perlman School of Medicine.

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: Good morning and thank you so much for that intro. It is so nice to be with you all. My name is Desmond Patton and for over a decade I have been telling anyone who will listen about the need to pay attention to the role that social media plays in amplifying and facilitating gun and gang violence. I started this work over a decade ago as a violence researcher and a social worker in the city of Chicago, where young boys and men in the south and west sides of the city brought me into the fold to understand how they would navigate safety in their communities by paying attention to social media, which then alerted me to the ways in which social media may also indicate or trigger potential violence offline as well. So I started this work over a decade ago and I was conducting qualitative interviews with high achieving black boys and young men in the city of Chicago. And a number of them were telling me about a beef that was unfolding between two very well-known rappers in the Southside on the south side of Chicago who were both in rival gangs. And one of those individuals posted their exact location on Twitter because he was fed up with the back and forth, and within 3 hours he was murdered in that exact location. So I was very concerned about the impact of Twitter, in particular, in amplifying and escalating that particular event, went to the literature and there was absolutely no literature on this particular phenomenon.So with colleagues from the University of Chicago, we wrote the first paper to put some definitions and some parameters around this idea that, you know, ten years ago we call “Internet banging” a play on the phrase “gang-banging.” This isn’t a term that I would use today. I think it focuses too much on particular types of behaviors and also conjures up pathological ideas about young black boys. However, it is important that we consider and we continue to think about the impact of social media on the lives of young black boys and men. So, in the paper, there were a couple of things that we noticed. And what we did is that we engaged in a systematic review of the computer mediated communications literature, the masculinity literature and the hip hop literature to try to define it and try to understand what we might be saying. Some of the things that came out of this investigation is that we saw a number of examples of young boys using Twitter and other social media accounts to amplify their affiliations with gangs and to also express interest in gang involvement as well. It was also a function in which one could get higher visibility, celebrity and notoriety through their posting behavior by amplifying ideas around bravado and a masculinity that suggests that they were tough and willing to fight at a moment’s notice. And it was also a way of building a network, right? To have a network of other individuals who might be going about to make a living in the neighborhood to stay connected in that way. And also counter to that is to also be able to follow individuals who are adversary to one’s group or neighborhood as well. What we also know from prior literature is that there is a major idea around respect, respect and disrespect. And one of the major triggers that we have noted in our work is that when there is a function of disrespect between rival individuals, crews or cliques, this is one of the main examples that facilitate offline violence from online communication and engagement as well. So another thing that we did is that we wanted to try to understand, well, how did we get here and what is the role of masculinity? One of the things that we did when we interrogated the literature and when we spoke to other young black boys and men is that a number of individuals reject it from the political market, that their intersectional identities were not wanted and desired, that the ways in which racism played out affected their ability and their marketability within the economic market, which then informed and influenced feelings of rejection and powerlessness, failure and inferiority as well. These are also the same groups and men that are an offshoot of the hip hop generation. Right? And a product of parents who were part of the civil rights era as well. And also individuals who have heard and experienced narratives around homicides in black communities and the incarceration epidemic that happens in black communities as well. And so one of the things that I think hip hop has played a role is it becomes a reflection of the environment that young men, of particular high rates who live in neighborhoods with high rates of community based violence, are experiencing harsh realities that are a reflection of the music. And so the music, the lyrics also end up being posted on social media, which have various levels of interpretation. And at times those interpretations of lyrics, and particularly in real music, can then lead or trigger offline violence as well. One quote that we came across from some interviews is from a young man in Chicago who said, “If they say I’m a thug, I’ll be a super-thug; if they say I’m dangerous, I will become super dangerous; if they say I’m creating me into a criminal. I will create and advocate a criminalized identity.” Right, so this is the buy into ideas of white supremacy and white toxicity that influence how young men are seeing themselves. And it becomes a reflection of the types of posting behavior that we may also see on social media as well. So I think that if critically important, that anyone who was working in the area of gun and gang violence and with young black men who were living in these particular types of neighborhoods, to think about the amplification of social media behavior in engagement. I think that social media is a place that a lot of young boys and men see public love and recognition of their intersectional identities and their manhood. And to reinforce a sense of self. It also anchors a space for legitimizing and delegitimizing street credibility as well, based on, you know, who you’re following and the types of images that you post, the types of music, lyrics that you post as well in your broader connections. But it also allows individuals who feel dehumanized to craft an alter ego that is an aspirational self. That may also include ideas around posturing hypermasculinity behaviors as well. Another quote from a young person from Chicago is “Social media outlets are a means to which individuals can display how they ‘keep it real,’ a position that was once occupied by hip hop.” So now the engagement and commitment to hip hop has transitioned and amplified through social media behaviors and connections as well. I think it’s really important for parents to be having conversations with young people about their digital life, to be very thoughtful around trust and rapport, right. So not to be not to oversurveil, but to introduce conversations about “where are you posting? Where are you hanging out? Who are you talking to? Are you learning any new things on social media?” to get deeper into the types of connections and engagements that young boys and men are having online. Thank you so much.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you so much. Lots to unpack there. Dr. Patton, thank you so much. So a question for you. You spoke at the beginning of your presentation about how social media is often being used to actually amplify violence among some of the gang members that you spoke of. So you spoke a little bit about this at the end, but I’d love to hear a little bit more. I think, you know, more parents would be interested to hear. So if social media can be used to amplify the violence, can it be used to change the narrative? For a lot of these boys and young men, that violence amplifies their street cred.

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: So, social media is a really complex space and it’s one that really hinges on interpretability. And I think, number one, it’s something that’s really important, understanding that most young boys are not posting about gang activity and that they’re not posting about violent activity. And actually, there’s a lot of positive and promotive engagement that’s happening as well. And I think that the work to be done is to help young boys see the connection to positivity and the credibility, and also posting about everyday life that is not connected to gang activity as well. And so being able to help elucidate some of the promise of being able to have a healthy and thriving social media environment is also equally important as well. I think that takes helping people to see the possibilities and reducing some of the focus on the criminological aspects of social media as well.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you. Quick, really quick follow up, because we do have a minute or two. So in terms of focusing on the positivity, as you know from your research, so much of the violence, the reactive violence stems from deep feelings of shame. Right? With masculine identity. Right? So, is positivity enough in the messages on social media to help a lot of boys and young men recalibrate the ways that they’re thinking about their power as men? And, you know, is positivity enough of a message to really, you know, cut away at that deep well of shame that they feel over having to prove themselves through violence as men?

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: No, you’re absolutely right. It is not enough. I think that it is a part of the overarching story, but this is a holistic approach, a transdisciplinary approach that needs all hands on deck. We need stronger social media regulation around content moderation. We need teachers and social workers and clinicians to be having these deep conversations about individual social media lives. We need to help people find joy online as well to help connect young people to various outlets on social media and offline so people experience more joy as well. So positivity is important, but not the only piece, and we also need to help because when folks are online, they have to go back to their families, back to the neighborhoods. Oftentimes they’re not experiencing the same amount of joy that they could as well. So we have to have the thread that loops us between our digital life and our offline life as well.

[Andrew Reiner]: Love it. Thank you so much, Dr. Patton. Okay, so now let’s hear from our next panelist, Soraya Giaccardi, who is a senior researcher at the Norman Lear Center at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, Ms. Giaccardi served as Associate Director of research for the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Her work focuses on exploring the ways in which entertainment media impacts our lived experiences, with special attention to the role of gender.

[Soraya Giaccardi]: Thank you for the intro and thank you for having me here. I’m going to talk a little bit about how media use among boys and men is associated with a variety of outcomes. And here, when I’m talking about media, I’m talking specifically about what we consider traditional media, which includes television, film and video games. Now, the broader literature has found that higher media use among boys and men is associated with a variety of things, including risk taking behaviors and risk taking is a broad concept. Right? So the literature has looked at that in various ways. We’ve examined, for example, the relationship between media use and risk driving behaviors, substance use and sexual risk taking. And I think it’s important to point out that oftentimes when we talk about sexual risk taking, that gets reduced down to two factors. Number of sexual partners and age at first intercourse. And while those two things are very important and they do give us valuable information, I think that we miss a lot of information about sexual well-being when we focus only on those two things. So, for example, I am also very interested in attitudes and adolescent understandings around consent or coercion. Right? Do adolescents understand that coercion is a spectrum of behaviors? We’re not just talking about physical aggression, but we’re also talking about verbal coercion or using substances like alcohol or drugs to gain sexual access. Media use is also associated with emotional withdrawal or emotional restrictiveness. It’s also associated with a negative body image. Although, as Jason mentioned earlier, this is an area of work that’s pretty understudied. It’s been getting more attention in recent years and hopefully we will continue to see a lot more nuanced research on boys and body image and media use is also associated with an endorsement of traditional gender roles and behaviors. And again, that could include a variety of things, things like career aspirations or expectations around sexual relationships. Right. So endorsing the idea that girls should be the the gatekeepers of sexual relationships while boys should be the pursuers. And it also, I’m going to give you one example, and this example is actually among a sample of adult men. And the reason I’m going to give a sample using adult men rather than boys is because I want to highlight that media impacts us all, right? Even us as adults, there’s extensive research showing that media impacts our attitudes, our policy beliefs, our policy support for a variety of social issues. So, for example, there is research that has looked at sitcom viewing and fathers attitudes towards caregiving. Right? And their feelings about their own competence in caregiving. So one of the things that you might see a lot in sitcoms is what I like to call the lovable idiot trope.So fathers who are lovable, who are warm, who love their children, but they’re completely incompetent. Right. And they’re often a punchline. And it’s for comedic relief. But there’s research showing that viewing these types of sitcoms, viewing the lovable idiot trope is associated with men’s own feelings around insecurity in their ability to be a caregiver or beliefs around women and mothers being more natural at parenting. So why do we see this relationship? Well, it turns out that this endorsement of traditional gender roles and behaviors is actually a really key component. So, in other words, this endorsement of traditional gender roles and behaviors, it’s not just an outcome. It’s also a mechanism that explains the relationship between media and all of these other outcomes that we’ve discussed. So let’s take a step back and let’s talk about what do we mean by traditional gender roles, particularly when it comes to boys and masculinity. So when we think about if we think about masculinity and we break that down in terms of what are the values of traditional masculinity, we find several things, right? So to be masculine is to be self-sufficient. Right? This means not asking for help. Not relying on others. Just believing that men who are real men, right, can get through things on their own. This is also very closely tied to things like acting tough. Right? So not sharing struggles. Not sharing feelings. Right? And just acting like you’re unfazed by things. Masculinity also incorporates attitudes towards physical attractiveness that have been touched on in this panel earlier, right? When we talked about what body image looks like for boys and men and how that’s tied to things like muscularity. Masculinity also includes this endorsement of rigid gender roles. So this idea once again, right, women take care of the household. Men are the breadwinners, right? Because men are the breadwinners. They shouldn’t have to participate in caregiving or in chores and things like that. Masculinity also includes a component, right, that endorses heterosexuality, oftentimes through homophobia. Right? So this idea that a real man is always interested in sex, is heterosexual, right? And that if you’re gay, you’re not, quote unquote, a real man. This is very closely tied to this notion of hypersexuality. So hypersexuality is one way in which we can display masculinity, right, by again endorsing this idea that real men should have as many sexual partners as they can. We should speak about it openly. It should be a way in which they can prove their masculinity. Now, it also is associated with aggression, control, or this idea that men should be able to use violence and get respect whenever necessary. Now, all of this is important to understand because the research has told us that manhood, masculinity is precarious, which means it’s hard to earn. It’s easy to lose. It must be proven repeatedly. I had one 30 second commercial to show you to play for you that I think does a really excellent job of showing how precarious manhood is. So let me show you this example. A 2014 commercial from Summers Eve.

[Video]: Did you know Summer’s Eve Cleansing Wash is pH balanced and gentler than soap, which makes it perfectly formulated for a woman’s ‘v’. Did you know you’re using it? That was close.

[Soraya Giaccardi]: So great example right there. “That was close.” Right? You almost lost that man card, but luckily you did all of these other things to prove yourself as a man once again. Now what can we do about this? Right? If we know that there’s this association between media and these outcomes, what can we do about it? One, I think we can teach our children, be critical media consumers, and become critical media consumers on our own as well. And this does not mean that you should throw away your favorite shows. One of my favorite things to say over and over is that we can be critical of the things that we love. Right? We can all become more mindful consumers. And that does not mean that we’ll never be able to watch TV or film again. We also need to maintain open dialogue about media habits. Right? If you’re able to watch media with your children, that’s great. But it’s also unrealistic for a lot of parents to sit down and watch their children’s programing with them. So you can still maintain an open dialogue around media habits, even if you don’t have the time to sit down and watch content with them. These are conversations you can have on the drive home from school or in small moments like that.
“What are you watching? What’s your favorite show? Tell me about something new that you’re really into. We can also use opportunities in which there is joint viewing as opportunities for discussion. So, for example, if that Summer’s Eve commercial comes on television during a moment in which I’m watching TV with my son, I’m going to use that as a moment to say, “Well, that was interesting, right? Let’s talk about that. There’s no such thing as products that are only for women or only for men when it comes to things like body washes, etc.” So I might use that as an opportunity for discussion. We can also disrupt gender norms, even outside of what we see in media. So we can do this particularly by modeling and encouraging vulnerability. Right? So much of masculinity involves rejecting the things that we consider feminine, which includes things like feelings and emotions. It’s really important that we allow for that vulnerability so that we can have some of these tougher discussions. And in general, I always like to say communication over restriction Restricting our kids’ content is difficult. It’s difficult when media is continuously changing. It’s difficult when our kids are far more tech savvy than we are, sometimes It’s difficult when they get older and they are spending more time at other people’s houses or just outside the home. So communication over restriction, I think, is key. So I will stop there. I have a list of resources for parents, but I will make these slides available to everybody so that you can actually click on these links. But I did just want to highlight that there are organizations that are looking at this particular issue of media and masculinity. There are resources available for parents to learn more about these topics and to get some guidance. So again, I’ll make these available for everybody.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you so much, Soraya. You covered a lot of really important points regarding stereotypes around masculinity and you covered a lot of really important ground regarding mask on identity. I loved your example of bumbling fathers in TV sitcom, something that is personally driving me crazy for a long time. And one of the things I wanted to ask you, which is a little similar and a little bit different to that. One of the things I’ve noticed in doing my own research is that there’s a lot of social media memes and videos which show a lot of fathers nurturing and showing wonderful affection to their daughters, you know, doing sports together, wearing tutus and dancing together, doing their hair, which is all wonderful developments for a lot of fathers. Do you think from your research that if fathers were shown on social media showing a similar kind of affection and nurturing to sons, that maybe this could shift the paradigm for how a lot of fathers think they should raise competent boys?

[Soraya Giaccardi]: Yes, I absolutely do think that that is one of the many things that we can do to kind of improve this issue. I think that oftentimes, you know, I’ve looked at media across a variety of types of media. So I’ve looked at television, and film, video games. And one of the striking things to me is that a lot of the common depictions and themes that we see, we see across all of these formats in TV and film and video games, etc. So we’re literally inundated with these messages and they are, you know, often we’re so inundated with them that it’s hard to catch them and it’s hard to see them. And the moment that you catch them, you can’t unsee them. Then you’re going to start noticing them everywhere. And so I do think that showing fathers as warm, as loving, as invested in their children’s lives, as participating in their kids lives, by sharing in duties like helping with homework, picking kids up at school, dropping them off, is a part of how we change the narrative of fatherhood and a part of how we move that needle.

[Andrew Reiner]: Great. Thank you so very much. Thank you very much, Soraya. Okay, so now let’s hear from our last panelist. Edward Spector. Dr. Edward Spector is a nationally recognized expert in digital addiction. Since 2009. Dr. Spector is specialized in the treatment of compulsive tech use in his Maryland based private practice. Dr. Spector.

[Dr. Ed Spector]: I’m so glad to be here. Kudos to Children and Screens for putting these together. It’s always hard to be on a panel where you’re the last person talking and everyone was just so great. So I’m going to do my best to keep up with my peers here. So my practice, which as was just said, started in 2009 when I started that, I said I’m going to go out, I’m going to create this practice where everyone who comes to see me, we’re going to help them with compulsive tech use. I always assumed that gender wise there’d be a spread. There might be more males and females, that there would be sort of a mixture. And that never panned out the way that I thought it would. Based on the literature, you’d think that there would be a mix. But just for a point of data, 100% of my clients who are coming for tech addiction, they’re assigned to gender at birth as male 100% for 12 years, with no exceptions that I can think of, which is pretty striking. And I’ve thought a lot about that. And I remember in graduate school learning about mammals and that for all male mammal species, when they’re adolescents, they do rough and tumble play. And females in mammal species, they do grooming. And they know which part of the brain is sort of associated with this, because if they destroy this part of the brain, if they damage this part of the brain in male species, the boys stop doing rough and tumble play and the girls stop doing grooming. And in terms of gaming, I really think of this as the sort of modern day sort of electronic version of rough and tumble play. And that’s what we’re sort of dealing with here and why that might explain, I’m not a researcher, that might explain why there’s such a disparity in terms of gaming and how boys and girls, guys and gals are changing are different in terms of their tech use sometimes. So before I dive into sort of “Parents, what do I want you to do?” I just want to say one other thing, which is that if your child or someone you love is exhibiting a compulsive pattern around technology, in my practice, those people never come in with just that problem. There is always comorbidity. There are these sort of four best friends to compulsive tech use and sometimes all of them are in the room at the same time with me. And it’s good for you to know what those are, because oftentimes compulsive tech patterns are really a symptom of or somehow related to real mental health concerns. And the most four common problems that I treat are anxiety, ADHD, autism and depression. And you can understand how all of those kinds of problems will lead to a compulsive pattern. The road that gets you to the compulsive pattern is often the road that gets you out. So if you know you or someone you love is struggling with compulsive tech use, you want to be sniffing around for some of the what these other problems are and that the treatment needs to include both. How do you handle compulsive tech use and how do you handle these conditions as well? So let me pivot back to sort of what parents should do. And what I love is that not having coordinated, particularly with all of these panelists, we kept on hearing what is my primary message to parents, which is to create an ongoing dialogue. And I’m going to talk about ongoing dialogue, at some point all parents are also going to have to monitor what their kids are doing. They’re going to have to set limits. And on some level, I’m going to push that you try to participate with your kids when appropriate as well. Now, I think the most important part is the ongoing dialogue. And I think how this dialogue looks is important. So I think of the Hamilton musical, the “Talk less, smile more.” When you have this dialogue, you should be eliciting conversation where they talk a lot and you listen, and you should approach that with curiosity, with good questions, and ideally a non-judgmental stance where you’re not going to jump on them for how they did the wrong thing or how that’s reprehensible or but just to really like get them talking and, and, you know, taking in a lot of information. If you are participating with them, so you’re like doing TikToks with your kids or like you’re on Instagram and following them and you’re connecting about YouTube, then you can have discussions with them, which is where the parenting happens, these online discussions. How do you have them? One is to sort of set aside in your mind when you’re going to have these conversations. And I would recommend that when you do them, you’re not just staring across the table from them being like, “Okay, now we’re going to talk about technology.” That there is an activity that you’re doing while chatting with them. And that way, just in general, anyone who works with adolescents, if you’re not staring them down and you’re doing something while you talk, it’s less intimidating and they’re much more likely to be open with you. So go for a walk and talk about it. I like the example of like while you’re driving home from carpool or whatever, but to have it be more sort of organically just happening while both overlapping is really helpful. So while you’re doing something and that dialogue, you want to be asking questions like, “So what’s the funniest thing you’ve heard about or seen on YouTube or whatever, social media? What’s the most upsetting or cringey or disturbing or whatever and get them to talk? What do you like? Who are you following on YouTube and why? What parts of TikTok are you exploring and who’s on your ‘For You’ page and why?” Those kinds of discussions, they are talking a lot. You’re just asking good questions and then what you’re learning about is them and their process. Teens are trying to understand themselves and the universe, and they’re doing that these days through these digital media. And so you need to be present. If you are not present, what happens is there’s this parental vacuum that happens around the technology and then someone else comes in and teaches your kid their values. And this is where we need to be really present with our kids. So that involves communicating with them, having this open dialogue and at times when it’s appropriate, participating. Now, the tricky part is monitoring and setting limits. And as some of the speakers have discussed, it is very hard to effectively monitor and set limits, particularly because any motivated 12 year old can get around any software or hardware out there that you might use to try to control them. So it is going to be, even though it’s important and we should be at times controlling and setting limits when needed and figuring out what they’re doing to keep them safe, realize that the clock is really limited in terms of how long you’re going to be able to do that. And so the dialogue becomes far more important because we need to prepare them for whatever environments they happen to be in rather than stop them from being in them, because eventually they are going to be there, right? I mean, you’re going to try to keep them away from dangerous parts of the Internet and so forth or games that are too violent for them. But like and their age, you are going to struggle with doing that at some point. You want to make sure that that dialogue is still happening. If you have a sort of a policing state where you’re being too controlling and succeeding or not they’re not going to open up with you because they’re going to be worried that you’re going to punish them. And then when they really need you the most, when really something bad happens, they aren’t going to reach out to you and ask for help. And they need us because their frontal lobes are just not developed. And so while they will adopt the technology way quicker than us and they’ll really like know how to do all this stuff that we don’t, what they don’t have is that frontal lobe. They don’t have the problem solving skills that we have. They don’t have the wisdom that comes with age so that we can issue spot and know like, “Hey, I think that’s not going to go well.” Whether it’s how to deal with someone who’s made a problematic response in a group text, whether it’s a gaming environment and whether it’s toxic enough for them, and how that’s playing out. But you want to be able to have that ongoing dialog. If you participate with your kids in some way, it opens up these fabulous conversations that you can have that are very powerful. So if I’m playing video games with my son and we get to a video game that is problematic in some way, that contradicts my values, how powerful is it that I can say, “Okay, this game is kind of fun. I get it. Like the story is kind of interesting or like the gameplay is fascinating. But you know, one thing that’s kind of cringey for me is just like how women are treated. And you notice that you can’t really play a female character in this game that’s powerful and all the women are basically sort of sexualized. And basically they’re like prostitutes and you run them over like there are games like that.” And to be able to have that conversation directly is so powerful and you can only have it if the dialogue is happening and if you’re participating with them. It’s very hard to otherwise. And of course the one thing you want to be very careful with teens is that every kid is different, especially children as well. And so you have to make an assessment about how you’re going to monitor and limit and how much. And for each kid, they’re different. So if you have a kid who’s, for instance, really impulsive or shows poor judgment, then you’re going to start with a very restrictive environment and open it up as they start demonstrating maturity. And so you have to be making that call. And every family, you know, sort of might be a little different about how they approach that, but that’s going to be a really important factor as well. All right. So let me pause there and open it up for discussion.

[Andrew Reiner]: Okay. Thank you so much, Dr. Spector. You’ve given us a lot, a huge panoply of tips to work with, which is extremely helpful for those of us who work with children or have children. So thank you for all of those tips. So, yeah, here’s the question that I have been itching to ask you, and I think a lot of parents that I have spoken with have a similar question. A lot of us who have sons who game a lot have difficulty getting our sons to stop gaming after, as you said, in a lot amount of time. This is something so many of us can relate to. There’s just this power play, this power struggle. What are one or two things that we as parents can do to diminish this power struggle that goes on that many of us have with boys, our sons, when we have, we want them to get off and stop gaming?

[Dr. Ed Spector]: So one of the first steps in any sort of parental situation is to before you get into the power struggle to really understand what’s going on. So you start with curiosity and questions, right? So it’s, “Okay. How come every night when it’s time for dinner, we say it’s time for dinner and you don’t get off and you get real salty and problematic and, you know, it kind of explodes. What’s what’s going on? What game are you playing?” Because oftentimes the game that they’re playing, the situation that they’re in, like parents don’t understand that some of these games are really hard to stop in like a short timeframe. So for example, most games, particularly teen games, it’s you’re playing with other people and those other people, you’re in a match and it’s 6v6. And so you started a game where there’s like 12 people playing, and if you stop abruptly, the game ends for 11 people. And those might be people, you know, they might be your friends at school and you can be banned from the game if you do something like that. Like it may be that this kid is actually struggling with how to navigate a social situation irrespective of gaming. Like you wouldn’t come in in the middle of a basketball game and just grab the kid and be like, “Hey, guys, the game’s over.” And that’s sort of what’s happening in this digital form. So first is to understand, are they having a hard time because of maybe executive functioning skills or just they’re just not planning it out well or social pressure to like play another match when they shouldn’t. And so often what we’ll do is we’ll back up and say, okay, Wednesday, if dinner is always at seven, then what’s the latest point at which you can enter a match and have it be realistically over by dinnertime, which is like a lot of executive functioning skills that many of our teens, particularly teen boys, are not able to do. And so once you give them the real number, the real time, and a reminder, like, “Okay, it’s 6:15. So like this is the last match. Where are you? Okay, so don’t start another match.” Like, once you start doing that, they can really pull away and some games are better for doing this than others. So I’ve had a lot of success with family conflict where we simply shift to different games, games that are easy to just jump off of right when we get to a transition point. So that’s an example.

[Andrew Reiner]: That’s great. That’s great. Thank you so much. Thank you for that. Dr. Spector. Okay. So this is the group discussion, Q&A time and the way we’re going to work is we have quite a few questions that have been sent in. I’m not sure if we have more time for any more questions to be sent in, but I know that we have about four questions for the panelists. And what I’m going to do is go ahead and share the questions and have some panelists, you know, jump in and see what they can offer in terms of responding to your questions. The first one has to do with pornography. And this one is, it says a lot of questions about assumptions that this is normal for boys. How should we address and talk about concerns around porn addiction and aggressive content and pornography? To start us off, Soraya, is that something that you could speak to?

[Soraya Giaccardi]: Yes, I would love to. So I think one of the unique challenges to pornography is that it is marketed as being, quote unquote, “real.” Right? And the same is true with, for example, reality television. Anything that’s marketed as “real” can have particularly powerful effects. So I think one of the first steps in discussing pornography with our children is highlighting the ways in which pornography is just as manufactured and scripted as other forms of media. So for example, if you watch a lot of action movies, I know I like to compare it to like Michael Bay’s action movies, right? You’ve got cars flipping in the air, you’ve got fiery explosions, you’ve got high speed chases. Chances are you’ve never actually witnessed something like that in real life, and chances are that you probably won’t. So the first step is just helping children understand that pornography is this. It’s the action, over the top movie equivalent of sex, right? It’s not realistic. It’s scripted. And then depending on the age of your child, you can also talk about some of your own personal concerns with with pornography. So I noticed in some of the questions there were concerns about the exploitation of women that is often depicted. And I think depending on how old your child is, those are conversations that you might be able to have. Right. The research shows that Gen Z is very progressive, very social justice oriented, and that they are on the forefront of a lot of these social justice issues. So if your child’s a little bit older, you can talk about some of these concerns like, “I’m concerned, I don’t want you going to X, Y and Z websites because I know that they’re not regulated and that anybody can upload content. And that makes me worry that you might see something that wasn’t consensual or something that was dangerous.” You know, having conversations like that. But I think the first step is just establishing that pornography, just like other forms of media, is scripted and unrealistic.

[Andrew Reiner]: That’s great. Thank you so much. Would anybody else like to jump in and add on to that or maybe take up that conversation in a different direction.

[Dr. Ed Spector]: I would I would add one piece, which is certainly for my clientele. Almost every client, at some point we end up talking porn use as a part of just being an adolescent. And one of the things that I see in my private practice quite a bit is, teens or young adult males who have erectile dysfunction because of excessive porn use So by the time they’re at a point where they’d like to have an intimate relationship with someone, they have, to such excess, sort of hype it up that they can’t have the real experience adequately, like they can’t have that experience. And we have strategies for like how they’re going to shift from being sort of porn educated and sort of just the experience seeing sex in that one way to how do you have a relationship with someone and have realistic relations with them? So that’s a major part of this as well. And kids are, I mean, it’s really extraordinary. Kids are really, I went to a conference a couple of years ago where it was about children and porn use. And the first question in the panel was, well, “What percentage of children are looking at porn?” And the answer was so close to 100% that it’s irrelevant. So we’re seeing the kids are getting exposed to it. So we have to prepare them for it. We have to have that discussion, which is very uncomfortable for a lot of parents. But to really not be afraid to talk about that when it’s appropriate, you know, when they’re old enough, when you think it’s a good moment, is going to be essential for raising healthy kids.

[Andrew Reiner]: Yeah. Thank you so much. And as you were saying that, you know, talking about the discomfort of that, I’m thinking, you know, it’s such a trope, right, where, you know, you’re watching TV shows or movies and the parent wants to talk about sexuality. You know, the child, you know, rolls his or her eyes. And there’s this kind of comedic moment. I can’t even you know, the idea of broaching porn just just sounds so challenging, you know, for so many people when just broaching sexuality itself is so challenging. There’s another question: Are media representations changing and or exaggerating male gender norms? Are media representations changing and or exaggerating male gender norms? Any thoughts on this one?

[Soraya Giaccardi]: I think that we are seeing changes over time in depictions of not just men in masculinity, but women and femininity as well. That progress is very slow and there is still quite a bit of, you know, typically progress first comes in the form of just the number of men versus the number of women that you show on screen, etc., rather than then changing the actual themes, the narratives about masculinity that we’re seeing. So there is progress occurring. But I always like to point out that, yes, that progress is slow and that a lot of that progress has occurred because of consistent pressure put on content creators to improve this. So we can’t let up on that.

[Andrew Reiner]: Okay. Thank you. Thank you. I’m curious to hear if any of you can speak to along the lines of this question. The idea of any positive shifts you see happening on social media, let’s say, or any digital space in terms of representation of masculinity in any of the spheres that you guys are familiar with.

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: Just to quickly add, I think that we’re observing some really positive conversations around mental health, particularly from young black boys and men who are having really vulnerable conversations about their mental health, the types of services they’re accessing, and how they want to connect with other boys and men in this space as well. So that’s been one of the most positive things. I’ve seen it across various social media platforms.

[Andrew Reiner]: I’m so glad you brought that up, Dr. Patton, because that really is something that, as a lot of us know, is finally coming to the fore, you know, and it’s it’s a lot of it is just too little, too late, but we desperately need it. One of the things that a lot of us know is that, you know, there’s a lot of resistance among boys and men, especially younger men and older men, in terms of receive, getting, going for help. One of the things, though, that I don’t know if in your work at all with with young males, Dr. Nagata In terms of if, if you’ve noticed any kind of under diagnosing or misdiagnosing depression, if that’s something that you really have noticed for a lot of young men. Because one of the things in my own research I’ve learned is that. in addition to the resistance that so many men feel about getting mental health help, there’s also a lot of misdiagnosing and under diagnosing of depression in boys and men. So a lot of the increasing number of studies which show that, in fact, when the metrics are used that better gauge depression in boys and men, that the gap actually narrows in terms of the gender gap is so common in depression. Do you think that, Dr. Nagata, in terms of what you’ve witnessed in your own practice, have you had to recalibrate in terms of trying to pick up on depression in some of your male patients?

[Dr. Jason Nagata]: Yeah, I think that’s such an important question. And I just wanted to echo what everyone else has mentioned, that there is still such a stigma and underdiagnosing and so many of these mental health issues and in boys and men. And so definitely we have seen lots of teenage boys who are not referred to care or not diagnosed. They’re really long delays in diagnosis because these issues are discussed early on or sometimes even the criteria that even clinicians and health care providers have devised are often based on female data and the eating disorders. For instance, like a lot of the criteria for anorexia nervosa was based on like 99% female samples. And so, I guess a lot of the issues that boys face may be missed even within our official diagnostic criteria. And I do think that the push for medicine and health care in the future is more of like precision medicine, understanding that everyone is different and there is lots of intersectionality, whether it’s gender identity or gender or sexual orientation race like there are all these other factors that can in which some of these issues can affect people differently and present differently, and just understanding that one size does not fit all. And so I do think that, yeah, it’s a really important point that we have to understand that while we have researchers really trying to individualize as much as we can for, you know, an individual.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you very much for that. Yeah. Yeah, I think I mean, I think we all agree that more now than ever, you know, the discussion around mental health is something that is so pressing for all of us. And, you know, as we’ve heard, it often does get overlooked, often in boys and men, not only because of the resistance that historically they’ve had, but because the metrics really, as Dr. Nagata was saying, aren’t really the same. Often for males, people who identify as male, people who identify as females. Sometimes the metrics are different and we haven’t really caught up with that. Even in the DSM, I’ve noticed that we’re still using in the DSM the Bible of mental health care practitioners. They are still using the same old metrics that really, as Dr. Nagata said, gauge depression much more accurately in females than they do in males. And of course, that speaks volumes. So we’ve got another question. Looking ahead and considering emerging technologies, what should parents watch out for with new things? And do we think that they will exacerbate these issues? Maybe we could break that up into the first question. Looking ahead and considering emerging technologies, what should parents watch out for? For emerging technologies in terms of their sons?

[Dr. Ed Spector]: I’ll jump in first. I mean, the thing about this field that I’ve experienced in the last 12 years is like every six months, I feel ignorant again, because it just keeps changing on you. You know, I’m sure in six months they’re going to invent smell vision, and then we’re all going to have to figure out how to deal with it right. And so one is to just stay in the game. So one is to like something new is coming down the pike. Okay. I need to learn and understand it enough. I need to issue spot like where are the risk factors? Where’s the underbelly of this? How is it going to play out? Any new system is going to have potential, you know, dangers. Risks also just it’s going to be compelling and in what way? But of course, we can’t really predict it if it really is innovative and different than we’re going to. Just like when VR for example, I’ve seen some questions about VR as well. I have no clients who are compulsively using VR, so I don’t really know if that’s because VR just doesn’t have the right games or because they’re exhausted, because they’re standing up and moving around. So they can’t do it for too long before they get tired. But for some reason, VR is not having the risk in terms of the compulsion that I’m seeing in other consoles or phones or in terms of gaming, in terms of new forms of social media. I mean, we’re looking at you’re going to look at privacy, you’re going to look at how easy is it to take whatever you’ve done and project it to other people who can communicate with you, how can they find you and all of those kinds of things you’re going to be looking at. And it’s sort of hard to to know, you know, what further to say other than it’s really important that you sort of look for, you know, how is this going to mess with us before you let it come under the you know, under the Christmas tree and just enter your family, try to understand how it’s going to work.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you, Dr. Patton. I’m curious, you were talking at the end before about some of the hope that you have with the use of social media in terms of engaging some boys of color and at risk boys. Do you know of any new developments or that some of some of the boys and young men that you’ve worked with in terms of some of this new emerging technology, that that might be able to really be more beneficial in terms of getting that positive message to them.

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: I think a part of the work is to translate lived experience to expertise that can funnel and channel positive energy for young boys and men and so for me, a lot of that work has been to create pathway programs and support programs that allow young boys and men to become content creators in this space where they are the leaders in the development of their own narratives, about their lives, about their communities, about their families, and can use that to tell their stories, to build positive narratives, and to also create careers and gain access to power and money through this space as well. So I think that we also have to think about how do we empower folks through the use of these technologies in a way that allows them to control the narratives themselves?

[Andrew Reiner]: That’s great. One of the things that, as you were saying that that I was thinking is that often, sometimes having younger people doing kind of their own little documentarian projects, right, where it’s about their neighborhood, this is where I live, or maybe even about their families, if they’re if they would be open to that. But it sounds like that kind of thing would give them some skin in the game and some buy in that maybe would help in terms of with identity that you’re talking about. So the last question that was submitted is one that I just want to scroll down for a moment here. Some parents are creating many of these same stereotypes with their own posts. They’re perpetuating the stereotypes with their own posts and social media. Do you guys have any thoughts on shifting the needle with parents so that they can help in turn shift the needle with youth, with children? Do you think that parents should be posting differently than some of them are in terms of the messages and some of these things?

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: I think a part of what we need parents to think about is that social media is not just a virtual thing that folks do on the side. It has real life implications and consequences and it is a part of life. One of the things that I heard from many community members in Chicago when I was doing qualitative interviews is they kept saying “Social media is life, social media is life.” But it has not translated into how parents are operating on social media, their own posting of behavior and engagement, and how they talk to their young people about social media. So we have to reckon with the real life embeddedness of social media.

[Andrew Reiner]: Could you just elaborate on that a little bit in terms of what this reckoning would look like in terms of for some of us who, you know, of course, are older and didn’t grow up in social media, what is that reckoning? What does that need to look like for us to really close that gap?

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: I think a part of it is that we need more education in this space. One of the things I’m hoping is that conversations like this for social media companies and nonprofits and others to provide more digital literacy so that people understand more about their digital footprint. And so, you know, when you’re in middle school, you learn about what it means to be a U.S. citizen. What we don’t have is what it means to be a digital citizen. And that is complicated because it’s nuanced and it’s layered. But I think introducing the idea and making it more universal could be helpful as well.

[Dr. Jason Nagata]: Now, I’ll just jump in and say I agree with all of that. And I do think that research has shown that, as I mentioned, kids mimic what they observe their parents doing. So I do think it’s important to role model the behaviors that you want your kids to be following because if you say, “Oh, no phones at the dinner table,” and you’re texting with your friends at the dinner table, they’re going to go text their friends. So I think it’s just important to role model that. And I think even though this seminar, which is so important, which is focused on children, as you mentioned, these are issues that we all face as adults. I mean, we’re in front of screens right now. You know, many of us are in front of screens all day for work. We’re texting for work. And so I think that these are all issues that are relevant to us, too. And, you know, this is kind of come on later for us. And we haven’t had these digital media courses like in high school or middle school. And so I do think it’s yeah, it’s important to recognize that these are things that we all struggle with. And so I do think that having these open conversations and also like talking to your kids about how you deal with our don’t deal with or even acknowledging your own struggles, I think can be really important.

[Andrew Reiner]: That’s a great point. That really is. Thank you. Yeah. And I think, you know, amen to a lot of that. And I think I think clearly a lot of us could benefit from having those kinds of conversations. And, you know, as we said earlier, you know, and Dr. Spector talked about the idea of, you know, leading with curiosity. I mean, these are ways that we can have these kinds of conversations with our children, which I think would really benefit both of us, you know, going both ways. So before we get to the last segment, we do have one more question. And I think we’ve got time. We look like we’re okay and time. So I’m going to float one more question to you guys if that’s okay. So what do you think about the radicalization of young men through social media and video games? There’s a second part to that. But do you do you do you all think that there is a sort of radicalization going on either through social media and or video games? Do you think either one of those contributes to any of this? And what is this radicalization? What does it look like?

[Soraya Giaccardi]: So there has been a lot of research, recent research, specifically looking at radicalization on YouTube. That is a platform lends itself quite well to this and it lends itself well to this because boys don’t even have to log in and necessarily be looking for these topics to be steered in that direction. And just to harp once again on the importance of communication, I’m going to give a personal example that I would not have even known that this is occurring if my son hadn’t told me so. Becoming increasingly common for kids to use YouTube to watch other people play video games. If you’re like me, you don’t understand it. But it is a very, very popular genre of videos on YouTube. And my son mentioned to me that every time he watched Fortnite videos, he would get commercials for the NRA, the National Rifle Association, I would have no idea that that was happening if he hadn’t brought it up. It prompted a really good discussion. And so the thing about YouTube is that oftentimes you’ve got that automatic play, your video ends and a new one starts and YouTube curates a playlist. And there has been research and there have been an increasing number of conversations about the many faults in the YouTube algorithm that is directing kids one way or another. In fact, I personally, there’s a YouTube app and there is a Kids YouTube app, and a lot of parents let their kids use the Kids YouTube app freely thinking that it’s safe. But there have even been controversies and problems with that Kids app as well. So I like to tell people, right, not to necessarily trust the YouTube Kids app completely, you know, to make sure that they’re still having conversations with their kids about that. But I do think that it’s a problem that we’re not just seeing a book among boys. We’re talking about a national problem that we’re currently facing. I don’t know so much about other social media platforms, but I do know that the research is pointing specifically to YouTube as being a source of that.

[Andrew Reiner]: And you know, I’ve actually had, anecdotally, a very similar experience with my own son, who’s now 11, in terms of watching people playing video games, which I also have a hard time wrapping my mind around. But more importantly, the point was that commercials would come up and he would start echoing things that he had heard on YouTube. But I thought you’re clearly hearing this on YouTube. And this is why there is a slow growing consciousness in our culture. Very slow growing, unfortunately. But we need to speed it up around conversations with YouTube because as you said, of the algorithm and some parents are realizing that their sons are becoming radicalized with white nationalism on spaces like YouTube, because as I was trying to allude to earlier, and I don’t have time to really unpack it, you know, a lot of boys and young men are going on to places like YouTube and they’re finding influencers in the absence of strong connections with fathers. And they’re getting a lot of their masculine identity through these influencers. And one of the things that is so insidious is that a lot of these white nationalist groups will very indirectly post things that end up becoming kind of propaganda that really kind of lures boys in. And for a lot of boys who already feel socially alienated and isolated, which is only increasing it, they’re really kind of preying on that. So it really is becoming an issue. I don’t know if any other panelists want to speak to this idea of radicalization through the digital spaces at all. So why don’t we pivot then to the wrap up questions? We have about a minute for each of you. And what we’re going to do is if you could bring home some thoughts, maybe just one important takeaway from your presentation or anything even that just came up for you as we’re having this conversation. So if you could just maybe, you know, for 30 seconds or a minute on a takeaway for us before we finish things up, Dr. Nagata, would you start us off, please?

[Dr. Jason Nagata]: Sure. I think just this recent discussion really made me emphasize the importance of parents acting as role models for their children with their own screen practices and having regular conversations with your children about screen usage and kind of open ended discussions about challenges and potential agreements or rules for our homes and that could include like screen free time during family meals or before bedtime. But it can be personalized for your household.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you very much. Dr. Patton.

[Dr. Desmond Upton Patton]: Yeah, a couple of things. If you’re working in the area of gun and gang violence, social media is critical and could not be overlooked in this space. Social media is life. So pay close attention. Continue to have in-depth discussions with young people about the social media life to be thoughtful and careful about over policing their social media space.

[Andrew Reiner]: Thank you so much. And so we’re going to go to Soraya now, and I just want to clarify that, Soraya had indicated that that I refer to her that way and not by any official title. So I just want to clarify that I’m in no way being disrespectful. Soraya, thank you.

[Soraya Giaccardi]: Yes, thank you for that. Yes, I am. I issue all titles. But so I wanted to stress the importance of the communication aspect in addressing a lot of these issues. And I want to highlight things that Ed and Andrew have mentioned previously in that some of these conversations are really difficult to have because we as adults haven’t figured out how to have them. So, so much of this work involves doing self work as well and reflecting on our own media habits, reflecting on our own attitudes. So I just want to commend everyone that’s here watching this webinar because it means you’re doing the work right? And it’s so important to kind of reflect on our own attitudes, our own beliefs. So that, as Ed mentioned earlier, we can have these conversations without judgment, even if we’re very concerned about the things that our children are saying or thinking. And we want to shift their perspectives. We do that without judgment so that we don’t push them away, so that we don’t scare them away. And that’s very important.

[Andrew Reiner]: Points well taken. Okay, Dr. Spector, bring us home, please.

[Dr. Ed Spector]: So I’ll just sort of return to the ongoing dialogue that needs to happen. And it’s intimidating, right, to approach this as a parent because you have an agenda and like, oh, what if I mess this up? Remember, we’re talking about a conversation that’s going to have in little five minute intervals, like across the lifespan of this kid while they’re living with you. And so what you’re wanting to do is approach it with that same curiosity as I talked about, the sort of like we have to sort this out together, like you might know more about certain aspects of this and like let’s together go on this journey about trying to understand this and how it’s going to play out, how it’s going to affect all of us. A lot of those ongoing dialogue conversations involve kids giving feedback to parents about what you know, what they’re doing as well. That can be very effective where, you know, like I did this with my then 14 year old daughter where we were talking about technology and say, “You know, Dad, you’re on Pinterest a lot.” And like, I was like mortified because, like, I do this for a living, right? I’m just like, oh, my God. But like, it was really important for me to be like, you know, you’re right. I like cataloging pictures of jazz musicians in this, you know, weird way, and it’s sort of cool to me, but you’re right. It’s a huge waste of time. So I’m going to put this app and time out. And lo and behold, when she was 16 and she had an exam and I saw it and she was like, Yeah, I put Instagram in time out because I have this exam. That came from like me modeling, like messing up in front of her, right? Like, and then doing the right corrective behavior. So it’s not that you have to be perfect. In fact, it might be good that you’re human because then you can talk about well we’re messing with this or trying to figure it out. We’re trying to like make it better and that’s an ongoing kind of thing where we can help each other out. And that makes it a lot less onerous than just like I must instruct you in the ways of, you know, digital citizenship. And when you don’t even know what that is necessarily in all ways. So that’s my take away.

[Andrew Reiner]: Love it, love it, love it. Thank you so much. So, panelists, thank you so very much for time today and for your contributions and for the thoughtful conversation that you brought to the webinar. So let’s go back to Kris Perry as we wind down this informative discussion on boys’ digital lives.

[Kris Perry]: Thank you, Andrew, Jason, Desmond, Soraya and Ed for joining us today to share your valuable expertise and wisdom to learn more about child development and digital media, check out our Web site at childrenandscreens.com or follow us on all of the social media platforms. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel where you can also find previous webinars to view. Please join us again next Wednesday, September 21st at noon for “School for Thought: EdTech and Virtual Learning. What now?” We hope to see you there.