How can my teen “connect” better with peers? My children are texting with a lot of acronyms, emojis and memes instead of full-sentences…will this diminish their ability to communicate effectively? Do the constant notifications and alerts interfere with my kids’ ability to learn the natural flow of conversation? What strategies will help all of us experience better and safer online communication?

Children and Screens’ #AskTheExperts webinar “PITR, IKR?: Youth and Communication in the Digital Age,” held on October 19, 2022 at 12pm via Zoom, gathered researchers, psychologists and communications experts to discuss the ways that the new digital world has changed the “how” and the “what” of youth interactions. This webinar featured the latest research (and perspectives from teens themselves) on trends in youth digital communication and tips to assist children in creating positive and connection-centered communication online or offline.

p.s. PITR = Parents In The Room, and IKR = I Know, Right? But you knew that. Right?


  • Ann Cameron, PhD

    Honorary Emerita Professor of Psychology; Emerita Professor University of British Columbia; University of New Brunswick, Canada
  • Sherry Turkle, PhD

    Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology; Founding Director, MIT Initiative on Technology and Self Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sebastian Wachs, PhD

    Deputy Professor for Education and Socialization Theory; Honorary Research Fellow University of Potsdam; Anti-Bullying Centre
  • Richard Guerry

    Founder and Executive Director Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (IROC2)

The digital world has expanded our ability to connect with others, presenting communication opportunities never experienced before, while also raising important questions about its impacts on face to face communication and the future of human connection. What do we lose when we stop having in-person conversations? Is there any real privacy online? How can parents and kids cope with the increase in harmful interactions digital communications bring? In this “Ask the Experts” webinar, a panel of psychologists, researchers, digital communication experts, and teens discuss issues of concern from increased digital communication, and what can be done to build healthy relationships in an increasingly digital world.

00:00 Introduction

Celeste Schaefer Snyder, Director of Video and Social Media at Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, and panel moderator Ann Cameron, PhD, Honorary Emerita Professor of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Emerita Professor, University of New Brunswick, Canada, provide some background on digital communication by young people, and introduce the panel of experts and youth participants.

03:12 Sherry Turkle, PhD

Sherry Turkle, PhD, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology and Founding Director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses some of the ways face-to-face interactions differ from digital interactions, and how in-person conversations can help develop empathy, compassion, and resilience in ways digital ones cannot. She provides some advice on how to get kids to be more engaged with in-person interactions and emphasizes the value of imperfect relationships.

19:57 Richard Guerry

Richard Guerry, Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (IROC2), explains some of the “Do’s and Don’ts” of online communication. He shares some key questions for parents to ask kids (or kids to ask themselves) to teach good digital practices and have a realistic mindset about online activity. He explains that digital communication, like fire, isn’t good or bad, but depends on responsible use. He highlights the need for young people to understand the magnitude of the digital world and the consequences of their actions in it.

36:15 Youth Voices

Youth participants give their thoughts on communicating in a digital world. Participants shared their experiences with on- and off-line communication, their thoughts on what all youth need to learn and remember when communicating online, and what they wish adults knew about their online communications.

41:51 Sebastian Wachs, PhD

Sebastian Wachs, PhD, Deputy Professor for Education and Socialization Theory at the University of Potsdam and Honorary Research Fellow at the Anti-Bullying Centre, gives a brief history of hate speech, and how we can effectively define it. He debunks popular myths about hate speech and shares research on motivations that might drive a young person to engage in hate speech and the harm youth experiences from hate speech victimization. He discusses the role of parenting in preventing hate speech victimization and engagement, as well as building resilience against hate speech.

54:21 Youth Voices 2

The youth participants share their hopes and concerns for the future of technology and communication.

58:19 Q&A

Guided by questions from the audience, Dr. Cameron leads a discussion about how we can address concerns surrounding digital communication and young people. The panel touches on the harms of social media algorithms, the privacy rights of young people, and the role of consumers in shaping a digital landscape. The panel also discusses what to do in a world where kids and teens have to interact with technology, and how young people are the true arbiters of the future of digital communications.

[Celeste Schaefer Snyder]: Welcome, everyone. I am Celeste Schaefer Snyder, Director of Video Programs and Social Media at Children and Screens Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, and your host for today’s Ask the Experts webinar, “PITR, IKR?: Youth and Communication in the Digital Age”. In case you don’t already know, those acronyms stand for parent in the room and I know right, and both are commonly used acronyms with modern teens. Acronyms, emojis, GIFs and memes, the world of texting, social media and other forms of digital communication have completely changed the face of interpersonal communication, from the how to the why and when. While every generation of news has had their own preferences and styles of communication, complete with new slang and subversions of existing rules, the very nature of communication changes when it takes place across digital platforms, for better or for worse. Smartphones and global connectivity also mean that we can communicate whenever and wherever we want. But for children growing up, communicating across digital platforms, sometimes alongside in-person communications and sometimes in place of it, what are the impacts? How do these digital conversations affect their understanding and expectations of normal communication? These digital spaces also bring additional risk to online communication, making our conversations more public and permanent than ever before. How can we ensure that children have the skills, knowledge and awareness they need to communicate effectively and safely online? These are just some of the questions that our panel of experts hope to answer for you today. Now, it is my great pleasure to introduce today’s moderator, Dr. Ann Cameron. Ann Cameron served as chair of an interdisciplinary committee for the Canadian government on the social implications of communications technologies. In this capacity, she wrote UNESCO policy papers on media technologies in global education. Her studies of intimate relationships have led her to examine the crisis of confidence of children and youth in their on and offline communication, skill, development, pre and post pandemic. Welcome, Ann.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks, Celeste. I am simply delighted to moderate this wonderful webinar. My lab hears from teachers, parents and teens themselves, some of whom you will hear from today about their lacking confidence in communication, both online and face to face. Our panelists will have important information to share with you and intriguing suggestions about how to address their findings and your concerns. So our first panelist is Dr. Sherry Turkle, and she is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, and a pioneer in the study of how digital culture changes not just what we do, but who we are. Her pathfinding books include “The Second Self”, “Life on the Screen”, “Alone Together”, and my personal favorite, because it’s spurred quite a bit of my research, “Reclaiming Conversation”, and most recently, her memoir that I have not yet had a chance to read, “The Empathy Diaries”. I look forward to that, Sherry, and and look forward to what you have to say today.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. I love that introduction. Thank you so much Anne, I’m such a fan of yours too. Well, let me just get right into it. There is an increasing catalog, increasing evidence of a catalog of harm from our lives on the screen, and particularly on how social media undermines adolescent development. That’s kind of a given. And in fact, things are so bad that when Facebook wanted to start an Instagram for under 13 year olds, it hid its internal research about how teenage girls felt after beginning to use Instagram. There was UK research that showed 13% of UK teen girls, said that their suicidal thoughts became frequent. 17% said that their eating disorders got worse. 32% said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. This isn’t kind of an isolated study. This is more kind of a banal study of Instagram and its effect on teens. But Facebook hid those kinds of results and actually was going to proceed with its under 13 Instagram plan until, as you all know, a whistleblower brought all of this to light. Now, though, those kinds of harms focused on content, what teens saw and how it made them feel about their bodies, their friendships, their self-love, fear of missing out, fear of their bodies and of their bodily and social incompetence. But beyond those effects, I’d like to talk about how screen life inflicts other harms that work independently of specific content. And that’s been kind of the focus of my work and what I’d like to draw your attention to today. So consider how screen life teaches us a particular notion of efficiency. Screen life has an aesthetic. It says that the difficult will be made easy, so rough will become smooth, and that which had friction become friction free. Cuz from its very beginning, the new digital world wasn’t supposed to be just friction free in the sense that economic transactions would go more smoothly, with expediencies such as electronic funds transfer, the vision was much more ambitious. The goal was to minimize and even eliminate social friction, interactions that might cause emotional stress. Screens were supposed to teach us to see the stress of human relationships as a problem that technology could solve. Screens teach us, in fact, that vulnerability is a problem that technology can solve. But actually, life teaches young people, life teaches adolescents one thing, just as screens are trying to teach them another, because face to face interactions with peers teach adolescents, in fact teaches everybody that when we stumble and lose our words, it’s uncomfortable, but we can come closer to each other. Screen life suggests new connections that allow us to edit our thoughts, to self curate. Life teaches the importance of imperfect presence. While on the screen we feel less vulnerable. We find ways around a certain kind of conversation, the kind that’s open ended and a little scary. Life teaches the connection between empathy and attention. People respond to commitment and deliberateness. When you put away your phone to have a conversation, that decision counts. People care about your offer of attention. Empathy is built on such small gestures. The ones that communicate that you don’t know what someone else has to say, but you want to learn. Consider this classic study that even a phone turned off and turned face down on the lunch table does two things to a conversation. First, it moves the conversation to more trivial matters because no one wants to anticipate an interruption while talking about something important. Second, the people having lunch somehow feel less invested in each other because even a silent phone, a turned off phone, a turned on its back phone, disconnects us. My studies of college students in the 30 years prior to 2009 show a study, fascinating study. In 2009, that is the year before cell phones came on the scene, it showed a 40% drop in empathy, simply measured by the ability to put yourself in the place of another person’s story. Life teaches that to get to empathy, you have to take your time. But technology offers that world that exalts efficiency. A college junior explains to me that dorm life has taught her what she calls the seven minute rule. It takes 7 minutes, she says, to know where a conversation is going, because it takes that long to get into the rhythm and the pace of another person. And while she’s talking, I’m thinking, my God, this woman is my Goddess. But then she says she hardly ever waits for those 7 minutes to pass. She loses patience and she takes out her phone whenever the conversation falls a little silent. More than this, she says, she can’t tolerate what she calls the boring bits, the boring bits. Now, that’s how we’ve come to talk about the hesitation and pauses, the natural rhythms of face to face human conversation. And in part, we denigrate the spontaneous pathway of human conversation because social media offers us an alternative, a rush of constant stimulation. Those wheels, those curated responses, we come to think this is how life is supposed to be. But it turns out that a capacity for boredom and even boredom in company, boredom at a dinner table, is one of the most important developmental achievements of childhood. Neuroscience teaches that when we experience boredom, the brain is replenishing itself. We’re laying down the pathways for a stable sense of self. When bored, we learn to go within ourselves and develop our imagination. With our technology-encouraged intolerance for boredom, there’s another casualty: an intolerance for solitude. A classic study of college students asked if they would be willing to sit alone without a book or a smartphone for 15 minutes. The students say yes for money, definitely. And when the researchers go further and ask, well, do you think you’d want to give yourself electroshock during this time? The students say, no way. They’re horrified. But in fact, after 6 minutes of being alone without a book or a phone and with a handy electroshock machine in the room, a significant number of students, men and women, do begin to give themselves mild electroshocks rather than sit quietly with their thoughts. The capacity for solitude, why I am mentioning it, is important because it is essential to your capacity for relationships. If you can be alone with yourself and of course, this is what social media is undermining, when you turn to others, you don’t hear them, you’re not learning to hear them as they really are. You’re turning them into who you need them to be to support your fragile sense of self. So solitude supports empathy. If you don’t learn to be alone, you will only know how to be lonely. So technology may make us feel less vulnerable because we have these controlled exchanges. But here is what we know about life. We lose out personally and as citizens in democracy, when we don’t take the time to talk to each other.When we don’t know how to listen to each other, especially to other people who are not like us. And on the Internet, we listen to fewer and fewer people who don’t share our opinions. In today’s political climate, we need our young people to develop the very skills that screen time erodes. Slowing down to hear someone else’s point of view, waiting those 7 minutes, valuing those boring bits. If we reclaim our attention and our capacity for solitude, our young people will have a better chance to reclaim our communities, our democracy, and our shared common purpose. Thank you.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks so much, Sherry, for this beautiful, although sometimes alarming big picture of technology’s role in our lives and in communication. You’ve shown us some of the strengths and the drawbacks of digital communications and some of the key differences, the individual differences, in communication that we’re all struggling with. I have a question from the audience that I thought you might like to play with a little bit, and it is from a parent who says, “My son barely holds a real in-person conversation anymore. He wants only to communicate online. How would you suggest help us intervene on this?”

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: What I suggest is what I call “sacred spaces” in the home, where as a family, you just decide that there are places in the home, and in the life of the family, where there is talk, not text. And the easiest ones to do are around meals and meal preparation, and in the car. And I like that better than saying, you know, some people do a, you know, say one day a week, we’re not doing technology. But I know for me it’s been more organic when I’ve worked with families to say, there are some places that we come together where no one is going to use a phone. And I find mealtime and being in the car, because the one who’s driving is not texting. I’m not texting, I say to my daughter, my teenage daughter, I’m sitting here, I want to talk to you. This is my time to talk to you. And if you do it, I mean, you’ll get pushback, you’ll get resistance. But meal times, car times, these are places where it’s talk times. And I think that if parents come to that conversation really informed and really believing in what a life that’s really just on social media, the things it does to people’s heads, you know, like, for example, teaching them that oppositional conversation is, is the conversation they learn, and teaching them and saying to them, you know, there’s another kind of conversation, another kind of discourse, that you will learn by just chatting with me. I’ll just end this by saying, so I really I think it is by creating, to make a short answer, it’s by creating these sacred spaces and by informing teens about what they’re losing, by not having those kinds of conversations. And I’ll just end by saying my students would rather text than talk, would rather talk to me online, come to see me in person. And I say to them, you know, why? And they tell me that they want my mentoring to be perfect and they want to ask me a perfect question, a perfect question to get a perfect answer. And I say to them, that’s not mentoring. I want you to ask me an imperfect question, so I can give you an imperfect question and answer, and say not good yet come again later. See you next week. Because it’s not yet perfect, come again, let’s work on it more. That’s the relationship it makes for a true mentoring relationship. And then when you look at mentorship across the life cycle and the mentors that matter, it’s that across the life cycle mentorship, not a perfect answer question and a perfect answer. Those are the relationships that make the difference. Tell your child if they’re looking for mentorship, not perfect answers and perfect questions, and from their parents, they’re looking for relationships of imperfection, imperfection, imperfection, but relationship.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: The good enough relationship.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: They’re looking for a relationship. What we need to learn is, I mean, I guess my bottom line as a psychologist here is, what we need to learn is a capacity for relationship, not a capacity that the internet is teaching us that we can get better. A psychotherapist, they tell me they’ll get more information from a computer psychotherapist than I could ever give. It has more information. And I say to them, well, but it can’t form a relationship with you. That’s my specialty, that’s, you know. So, you know, we, the culture is pushing towards a culture of information, and we have to teach our students and our children, no, we need to move towards a culture of relationship. We have to reclaim that, because really that’s what we’re missing.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: So it’s both so very simple and also very complex. Thanks so much for starting us off with this big picture, Sherry, and I’d like us now to move on to our next panelist. Richard Guerry is the founder of the nonprofit organization the Institute for Responsible Online and Cell Phone Communication, IROC 2. He is also the creator and host of the Public and Permanent Podcast, the author of numerous cyber safety and citizenship books, and has been a featured speaker at many national conventions and media outlets. And he’s just come in from one of these sessions he has had. And I’d like to welcome Richard, who is going to present some do’s and don’ts of online communication, what we can teach our kids.

[Richard Guerry]: Well, yeah. Thank you so much, first of all, for having me today and for the privilege of your time. I’m going to do my best to give you about 70 minutes of information in 10, so sit back, relax. Don’t listen slow. All right. What I’d like to do is just start off by giving the information that we give everybody we speak to. What we’ve done is we’ve passed out very powerful tools to everybody on the planet, but we never really gave a uniform thought system on how to use it. And so as we pass these tools out and we have people who get into trouble, we slap labels on their behaviors, and then we come in and talk about it. And it’s almost like we gave everybody on the planet a book of matches, waited for them to burn their houses down, and then brought them in for the fire safety workshop and then our nonprofit. Our whole goal is to say, look, you know, we keep having these problems and these are effects. Why are we not working on fixing the cause, and the cause of almost every issue you hear about the digital world stems from right here, the decision making. And so how do we fix cause, we install what we call the golden rule of the 21st century. And what is the golden rule of the 21st century? It’s this extremely important preventative mindset right here. Hey, am I okay with what I’m about to put into a world built for communication, being communicated? Would I be okay if it wound up public and permanent? Now is that an absolute truth, does it mean everything we do will absolutely be public and permanent, of course not. But as we all know, watching this, it could be instantly, right. And why? Because that’s why we have it. Because if something amazing happens to you today, you want to share that photo around the world, you can do it from the seat you’re in, and we love it for that. There’s something incredible happening in your family’s life, and you want to capture it forever, drop it in your cloud, leave it there and you can save it forever. The point is, when humans want to make content public and permanent because it will help them get into college, get a job, get a scholarship, or be Tik-Tok famous, they can do it. But when do problems happen for humans in a digital world? It’s when they take that exact same tool that they love, because it lets them make things public and permanent when it’s going to work for them, but then they do things and say things in that exact same tool, and they don’t want that information to get out. While it’s not an absolute truth, it is the evolution of a very important mindset we’ve all learned from a very young age: playing with fire can burn. This right here is not an absolute truth, it’s a very important preventative mindset. I could fool around with this all webinar, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get hurt. What it means is the chances that I’ll get hurt will go up if I keep fooling around with a powerful tool. But that’s true with any tool, a car, a drill, a hammer, a fork. The point is, if we fool around with tools, risks go up, fool around with tools that connect us to 4 billion people instantly, the risk goes way up. So starting today, whether you’re holding it or you’re wearing it, it’s an app you’ve heard of, or you’ve never heard of, if you can help your children stop and think before they turn it on, hey, before you turn that tool on, are you okay with what you’re doing being public and permanent. And not like, the mindset shouldn’t be, holy cow, what if this does get out? That’s how people find themselves in a world of hurt. The mindset we should be teaching and reinforcing is, are you taking a tool that connects you to the world, and are you using that mindset to show the world how beautiful you can be? Because if this is the mindset installed and reinforced from a young age, just like we do with so many other mindsets, then through elementary, middle and high school, as kids are using different tools and platforms, they’re understanding that if they’re posting amazing things, that they can open incredible windows of opportunity. And what happens is our tools and our apps become irrelevant, and tools and apps become irrelevant because tools and apps will always change. Just look where we’ve come in the last ten years, 20 years. But the mindset a human applies to the power of any tool is what matters. And if we can help our kids apply the right mindset to their digital decision making, then they will open windows of opportunity that past generations never dreamed possible. And they will keep the risks in the digital world extraordinarily low, no matter how fast we go. Now I’m going to jump really quickly to gaming here because again, we only have 10 minutes, and gaming is a huge question I get asked about all the time. How do I stay safe or keep my kids safe while they’re communicating in gaming? So here’s the tip. If we would not say it or take it from a stranger in the local arcade, then please don’t ever say it or take it in the global arcade. Because the only difference between the local arcade and the global arcade is that there’s a few hundred people in the building. There’s millions of people here. And when a human starts oversharing, personal information in this world, that’s when risk levels will go up. So try and help them keep that conversation to the game. If they’re communicating in gaming, put a Post-it note right there on the Xbox, the PlayStation, “keep conversation to game”, because if they can do that, they can keep the risks really low. But you know what? I talk to my third graders and I say, hey, let’s say we went to Dave and Buster’s, and we’re playing a game and you’re playing with a complete stranger, and that person’s awesome at the game, and you’re having a good time and you’re high fiving. And I mean, this happens every day online and off. But what I say to them, if that person turned to you and said, “Hey, great job, where do you live? Where do you go to school? What’s your cell phone number? Here’s a box. Take it”, you gonna take that box? And every kid says no, but the same kid who looks you in the eyes and says they won’t take the box from the stranger at Dave and Buster’s, you watch them download a link from a complete stranger in here, and they get hacked in a game like Roblox 10 minutes later, putting themselves, their family, and their friends’ security at risk. So again, if your kids are communicating while they’re gaming online, please help them keep that conversation to the game. Be aware enough to know if people are picking them for personal information, because if they keep talking only about that game, risks stay low and entertainment stays high, and that’s the whole point of gaming. Social media, I’m not here to kill social media, but here’s the thing. The problem with social media is, social and private is an oxymoron, right? From day one, the problem is tech companies have set the wrong expectation, and they call these things “privacy settings”. And so people for years have had this false expectation of privacy. If you go all the way back to MySpace, almost 20 years ago at the day of this webinar right now, it’s kind of crazy how old that is, if you look specifically at the people who got in trouble in social media 20 years ago, you know what you’ll find? They were getting in the exact same trouble they’re getting into today. The only thing that humans have changed in two decades of time is not the way they think about technology, you know what we keep changing? The name of the app. And so why for 20 plus years, do we have this perpetual cycle of insanity happening with people getting in the exact same trouble over and over and over again? Well, one of the biggest reasons is because tech companies call them privacy settings, and they set the wrong expectation for generations. What they should have done is just been honest with the public from day one. And ladies and gentlemen, here’s the honesty, this comes from somebody who’s been in tech through the nineties. There is no such thing as a privacy setting in a world that was built from the ground up for communication. This is a pipe dream. What we are all using, maybe you have passcodes, pass keys, pins, biometrics like face I.D. and thumbprint, what we are all using are not privacy settings. They are visibility or transparency settings. Because that’s all humans are trying to do every day. Every day we are trying to limit third party visibility into our windows to the world. And please, try not to refer to this as a phone, but rather a window to the world. Because when people see this is a phone, they see it is their phone, their screen, their password, and they can do whatever they want. So they take liberties, and they forget about the fact that that thing right there has Bluetooth, Wifi, and data, not to mention clouds and servers backing information up. Think of this as a window to the world and explain to them windows work two ways. If there’s a connection out, there’s a potential connection in. And again, social privacy is an oxymoron. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be using those settings. We should absolutely use the settings. What I’m saying is when you hear tech companies say the word private, try and pull that out of your kid’s head and bring in the word visibility. An activity you could do at home, have your kids look out an open window and say, hey, can you see out that window? Can people see them? They’re going to say, yes, that’s public. Now draw some blinds over the window and say, go look through that window. If they walk over to the blinds and they peek through the blinds, they can still see through the window. They’re just making it harder for that to happen. Explain to them that is the mindset they should have about visibility settings on their windows to the world. Because when we understand it’s not absolutely private, what you’re doing is you’re just trying to make it harder for things to get out and people to see in, we think more clearly and more prudently. When I ask people, every time a new form of technology comes out, a new phone, a new app, a new device comes out, I say, what does that make it faster and easier for humans to do with each other? Do you want to know what I get every single time I ask that question? And by the way, for 13 years I do 200 programs a year. Last year was 311 days. Every time I ask that question, I get the answer on the screen. It doesn’t matter if it’s a third grader, a 13 year old or a 30 year old because they’re right. And that answer right there is why there’s no such thing as social privacy in this world. Because if every single hole in privacy was patched up right now, by this time tomorrow, there will be more holes. Why? Because every advance in technology is purposely designed to make it faster and easier for things to get out. If I go to every one of your communities, everybody watching this right now, and I said to every person in your community, I’ll pay for your data the rest of the year, you want 3G, 4G or 5G speed? What do you think people will pick? Humans will always want faster. They’re going to pick five. So please explain to your kids that this technology goes faster, then so, too, can they use that tool to go faster to where they want to go. What is B for them, from A to B, college, job, scholarship? Like your car gets you to your home faster than walking, using technology with wisdom, you can get there faster. But if we are making blind decisions, not informed ones, and we believe truly that what we’re putting into a world of communication can stay private, even though all you have to do is literally take a picture of it and share it around the world, this is when problems happen, when people take liberties on these devices and they don’t realize that thing they may not want the world to see, well, every day that platform is becoming faster, and therefore every day is becoming faster to get out. Really quickly, I just want to touch on empathy, because that was already mentioned and it’s extremely important in the digital world. As technology moves faster, not only can we affect ourselves faster, we can affect others faster. And so the need for mindfulness and empathy in the digital world is paramount. I can’t put into words for you how much faster and easier it’s becoming to capture and share content, so I’ll quickly show you with some tech. The Ray-Bans I have on, there are cameras pointed at you right now. Most people wouldn’t know that. If I say “Facebook, take a picture”, “Facebook, shoot video”, it will do it. And then I can just hands free, drop it into my phone and out it goes. These glasses are for Snapchat, I can do the same thing. If we want our children and ourselves to be able to go to a party and have fun, a social gathering and have fun, and we should be able to do this. We’re human beings. If we want to be able to go out in public and not have other people film us, because literally all they have to do is look at you to do it and you won’t know they’re doing it. If we want people to have empathy and mindfulness first: you know what, what you’re doing at this party is hysterical, but if I film you and put you online right now, let me stop and think. Could I get you thrown out of school, thrown off the team, cost you a scholarship, cost you a job, your family, your friends, your reputation, your legacy, would you want what I’m about to do to you, and you have no idea I’m about to do it to you, would you want this to be public and permanent? If we want people to think that way before they just snap and shoot, put somebody online, then we really do need a change in our thinking. Because we all have duh moments, right? And what goes through the mind of a human when they have a duh moment? Huh, I hope nobody saw that. The problem is there’s cameras everywhere. And most times people don’t even realize there’s one pointed at them. And so if you want people to be mindful before they post that, then we really do need a change in our thinking. This mindset should never be a negative. I tell people all the time, if you see that as negative, you have to change the way you think about tech, because you’re putting things in a world of communication that you don’t want communicated. And if you think about anyone you’ve ever heard of that got in trouble in tech, that’s what they did. They put content into a world of communication they didn’t want communicated. Let’s go back to this guideline right here. A long time ago, we discovered fire, right, a long time ago, like, we’re not new with fire. And after we discovered it, what happened? We, a lot of people got hurt, and then we applied thoughtfulness called playing with fire can burn. Everyone watching this has heard that, for generations we’ve heard that, we passed that mindfulness down for generations. And as we passed that mindfulness down, we invented tools that harness the power of fire. Right. Once I do this, the tool doesn’t matter. This can be a candle, a book of matches, a lighter who cares what this is? When this comes out of it, we understand how to harness the power, and we understand how to harness it instinctually. We know if we put our hand over it on a cold day, it feels good. We put our hand in it on any day it will hurt. But instinctually understanding how to harness this tool makes this tool irrelevant. This can be a candle, a book of matches, a lighter, who cares what it is, understanding how to harness that is what matters. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s what’s on your screen for the 21st century flame, tools and apps will always change and always evolve, just like these did. But if we can apply the right mindset, it does not matter how fast we go in this world. Your children, your children’s children, will do things that previous generations would have never thought possible if they are using this tool with wisdom. So thank you so much for sitting back and hopefully catching all of the words that I just said in ten or so minutes.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks so much, Richard, for a very, very full presentation for us. And I’m going to ask just a quick question before we move on to our next segment. I want, your favorite question to ask you, how to help teens create a healthy relationship with technology?

[Richard Guerry]: So, it’s a great question. First of all, when I’m talking to students, I always try and help them, number one, be leaders and mentors, because there are a lot of kids who are older and younger kids will listen to them. And so we want older kids to be an ambassador to younger kids. As to how to use technology responsibly, I also try and help them understand, you know, if you talk to a lot of kids, they will tell you there’s influencers that they follow. I can show you kids at 12 years old who are already self-made millionaires based on what they’ve done in YouTube. That is something that I never would have thought possible when I was 12 years old. But it’s also about helping them understand that there’s a respect for the technology they have to use, just like any other tool. What we did, and I think kids truly understand this and appreciate this, what we did is, we passed out very powerful tools to everybody on the planet. You know, if you go to the store and you buy a toy, or anything, what do you see on the packaging? Instructions, warnings, directions. But in the digital world, we didn’t do that. We didn’t give a mindfulness, we didn’t give instructions. We just unbox and we go, Some people don’t even unbox their own stuff. They go to the tech store, the person at the tech store unboxes it and hands it to them, and they go, and we never gave that thought system on how to use it. And I think kids appreciate when I say to them, they have essentially been the guinea pigs of technology, everyone of you watching this, you are all guinea pigs of technology. Why? When a new app, a new platform, a new game comes out, who is the first people to use it? And as the first users of technology, we are essentially creating data, and through human behavior we are becoming statistics. And humans across this globe are becoming statistics of promise and pitfalls for the next generation to learn from. And so what I try and help students understand is that if you can use this the right way, you can become one of the many statistics of promise, not pitfalls, that will come out of our generation. And the next generation needs statistics of pitfalls. Like everybody watching this, there was a time we didn’t know the health effects of smoking, took a lot of people to get hurt first for us to know that. There was a time we didn’t know the health effects of concussions, it took a lot of people to get hurt for us to know that. And the same is true in the digital world. First generation always pays the price for the next generation. That’s the way life goes. And as the first digital generation, this is what we see happening around us every day. And so when I talk to kids and I help them see the power of technology and I walk that fine line of this is where you can go up or down, I think they appreciate that. But somebody has to give them the mindset and the thought system to use, because what we did was we said, here you go. Then we waited for people to get in trouble. Then we slapped the label like sexting on it and then we brought everybody in for the fire, for the workshop. It’s almost like we give everybody matches on the planet, waited for it to burn their houses down and then brought them in for the fire safety workshop. Why not give them the way to use that technology first? Yeah, when I see a parent or a teacher or a coach tell a 17 year old, don’t use social media. That’s not guidance. You can’t tell a 17 year old kid, hey, just don’t use social media, if you’re going to put this in their hand. That’s like saying, hey, go get your license. You got your license. Awesome. Here’s the keys to your brand new car, but you can’t drive it. What it’s all about is helping them drive it, drive it responsibly, and like anything else, with moderation, use it the right way. Use the power to your advantage and open windows of opportunity. And in the very brief time I have to try and explain that this is the way in which I, through 70 minutes, reach kids.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks so much, Richard. That’s really wonderful. We’re going to shift gears a little bit here. We asked a youth research group that is involved from Vancouver, an Asian-specific group of youth, who volunteered to be involved in a project about confidence and communication, which was partly sparked by Sherry’s book on reclaiming communication. And these young people volunteered to give us their opinions on technology for this session today. But also, I just want you to know that they are students who volunteered to be peer mentors and to work on workshops, to be facilitators in workshops that we have developed, to help young people gain confidence in communication, whether it’s online or face to face. So we’re going to see what some of these youth told us.

[Teen 1]: I think in this day and age, no young person goes without online communication. But while it can be helpful for connecting us instantaneously, I feel like it can give us the illusion of having a deep connection while at the same time being quite superficial, because with its ease and the availability of people to talk to, I think it can be easier to form connections, but not as easy to really deepen those connections or even maintain strong connections.

[Teen 2]: I’ve seen digital communication be quite helpful in my life, but it’s also been quite harmful. I see that it’s really, really good for keeping in touch with people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with. In terms of meeting new people online, I’ve had those experiences too, but I’d say that they aren’t as solid relationships as I had with people that I met offline.

[Teen 3]: Online communication is, you know, how do I put it, it’s way less efficient than in-person, say, especially for texting, right? A single conversation over text that can go on for hours, usually is done within like 10 minutes, just talking to each other face by face. I’ve found that this has been an issue for me in the past. I’m trying to remedy it, you know, being stricter about how much time I spend on the Internet. But it’s a little tough. It’s a little tough sometimes. A lot of social media apps these days, take a look at Facebook, they’re like, what? Facebook dating, Facebook gaming, Facebook reels, stories, posts, everything. What I’m trying to say is that it feels like a lot of them are actually, you know, crowding out you, you know, some interactions or things that we’d rather have done in person.

[Teen 2]: I feel that we need to teach young people that there is a person at the end of the screen and that they themselves are a person at their end of the screen as well. They’re not like a part of an echo chamber.

[Teen 3]: You know, you just have to remember that behind the screen, it’s a real living, breathing, feeling person. Sometimes, you know, when there’s the distance of the Internet involved, we tend to forget that, we just view them as, you know, words, words on a screen. And that will affect the way we think about them, the way we talk to them. But if you wouldn’t say it to their face, I would say it’s a bad idea to say it over the Internet as well. So one thing I believe that a lot of people, especially the older generations, not you, Dr. Cameron, but some people of the older generations have a little trouble understanding is that while, yes, you know, the Internet is a much less private, much less, you know, a much more permanent place, a much more open place, there’s still like we still expect, you know, an element of privacy.

[Teen 1]: I think what parents can sometimes struggle to understand is that it is possible to make Internet friends. And part of their concern comes from how they’re looking out for our safety, and like, what if it’s secretly a 35 year old man trying to, I don’t know, find their location. But no, I think there’s I think sometimes parents can be paranoid about like the people you get to know online.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Out of the mouths of youth, the wisdom that the experience is teaching these young people and how they want to pass it on to younger teenagers and even elementary school aged children is pretty impressive. I’m going to move on now to Dr. Sebastian Wachs, who is a visiting professor for education and socialization theory at the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Potsdam, and an honorary research fellow at the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Center. He recently developed an anti-hate speech prevention program called Hate Less: Together Against Hatred, which is currently being evaluated in German schools. So I would like to invite Sebastian to talk to us about the strengths of the work that he is doing to help young people, to counteract hate speech, and what that all involves. So please show us, Sebastian.

[Dr. Sebastian Wachs]: Hello. Thank you so much for having me. So I would like to talk with you today about hate speech, which is a current online risk, which is not only an issue among adults, but also adolescents. I would like to start with a brief definition, and it’s fair to say that the term hate speech was originally coined by the American law professor Mohit Matsuda in the late eighties. Matsuda observed this kind of violence at Harvard University, and she asked, or, she called for legal sanctions of this specific type of violence. Since then, a panoply of differing definitions and uses can be found. And what you in the US are understanding as hate speech is quite different from what we in Germany would consider as hate speech, which is related to different historical events, etc. There are two common myths when we use the term hate speech, which were described by Alexandre Brown, the first myth is the myth of hate and hate speech. Hate speech is not always motivated by hatred. In fact, there are many different motivations which explain why people engage in it. And the second myth is the myth of speech and hate speech. Hate speech is not only expressed by words. This might be the case in the late eighties, but today we see hate speech is often expressed in posts, memes, images, or videos on the social media platforms. So we developed the following definition based on the systematic review of current research. And this definition of hate speech reads as follows: Hate speech is a derogatory expression about people based on assigned or actual group characteristics, for example, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity. Hate speech is based on an intention to harm, and it has the potential to cause harm on multiple levels, not only on the individual level, but also on the communal or societal level, which we can observe in many societies around the world in the current days. So one question is, which is quite important to answer, is hate speech harmful to young people? And the easy answer is yes, but what are young people telling us about what is it like to experience hate speech? So we conducted qualitative interviews with students to understand their perspective. And I show you here some quotes. What students told us, how does it feel to experience or be the target of hate speech, so there was one student who said that it’s something that really depresses you. Another student said, well, I was terrified to go through school like that. This person was attacked by hate speech in the school context. Another person said, people who can’t handle it just break down. And there’s another quote which was, quote, I had to think a lot about this. And it said, well, it’s enough for me. If someone tells me I stand behind you, that gives you a good feeling, and sure that you don’t feel alone in this world. So on the one hand, this quote is telling us that hate speech is harmful, on the other hand, it shows us that there is some opportunity to help victims of hate speech. And this quote inspired following research, and this was a quantitative questionnaire research study. And in this study, we investigated the relationship between hate speech victimization and depressive symptoms. First, we found that there is a positive relationship. That means that the more hate speech victimization students reported, the more likely they were to report depressive symptoms as well. So, but, in this quote I just mentioned, the last one, there is something that students or adolescents, it helps them when they have someone who is standing behind them. And this could be operationalized like social resources and a kind of resilience. So we investigated in the study how resilience will buffer the association between hate speech victimization and depressive symptoms. And in fact, it did. So, that means that students have resilience, they are less likely to show depressive symptoms if they experience hate speech victimization. So hate speech is harmful and I think all of us can imagine that. So another question is why do young people engage in hate speech iff it is harmful? We did also research on this question and we found that there are many different motivations why adolescents engage in hate speech: revenge, ideology, group conformity, status enhancement, exhilaration, and power. So, we need to consider not only personal variables but also the school context, the classroom context, or for example the online environment, the online peer environment, to understand why adolescent adolescents engage in hate speech. On my last topic, I want to briefly talk with you about what role do parents play and decreasing the children’s risk of hate speech victimization. Say, we did several studies on this issue. And first of all, one basic note is here: parents matter. We have found that, for example, instructive parental mediation, is negatively related to hate speech victimization, whereas restrictive mediation is positively linked to victimization. So it is not only an issue if you take care or if you consider or if you influence the way how your children interact in the online world. But it’s more a question how you do it. The instructors. We also found that instructive parental mediation is positively linked to constructive coping. So you can’t not only influence the risk of victimization of your child, but also you can influence how your child will cope with certain dangerous situations related to online hate speech, if you use some specific kind of parental mediation. Another finding was that “sharenting” might increase the risk of hate speech victimization. So you should be aware, or you should consider, what kind of information you share about your child in the online world. And lastly, another finding was that we found that anti-hate speech norms within families are negatively related to adolescent hate speech perpetration. So be clear about hate speech, and that you condemn this behavior, it will have an influence of the behavior of your child. I have three take home messages for you today. The first take home message is hate speech fulfills various functions serving as a defense against a perceived threat, conveying a feeling of power, or instrumentally improving one’s position in this social group. So you need to ask a child or you need to understand why your child is engaging in hate speech. And there are many different reasons why this might be the case. Hate speech experiences can impact young people’s wellbeing, but we can support their development despite negative online hate speech victimization experiences by improving their resilience. And lastly, parents matter. Try to implement constructive mediation mediation strategies and avoid just using restrictive strategies. Of course, this must be related to the appropriateness of your child, but it’s important that you think about the way how you educate the media activities of your child. This is called: it takes a village to educate a child, and regarding hate speech, it takes the whole society to take out hate speech. And I think everyone should be responsible or feel responsible to play a role in tackling hate speech within our societies. Thank you.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks so much Sebastian. That really hits home for me, partly because in one study that we conducted with with visually diverse students in Vancouver, one of the things that the students said was that the bystander makes a difference, and that if the teacher stands by and doesn’t say, even something as simple as “that must have made you feel bad”, that amplified the feeling of really horrible despair that was the result of the unkind act or speech, and that we all have a part to play in commenting when we hear something that’s unkind, even simply to say to the person, the victim in that case “it must have felt bad”. And that’s a simple thing that we can do. One question that I wanted to ask you was how do you advise people to teach kids to communicate respectfully online?

[Dr. Sebastian Wachs]: Well, I think the best way to teach your child respect is to treat your child with respect and to be a role model. Sometimes we make mistakes, and this is what Sherry already said when she talked about her mentoring relationship. Making mistakes is human, and that’s perfectly fine. But if you make mistakes and your child is witnessing those, explain to your child why you acted online in a not appropriate or perfectly fine manner and maybe explain to your child or how you can act or yeah, how you can act differently next time. You can also use roleplays to explain to your child how your child should behave in a certain online situation. You might want to ask questions like, why is this and this behavior unacceptable? Or how could you or how would it make you feel if you experienced or witnessed something like this? I think another issue that we need to explain to children is that if we communicate online, this has an impact on our behavior, like the toxic online disinhibition effect is quite common, but it’s important to highlight also benefits. You know, remember the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s not, people are not only behaving online more toxic, but also more benign and bringing this balanced view of online behavior. It’s also quite important, I think.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thank you. We’re going to move back to our youth voices for a moment. And here we ask them a question about what their hopes and concerns are for the future with technology and communications and face to face communications. I must say that this session, this piece that you’re going to hear is more optimistic than I heard the students when I talked with them. They were more stymied when asked what the hopes were and what the positives were, and much more concerned about the negatives. But nevertheless, let’s hear what their positive ideas are.

[Teen 1]: I think in this day and age, no young person goes without online communication. But while it can be helpful for connecting us instantaneously, I feel like it can give us the illusion of having a deep connection while at the same time being quite superficial, because with its ease and the availability of people to talk to, I think it can be easier to form connections, but not as easy to really deepen those connections or even maintain strong connections.

[Teen 2]: I’ve seen digital communication be quite helpful in my life, but it’s also been quite harmful. I see that it’s really, really good for keeping in touch with people that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to keep in touch with. In terms of meeting new people online, I’ve had those experiences too, but I’d say that they aren’t as solid relationships as I had with people that I met offline.

[Teen 3]: Online communication is, you know, how do I put it, it’s way less efficient than in-person, say, especially for texting, right? A single conversation over text that can go on for hours, usually is done within like 10 minutes, just talking to each other face by face. I’ve found that this has been an issue for me in the past. I’m trying to remedy it, you know, being stricter about how much time I spend on the Internet. But it’s a little tough. It’s a little tough sometimes. A lot of social media apps these days, take a look at Facebook, they’re like, what? Facebook dating, Facebook gaming, Facebook reels, stories, posts, everything. What I’m trying to say is that it feels like a lot of them are actually, you know, crowding out you, you know, some interactions or things that we’d rather have done in person.

[Teen 2]: I feel that we need to teach young people that there is a person at the end of the screen and that they themselves are a person at their end of the screen as well. They’re not like a part of an echo chamber.

[Teen 3]: You know, you just have to remember that behind the screen, it’s a real living, breathing, feeling person. Sometimes, you know, when there’s the distance of the Internet involved, we tend to forget that, we just view them as, you know, words, words on a screen. And that will affect the way we think about them, the way we talk to them. But if you wouldn’t say it to their face, I would say it’s a bad idea to say it over the Internet as well. So one thing I believe that a lot of people, especially the older generations, not you, Dr. Cameron, but some people of the older generations have a little trouble understanding is that while, yes, you know, the Internet is a much less private, much less, you know, a much more permanent place, a much more open place, there’s still like we still expect, you know, an element of privacy.

[Teen 1]: I think what parents can sometimes struggle to understand is that it is possible to make Internet friends. And part of their concern comes from how they’re looking out for our safety, and like, what if it’s secretly a 35 year old man trying to, I don’t know, find their location. But no, I think there’s I think sometimes parents can be paranoid about like the people you get to know online.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: There we go again. We are now going to be moving into a Q&A session with our audience members. And before I do that, I’m thinking it might be a good idea, given what I’m hearing from our panelists, if we have a little round, not too long a round, because we do have lots of questions coming from the audience, but if anybody wants to make comment on what one of the other panelists has said, I’d like to open the floor to that first, Sherry.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Yeah, Richard and I had some interesting cross-talk in the chat that I thought might be interesting for the, we kind of made a date to talk further, but I thought it would be interesting for the audience to hear. I was curious, you know, so many of the harms that social media inflicts really are rooted very deeply in the algorithms of social media. So, in other words, Facebook, to take one, the algorithm is: make people mad, and then keep them with other people who are mad, keep them with people who are mad in the same way, so that you, you’re mad, and then you’re mad with like-minded people. You know, exactly what our democracy doesn’t need. And I was kind of like, my point’s perhaps too quickly made, about, you know, democracy is being undermined by social media, coming really from the fundamental algorithms of Facebook. So in your comments about sensible, educated use of a tool, if you’re, I thought that I just wanted to hear you say more about your analogy with fire.

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah, absolutely.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: You’re, if you, if you have matches, I’m in control in my home about, you know, really how I use my matches and how I teach my child to use my matches. If I’m contemplating the Facebook algorithm, putting myself into, literally, in joining the Facebook algorithm, puts me into a world of their psychological manipulation of me.

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Where I don’t have, you know, I’m already part of the game when I join. So that’s why my remedies always include, I didn’t get to remedies in my conversation, but I tried to talk about politics, always include a kind of political piece. And I’m wondering if in your remedies you’re asking people to just do a personal thing in terms of, or also to come join a consumer movement that would change these algorithms themselves.

[Richard Guerry]: Yep, so that’s great. So it’s actually, it’s a little of both. Definitely starts with personal accountability. So like with the matches, let’s say, let’s take the fire outside of the home and go to the restaurant with the candle on the table. The individuals in that restaurant aren’t worried about the candles on the table because we’ve all been conditioned for a very long time to understand the power of fire. And so we have an empathy and a mindfulness on how to treat others with that, that power. So going back to your saying, though, with the A.I., yeah. So A.I. ‘s goal, it’s actually funny, we also had what the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge brought up, right. What happens in social media when you see something that’s funny or heartwarming, you’re raising money, people like it, move on, they like it and they move on. That’s what we do with the warm and the fuzzy. But as we all know, watching this, there’s an old saying, right? If it bleeds, it reads. So you start throwing things at algorithms collecting your data, then an A.I. algorithm throws things that are controversial at you. You’re going to start getting engaged and then they start throwing it at other people. And what happens to those people? They go into a rabbit hole and that rabbit hole becomes an echo chamber. And the longer they’re in that echo chamber getting mad or upset or, you know, however it is they’re feeling, that’s been done purposely by AI. Why? Because every page view and every moment you are on that algorithm, on that platform, you’re generating revenue for that company. So it is being done purposely to people. And so I try and help people understand that as well. So it’s a very delicate balance of, you have personal accountability, like some of the kids who are just talking said, I wish I could get rid of my footprint. And then you and the other young lady said, no, we have a digital footprint, right? So some of this is about understanding your personal accountability and the consequences or the benefits based on what you’re doing. The other side of it, again, when we’re talking to people, is helping them understand that some of the things that are happening to them aren’t necessarily their fault, it’s because they were thrown into this world. We are the pioneers. Imagine the first people that discovered fire, you know, what they went through. And that’s trivial in the sense that this is a lot more expansive than fire. But if you could just kind of-

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: But are you encouraging that when we first had cars, we didn’t have seatbelts, we didn’t have rules of the road?

[Richard Guerry]: Right.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: We didn’t have a social environment that controlled the environment for cars.

[Richard Guerry]: Correct, so the time.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Right. So are you encouraging people in your programs to develop those rules of the road, argue for seatbelts, argue for speed limits, argue for safer cars on a social level.

[Richard Guerry]: So when I, when I speak with students and parents, it’s more about how do you use those tools in that car to stay safe, even if it wasn’t regulated? What I speak with people who regulate or lobbyists, it’s what you’re talking about. You know, there’s got to be, there’s got to be some kind of change, because right now, we really are still in the Wild West like we thought we were in the Wild West, we’re still in the Wild West. So it depends on the audience, is the answer to your question. And then, you know, the other thing I would just say real quick, you know, the young man who said he thinks it would be better if we can get rid of our footprint. You know, very parents are watching. I’ll just take this as an opportunity because I made a note and I don’t want to lose it. If your kids ever do make a mistake, you know, a part of growing up is making mistakes. You know, every adult I know in my entire life in technology since the nineties, every time I speak to an adult or a room of adults, I hear this every day. See if the statement sounds familiar: man thank God technology wasn’t around when I was growing up. Right? How often do people say that? But our kids are growing up with it. And so like to the young man who said, I wish we could get rid of our footprint, this is what I tell kids. If you do make a mistake, that’s part of growing up. That’s why adults say they wish it wasn’t around when they were growing up. But starting in that moment, learn from your mistake, especially if you have younger kids, elementary, middle school, even high school. Learn from your mistake. And then in that moment, clear the slate. Starting in that moment, make one, two, five years of amazing decisions in the digital world. If people find that mistake in a background check and they see you’ve done a lot of great things since, the odds are they’re going to be willing to overlook the mistake you made on your time, in your time when you were younger and supposed to. But it’s also important we help people understand that repeated abuse in the digital world, it’s like repeated offender and drunk driving. You’re going to find that the opportunities are going to be very slim because we are in a global market at this point. Technology eliminated space and time. Look how many people are watching this from all, it doesn’t matter where you live geographically to be watching this or presenting. And when technology eliminates space and time, it removes the national or local, and we bring in the global environment. And so it’s important our youth understand that they are competing globally and so their behaviors do matter. So, I know that was a lot there, but maybe I answered a few questions that were lined up.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks.

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah, I could not agree with you more, Sherry. Yeah, on this side, there’s got to be some rules and regulations, you know, we can teach people to put the seatbelt on, things like that. But sometimes, you know, they don’t understand all of the dangers, why we’re telling them, seatbelt on. And there’s a lot of people who don’t understand what’s happening with the A.I. algorithms. You know, people think their phones are listening to them. They don’t understand the mathematics that are happening and all the data that’s happening and all the A.I. algorithms that are being used to take that data. It’s not that your phone’s listening to you, it’s that there’s so much data out there and the math is being done so fast by an algorithm, it can actually predict what you might want to buy or where you might want to go or where you might wind up. So these are things that, that transparency has to happen for sure, hundred percent.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Let me just say just one final thing on this, is, I really, I just became a grandmother, so I’m just-

[Richard Guerry]: Congrats.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: I’m just, thank you, so I’m just immersed in baby child products in a way that I wasn’t before. And, you know, I actually have seen these, these baby bouncers with a slot for an iPad and these, these baby changers with a slot for an iPad and iPhone. You know, it’s not clear. It’s for all the programs to, you know, to distract the baby or distract the mothers. And the mother can take calls while she’s changing the baby. I mean, I think there can be a consumer movement. I mean, I don’t think we need to postpone.

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah.
[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Well, everybody understands the consumer movement that says, this is too much distraction from the face to face communication that we need to keep us whole and to keep our children whole. And that doesn’t mean you have to throw away your phone, but get a grip on bringing humanity back into the most intimate moments of your family life. Because I think that I, you know, I don’t, I don’t want to divide the world into the world of the lobbyists and the corporate world and the world of the, you know, the home people. Because I think that ultimately, changing the way these companies do business is going to be, really, there is going to be a consumer movement. So it makes, enough for me.

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah, I know hundred percent.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: I’m looking for a consumer movement.

[Richard Guerry]: In Europe and other countries, there are completely different laws than in the United States as far as privacy, the right to be forgotten, things of that nature. So you’re absolutely right, 100% right. And it does have to happen, or at least there has to be more transparency. You know, what I said earlier, we are the pioneers of technology, like we legit are the pioneers of technology. Future generations will, we will be one of the most heavily researched generations of humans to ever walk this planet because we are all the very first humans to use the tools that changed it. We are the humans to witness the birth of artificial intelligence and how it changed everything. We are the very first humans that will drop into what people will call the metaverse a completely alternate reality. And when future generations look back on the pioneers of technology to do that, they are going to see we had to deal with a lot of challenges because we’re the first ones to go through this and it’s really important that we help. You know, another thing, again, just as my role trying to give dos and don’ts to parents, you know, a lot of kids are very impulsive in this world. Why, and Sherry, I know you definitely would know this, their brain is not developed to think long term yet, you know, you have to be like, 25 to 27 years old. And so a child is going to be impulsive in this world. And one conversation and again, the sacred spaces you were talking about earlier, I love it. One of the things that we have to help kids understand is that what they do in this world could stay with them positively or negatively, and they can do that in a moment. So how do we get them thinking beyond the moment? And here’s, here’s a tip you can do and you can use it in the sacred space to share your thoughts about, bring up an ad or listen to an ad for, watch it on TV, pull it up on YouTube. Maybe before you get the car before dinner. Watch it. Then have your kid reflect on this question. What do you want the next generation of your family to know about you, when they go to and look you up to see who you were as their digital forefather? Have them reflect on that question.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks, Richard. This is a wonderful exchange and I’d love it to carry forward. But we do want to hear from some of the audience with their questions.

[Richard Guerry]: Yep, sorry.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: We also have an exchange that we would like to carry through with, with Sebastian. But first, I’d like to ask a rather complex question that I’m not sure that you’ve well, you’ve volunteered to respond to, how do you use security to protect your child without losing them to secrecy, to secrecy, to confidentiality? And I think that that is an important question that I’d like you to ponder. How do you use security to protect your child without losing them to presumably their own independent secrecy?

[Dr. Sebastian Wachs]: Well, I think we need to distinguish here between children and adolescents. And privacy is a basic human right. And also children have rights of privacy. Right? So we need to find a balanced way to shield our children from potential harmful interactions. But on the other side, not being overprotecting and, you know, and, don’t allow them to develop, it’s quite important that children and especially adolescents explore the world offline and online, with increasing age, more and more alone. Right? So otherwise they don’t develop the skills they need when they’re grown up to, to, to, to cope with differences, to, to, to manage several challenges which this life will, yeah, which they will face in life. So, first of all I think it’s quite important to be honest and to talk about what kinds of, if you use some kind of monitoring software or something like that, you should be honest and talk with your child about that. You should explore the Internet, like the offline world, with your child together. Talk about spaces that are safe, online websites which are maybe not that safe. There are many regulations, and Richard already said, the situation in Europe is a little bit different. So I scrolled through the question and there was a question about age and Facebook. For example, in Germany, we have clear regulations about that, that children below 13 years are not officially allowed to have an account on Facebook or even WhatsApp. So I think these, these kind of regulation, I mean, of course, all the children are using Facebook, or TikTok nowadays, Facebook is out, and all of those children have WhatsApp even below 13. But for many parents, these regulations might be some kind of guideline.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Thanks so much. I’m wondering what you would think would be the benefit of having youth engage in designing future technologies for communications online and what that might do to the algorithm versus interfaces, influencers. Anybody.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Youth better engage. They better engage. It’s their turn. It’s their turn.

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah, they’ve grown up.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Yeah, I mean, hear hear.

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah. They’ve grown up with it. Right. So kind of with what we’re just watching with, with the two videos of the students, you know, when we first watched them, I was like, were they in high school? Were they in college? Because they were, they were quite mature in the way they were talking and having them create what they’re talking about, what they’ve learned through their adolescence, the challenges they’ve seen, even if they didn’t directly have a challenge. Everybody knows somebody who got trouble with tech. Right. And then we learn from why they got in trouble. And so having youth develop programs and platforms based on what they saw that they think would be better, beneficial for the next generation. Yeah, I mean, that’s how it can trickle down, you know. But like Sherry said, they have to get involved.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: I mean, I think there needs to be a, a deep understanding. And I think all three of your panelists are, you know, we’re all just saying in a different language based on our different projects, there really needs to be a much deeper understanding of the algorithms behind social media. Yeah, that’s starting, I think the, you know, the Facebook whistleblower helped. I think the fact that Facebook was forced to say, oh, yeah, I guess we did do studies of our own that showed how much damage we’re doing. Oops. But you know, people, but then they started meta, and somehow now everybody thinks the metaverse will solve this. I mean, there’s just, there’s just an infinite amount of money in publicity and public relations campaigns and now, my, my feed is filled with surgeons who need meta to do brain surgery. So that’s what meta is all about. I mean, you’re dealing with a formidable opponent, and you don’t want to have social media as your opponent, I think we’ve all made the point that this is, this technology is good for a lot of things. It’s not as though it’s a bad thing. It’s a technology that was never put under any of the social controls, the normal political and social controls that it would have been if it had really been introduced as the kind of technology it really is, which is a profound technology of communication, of information distribution. And it wasn’t, we really didn’t know what it was when it was being introduced. And we’re only now coming round to saying yes, it can undermine democracy. Yes, it can influence elections. Yes. I mean, we’re only now kind of catching up. Yes, it can influence adolescent development, children’s development. We’re only catching up with what we’ve made. And that’s why I like the, the analogy to the car, because, you know, people thought the car was a horse, except it was mechanical, and now oops, no, it can change the nature of cities. It makes new, different kinds of cities. It’s going to change the entire demography of the country. Oh, no, I guess it’s not a horse. You know. So I think that we need to be gentle with ourselves and kind to ourselves, that it’s natural, that we, it’s taken a while, but the time has kind of come to face that now it’s time. So I’m interested in this new generation being very active, but also in their having a good understanding of what it is that has been created.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: I, welcome to the Grand Motherhood Club.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: I’m so excited!

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: I realized that when I met my latest great granddaughter, I was there when she had her first social smile. And we weren’t sure it was a smile, and I was, so many, but it does start at the cradle. It does start with conversations.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Yeah.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: At the very beginning of time.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Yeah.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: And although we don’t want to discourage parents of teenagers that a lot of a lot is, a lot’s going on, it’s also the case that young parents can object, if the stuff that they’re being sold is counter to the development of their baby.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: Yes. So I see this as ultimately going to be a consumer movement. And I know that sounds maybe old fashioned or retro. But, these are companies who were making money on a technology that really could be, you know, for the good. And it’s not being used for good in large part because there are so many uses of it which you can make so much money when it’s used for the bad.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Right.

[Dr. Sherry Turkle]: That’s kind of very bottom line. I mean, there’s just so much money. There’s a lot of money you can make on matches, caused to start fires to collect insurance. And we just, you know, we just really have laws that make that hard to do. And I kind of see, I kind of see a lot of what’s going on online as starting fires through which people want to collect insurance money.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: Sebastian is dying to get in here in the conversation.

[Dr. Sebastian Wachs]: Yeah, thanks so much, and this is certainly true but, please we should also consider that adolescents are already shaping the online world like no generation before. And we shouldn’t just talk about consumer. Of course they are consumer, but they are also prosumer, right? They are producing so much online content and they are also, some of them are making their life with it. So I think no generation before had such a great economic impact, no young generation before like the generation to date and the whole online world. I just said that Facebook is out. Who did decide this? Not me. Not you do. The youth did, right? They decided, no, we don’t want to go to Facebook anymore. We like TikTok. And so this whole new, of short video clips is booming. And maybe in two years there’s something new again. And it’s more like the youth is saying what they want and they are doing it, and the tech companies are following and are giving adolescents more or less what they want. So it’s more like, of course, the tech companies are making money with it. Sure. But at the end, adolescents are not only consumer of digital media, but also they are producing digital media, and they are the architectures of the new online world, so-

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah no, 100% right. Like I said earlier, there’s 12 year olds who are already self-made millionaires, right? You can literally have your own QVC from your own house. And, you, I mean, it’s incredible, right? I mean, you’re making candles, you’re making jewelry, you’re making clothing from home and people are paying you through Venmo. And of course, you know, there’s there’s risks in that, but there’s also, it’s very entrepreneurial. And, you know, if I just was going to try and bridge the conversations, like I’ll use a car, okay, if get in a car and I’m trying to get from A to B and maybe, for me in that car to get to the store, and I drive my car defensively, I can’t control what everybody else does, but I can control what I do and I’m going to get to the store faster than walking. So I love my car and I’m always going to use it. If I get in my car drunk where I’m texting and driving, I might never get to B. And because I’m abusing that tool, I’m elevating everybody’s risk. Now, going back to regulation. If there’s no regulations to tell me, don’t drink and drive or don’t, you know what I mean, like. Okay. Well, then there’s the Wild West, but we put the regulation in, we expect people to do it. And then when we use those regulations to our advantage, everybody benefits from the tool and we keep people’s risks low. So going back now to what you’re saying, Sebastian. Yeah, there’s a million so many things kids can do entrepreneurial. And what we just try and help them understand is if you can make that work for you, but you could also be aware that like if your mental health is suffering because like the hate you’re seeing hate speech or you’re seeing things online, like an algorithm is feeding you self-harm or anorexia or what have you, you just have to know that that is being done purposely and to put that in its place and try and change the algorithm to your actions. So again, it’s just about really understanding that. I just try to help people understand that we are still new at this, use that to your advantage man, go, go be that influencer if really that’s what you want to do, you want to make your own clothes, but also be aware of the time that you’re spending online and in that time you’re spending online, if your mental health is suffering based on what you’re seeing, maybe it’s, going back to the car again. The billboards on the road are just very harmful to your mental health, hate speech, or what have you, then take a step back, take a breath and understand. Try and how, how do you have that? Then you’re using it to your advantage but you’re staying healthy as well, and understanding that the things that are, those billboards you’re seeing, that’s being done purposely to profit from you.

[Dr. Sebastian Wachs]: So life skills, right? You need life skills and those life skills should be related or usable in the online and offline world.

[Richard Guerry]: Exactly.

[Dr. Sebastian Wachs]: But we also know from research that teens who struggle in the online world are most likely the one who struggled in the offline world. So there’s a correlation between both worlds, and for most among the adolescents who are not capable to deal with specific task in the online and offline world. Yeah, so,

[Richard Guerry]: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

[Dr. Ann Cameron]: This has been too much fun folks. I’ve been alerted that we have been using up our time very well. And so we are. Celeste is here to crack the whip and tie us all up.

[Celeste Schaefer Snyder]: Thank you Ann, Sherry, Richard, and Sebastian for sharing your expertise with us today and helping us better understand and contextualize the modern world of online communication that children are growing up in today. To learn more about child development and digital media, check out our website at Follow us on these platforms, and subscribe to our YouTube channel where you can find all of our previous webinars. Please join us again on Wednesday, November 9th for our next Ask the Experts webinar, “Disconnected: Relationships in the Digital Age”. This webinar will take the next step in examining how the near ubiquitous use of smartphones and other technologies is impacting the many relationships in youths’ lives, from their families to their peers and dating partners, to parasocial relationships with celebrities and influencers. We hope to see you there.