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Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst

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Moms fear dangers artificial intelligence and social media pose to kids

Jun 01, 2023

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Dr. Frank Luntz

Pollster and Political Analyst

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Parents across America are worried about the danger technology poses to their kids. They worry that social media sites like TikTok are damaging to children’s mental health and fear the arrival of artificial intelligence will only make things worse.

The latest installment of America Speaks, hosted by political analyst and pollster Dr. Frank Luntz, tackles the tech issue head-on. During the 36-minute episode, mothers from across the country discuss the challenges of raising kids in the age of social media, the difficulty in setting boundaries for smartphone use, and the role Congress should play to address the problem.

what has made America speak so unprecedented and unparalleled? Is that there are no pundits or prognosticators, no elites or editorialists just you, the American people, your wisdom and your voice. And this episode is truly extraordinary. We gathered 15 Moms from across the country for a passionate, often painful discussion about social media and AI. From addiction to abuse, from we riling their kids brains to making pleasant conversation impossible. The moms of America are crying out for help. The question is anyone listening? It’s a conversation unlike no other was sharing more of that conversation than usual. Because we think viewers like you have the right to know and you can only get America speaks right here on straight our news. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. And let’s get started.
What one word comes to mind when you take a social media?
restrictive? Amanda? Complex. Renee, I would say complex also Alexandra influential. Shannon? Dangerous. Amber? I would say dangerous that that was Janelle cancer.
So Janelle, you said cancer explained that.
It just sucks the life out of people. That’s it. What do you mean by that? It’s it’s a place where once your life around it. You almost can’t get away from it.
I wasn’t even really a social media person or like, did anything with my Facebook until the pandemic. And I am one of those people it might I scroll at the end of the night. I click throughout the day. I don’t want I don’t watch a lot of TV. So most of what I read comes from Google feeds CNN online.
And I just feel like it’s a it’s a serious, like virus that just is just attacking people.
Amber, you’re nodding your head, yes, why?
I am because I think it’s all uncomfortable only if I’m infected. I mean, it infects every aspect of our lives, from how we get news to how we relate to our peers, to how we relate to our families, to how we relate to our communities. It’s just infects every layer of living today,
but you can’t get away from it. I think that
the danger, the danger for kids is that kids that age are just very impressionable. And if they don’t get a certain number of likes, if they, if they do get a certain number of likes, it really affects their self esteem. And I think during the pandemic, it certainly was their only outlet. So any bullying that goes on can be very detrimental to them. I mean, I always tell everyone that if social media existed when I studied for the bar exam, I never would have passed.
I know I’m more nervous because I use the word fake as my word to describe social media. And I feel like with filters, and expectations, and numbers, everything is so hyped up that it’s so hard to live, you know to to accomplish these unrealistic goals with your body with your grades with with, with everything. So then you throw in something like AI, for example. And they can generate more fake miss with it and claim to be real, that it just feels like it’s completely out of control when everybody’s so caught up with social media that they can’t even have a real conversation in person. So it to me it’s just like exploding, like in the fastest way possible. And it’s like a runaway train.
My son is nine. And I just got him a cell phone this year every but all of his other friends already had them. But now he has a cell phone and I put parental controls on it. But he loves YouTube. And there’s there’s so many harsh comments on YouTube that he came to me crying one day because, you know, someone made a comment about him playing fortnight or something crazy, I don’t even know and there’s just even though so many parental controls, it’s so hard to control the bullying that’s out there. In the comments and social media
are you nodding your head?
Yes. And I am thankful that she called out YouTube because I was gonna call out YouTube, I have a son who’s eight. And full disclosure, we just recently adopted him. And he has experienced a lot of complex trauma. And the more he watches YouTube, the more he thinks that’s reality. So when we were kind of teaching him how to be part of a family, he was mimicking what he saw on YouTube. And he thought, Oh, these kids on YouTube, they get new toys every day? Well, no, those are toys that they’re trying to sell, you know, they’re essentially 30 minute ads. And it just seems like when he watches videos, and these kids have things he doesn’t have, he feels that much more unsatisfied with this life. And it’s like, Well, you already have to deal with the complex trauma that you’ve experienced in your life. Now we have to deal with the reality of, you know, what is life? What is pleasure? Like? How do I become a part of a family? What should my expectations be from my family, and YouTube has completely distorted that
being a mom, arguably the toughest job on the planet. Thanks to technology, we are more connected to more people, places and things than at any time in the history. But thanks to social media, we are more disconnected from each other, and from our family and friends. Hearing moms talk about how difficult it is to raise their child in an era of social media and AI ought to grab the headlines in newspapers, and attention from Congress. But until recently, our leaders were silent. So let’s listen in as moms talk about the impact of social media on the relationship between them and their children. Spoiler alert, you’re not gonna like what you hear.
Stacy, why is this social media make it harder for you to be a mom.
Because I find the more my kids use social media, the more they see what other people want their lives to look like. And they’re almost like jealous that their lives aren’t as great as these other people and it it almost becomes like they’re unhappy with what they have. And they always want more and more and more.
Couple more
Amber’s social media in terms of being a mom.
Yeah, I have a son who’s 18. He’s a senior and I worry, because it makes it more difficult to know, a where he’s what he’s seeing. There’s no limitations to there’s just too much exposure to all the time screen all the time, all the time, all the time all the time. And you can’t get away from it’s like put it down, you know, put it down. We don’t have dead the dinner table. I gotta check. I don’t know, you know, so it’s an addictive quality because it’s impossible to control. And it just you don’t know what they’re seeing. Family.
Okay, well, sure. Last words, because somebody was coughing,
I’m sorry, I said to distraction to the families distraction to life. And he’s always got a sprain in the space. It just
rain, I’m exhausted. It’s literally a constant every day, all day, all night thing. It’s never ending. So I have to be intentional about finding time in my day, to address whatever my child has seen during the day. And that could be, you know, seven o’clock at night when he’s on his way to bed and he has his phone under the covers. Or it could be six o’clock in the morning when he’s waking up early to get on social media. So I have to adjust my life to kind of keep a rein on and be observant about what he’s doing on social media.
Stacy,
I would say paranoid. It makes me paranoid as a mother. I mean, I have security cameras on my house locks on my door and my kids let invite strangers in over the internet on social media. I feel like I’m always worried they’re gonna give out personal information and and sometimes, you know, they know the rules they’re not supposed to say, where they live, who they live with their address, their phone number, anything like that, and I’ll catch them doing that and they’ll say, but they’re my friend. Like they can’t distinguish, you know that these are an online presence to an actual friend.
If social media is a daily hassle for moms, it’s outright destructive for their children. Let’s listen in as our moms describe the damage it has already done to their kids and the long term consequences to American society. Okay,
now I want to shift to what the impact that it has on your child or children. Give me a word or phrase to describe what it’s doing to your children. Elisa,
it’s taking away their innocence. It’s taking away their creative play time, it’s taking away their ability to just sort of run around outside and sort of have that like freedom. And it’s, it’s warping their sense of what the world really is. Because they get so wrapped, at least my kids are so wrapped up in it that they, they don’t seek, you know, they don’t see the broader world. And, you know, I took my son to Universal Studios in Florida in August. And, you know, he, he just wanted to go back to the room and, and play, you know, Roblox or fortnight or whatever, like I, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s monopolizing, and it’s taking away a lot of fun, and sort of, I get, I guess, innocence, that I think I definitely had it as a kid, Ramona.
I feel that it’s, it’s creating an addiction that, really, there’s no support for because it’s fairly new. All the kids now that’s all they do. They’re just on their phone constantly, constantly day in and day out at school at home. So I think it’s just creating an unhealthy addiction that we’ve never really seen before. So we are what is
your children?
probably
confused, confusion. Like my daughter’s constantly changing her look, what she’s into what she likes, who she likes, red, yellow, green, purple, you know, different color hair, you know, just identity crisis, that’s probably the best the best way to describe it. And then I’m like the information police and I want to be on top of everything. And I’m constantly shoveling things at her to kind of even things out and I think that probably even more confuses her the life out of her. But I try not to beat a dead horse.
And for girls, my daughter is 16 I think for girls, it can be particularly dangerous in that it creates eating and foods. Issues relating to like what type of clothes you need to buy whatever. I saw one video where an influencer filmed a video of her at a tropical location that was really filmed at IKEA. And she showed how she faked it that that it was really in some like, you know, some IKEA in New Jersey and you pretended it was some I don’t know, like tropical islands. So girls, you know think that they have to be a certain way, look a certain way use a certain product, wear certain clothes go on certain trips, and this sort of like aspiration to this ideal. You see that? That’s really just not not realistic.
That’s not just girls, that’s boys too. I have a boy and my child suffers with his self image. What should he be wearing? Are the girls going to like me? If I’m dressed like the guy on Tik Tok, where I’m doing the dance? Or solely it also affects young men as well.
How many of you think that social media is addictive?
Oh, yeah.
Okay, so it’s almost all of you. So I want to get about half a dozen responses. And Stacey, why is social media so addictive on your children,
because they never want to converse with anybody in the family. They want to spend all of their time on social media, they have that fear of missing out, like they have to be connected, they have to be online, they have to see what other people are doing all the time. And they almost miss out on experiences. Like if you go on vacation, you know, they’re only doing it for the Instagram photo, like not participating in this great vacation, you know?
Ballerup Why are you so concerned about social media being addictive?
Because we’re constantly on it. You know, we’re like home zombies. We never disconnect, always want to see a new video a new product service, it becomes continuous.
To have real real relationships anymore, they don’t want to have friend like real friendships real build real relationships. I mean, they’ve got maybe a small group of friends. But beyond that, they don’t talk to anybody else. They don’t know how to interact. They don’t know how to have those social interactions anymore.
Remotely addictive for your kids.
Because I think it takes away their social skills it takes away on then actually having, like, others have said a childhood. They’re constantly on their phone day and night. It’s just an unhealthy addiction for them to constantly be on social media.
And also, I think it’s very comforting to just sit in your computer chair laying in your bed, and be by yourself and hold on to that phone, but the whole world is going on, on that phone, you don’t have anybody to answer to when you’re just looking at it, and you’re laying down. And next thing, you know, it’s four hours later, you didn’t know your kid was on that phone, you thought he went to bed at nine. But he’s up till 12, one o’clock in the morning, right in his bed with the covers over his head, and the phone is just on it, I kind
of more wanted to make an observation that it sounds like, what I’m hearing is what I see in my own world, which is that the whole phone technology, complete with social media is very addictive. And we know it’s addictive to children’s brains. And we know it changes their brains from the very beginning. And so then as they become teenagers, their brands have been rewired. And so parenting becomes more difficult, it’s already a difficult time to parent, like teenagers are already difficult to parent. And we make it more difficult by putting these exposing our children to these technologies that change their brains from a very early age. At the same time, the reality is also that most of us adults are in some way addicted to it
ourselves.
Why is your child less healthy because of social media?
Because they I mean, they’re so distracted, they can’t keep focus, they bounce from one thing to another it mean it’s like, everyone has ADHD now, like everybody just can’t even keep focus on to the next thing on. I mean, every two minutes, it’s something new, something new, more exciting, you know, then the last, it just, they can’t keep focused anymore.
And it makes it harder for them to fall asleep at night. Because when they have all the screen time at night, it especially right before bed, it makes it harder for them to like calm down and just like separate from that. And, you know, I, I I keep being like, Oh, do you want to read a book with me? And he he just wants to be on like YouTube. And it’s, it’s, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because there’s a whole world out there that that’s has no relation to anything on YouTube.
Stacy, why is your child less healthy because of social media?
Because, well, especially one of my sons would go to school and then to his room or to the dark basement and they spend so much time indoors not enough time outdoors, that when my son had his physical he actually had a an undetectable vitamin D level because he was never seeing sunshine.
Bella? Yeah, I agree this everyone it’s snacking, it’s lack of physical activity in also mental health. I feel like not just the physical health that distracted but can’t keep focused on homework, or any normal activity. We always have this tech doc or Snapchat, or some kind of a distraction.
But I’ve seen the numbers. I’ve seen the statistics in your response. Most of the kids are using social media more than two hours a day. I want 60 You tell me why you’re not forcing your kids off?
Because they’re gonna rebel, I would say, I’m gonna go he’s gonna go to his room, unless I take that phone away, or I pad away. And then why are you taking it away? What are you taking you away for? I see you on yours. Even if I’m doing work, I see you on yours. You’ll follow a story too. And then it becomes like a little bit of a battle. Do you want to battle with them? And then have this silence in the house and then they go to school? You have to give him the phone because I gotta keep in contact if anything, but do you want this battle where you’re not really talking? Dinner’s on the table. They’re just eating and then they go into the room. You don’t want to kind of want that kind of a pour in the house.
All Why don’t you stop your kids?
unrealistic. Like for for me it just unrealistic. You know, you can only be around them so much when he’s around me. Yes, I can tell him get off the phone. You know, get off social media kind of track what he’s doing. But he has the phone at school. He has downtime at school. He goes to lunch, all his friends are on it. So it’s just like unrealistic. And I also agree with a tension point. You know, it’s like how what are you going to fight over every little thing? There’s a time you know, when he was 10 sure that was much easier but being six tene that’s, that’s a whole different story, it’s too hard to do. And if you do it, they’re gonna lie to you about it. And I don’t I’d rather have them telling me the truth and lie to me all the time. There’s
two sides to this, this form of entertainment, it creates curiosity. And our children do learn from it. But I just this, like everything that you’re saying is the complete reality, it is stealing their innocence, it is robbing a portion of their brain. But Have any of you did any of you create any boundaries? Like, I mean, like us, I don’t, I don’t want to be worried about my son’s usage one day, or more importantly, what he’s looking at. And until I get to do what I can do now to create those boundaries, then, then then I then I feel he’s gonna get all
parental control. That’s why I said parental parental controls, and his iPhone. And even with doing that, it’s like, I don’t want to upset him. I
don’t want to upset him for
kids, I think you choose your battles early, like my kids are younger, they’re, you know, closer to eight and 10. So, I mean, I think you choose your battles early. And if you start them off, now with some kind of boundaries, I don’t think they’re that hard to push.
Okay, you’ve heard the problem. Now it’s time to discuss the solution. We gave her mom’s an open invitation. Assume that social media and AI companies are listening right now. What would you tell them? What do they need to say? Or do right now to make things right for you and your children?
The social media companies are listening to you right now? What would you tell Britney,
that you are destroying the next generation for profit? Or maybe for more nefarious purposes, but they know what their technology does to children’s brains? They have designed it to be addictive. It is an intentional play for them because eyeballs are dollars. And I mean, I can’t you know, I don’t know how to convince them that their dollars are not worth the cost. But as a human being living here watching what’s happening to the next generation as a mother, it’s not worth the cost to me. So it’s not going to be in my house.
What would you tell them?
I would say you’re you’re robbing our children of their childhoods.
It’s a knowingly Zootopia. What
would you tell them?
A social media gods, I would love for you to stop generating live feeds, because they cause violence more than they do, I believe more than they do good.
Right. I think that they should acknowledge the fact that their technology does affect children in a way that’s different from adults. And then they should be held hold themselves accountable by either issuing some type of ongoing PSA that’s specifically geared to children to let them know a lot of the things that they hear and see they aren’t real. And they’re put that way just for entertainment, on a constant basis. Beyond that, any other blockages or, or things that they come up with, to keep it from being so addictive to children would be helpful, Karen,
they should address somehow with kids addiction, the topic of addiction somehow, somehow either have like a center, or some type of videos or something, something that they’re taking responsibility for kids being addicted to social media, whether it’s YouTube, tick tock, and maybe just like how they have on the where the where the gamblers have a one 800 number to call or they have a website to go to when they’re addicted, they should these social media companies that deal a lot with kids should have the same type of format something to help kids wean off of it, or at least just address the issue with a video or a one 800 Number or something,
something. The first thing they need to do is they need to establish stronger privacy settings for children. The next thing they need to do is put out either you know a commercial or an ad or have a podcast or whatever, on establishing ground rules for the entire family. Educating family, both parents and kids on the platforms that are there, and how how people use social media, and then to establish stronger, more defined and more rigorous parental controls.
Why do you feel weak in the face of these social media companies? That’s fascinating?
Well, because I can’t just I don’t feel comfortable. How do I put it? Why do I feel weak? Because I’m on it all the time. i It has just as strong as hold on me, sometimes I’m on my phone, and on my laptop at the same time, and wishing that I could also do a live feed, so I could see it bigger on my screen. You know, I’m always on it. I wake up earlier than anybody just to get on and make, because I’m always on Twitter. And you know, it’s, I’m in California, and it’s three hours ahead and in DC, like I’m always on it. So I’m, I believe you’re a product of your environment. And so I’m sure I rub off on my kids.
I want to know why they don’t want their own kids use it, if they’re trying to jam it down the throats of all of our kids. If they’re trying to get all of our kids addicted to it, why aren’t they letting their own kids use it?
Then we turned our focus to Congress, mom’s Congress is finally listening. What do you want them to hear? Let’s listen in.
Let me ask you, what role is there for Congress in this document? I don’t want to political response is going on? I’m going to ask a whole bunch of you this question, what role should Congress play in addressing the challenges of social media and AI? And the effects of both?
Okay, first, they need to bring all of the social media companies to the table, they need to establish rules in the first place. Because there are nine, they need to be ongoing, like cigarettes, social media needs to come with a warning label, the laws have to catch up with the technology, there is no technology behind AI. That’s why they’re having a problem with the musicians is going to be fakes with people. So they’re not even real people at this point, they’re creating. What do you call them avatars, and they sound like people and look like people, but they aren’t real. until Congress puts laws in place for restrictions on that type of technology is going to go viral, and then it’s going to become a vampire, it will suck the happiness out of everything. So they have to bring them to the table. And they have to do it now.
Okay, I’m just gonna say that of all the responses. That’s my favorite response of anything that’s been said, they’re a vampire. You’re gonna suck that happiness right now. Just burn your whatever we’re paying. You just earned it right there. Brittany, what should Congress do regarding social media and AI?
I think, specific to social media. I’m not sure that I necessarily have any great ideas for AI right now. But I think that we should basically consider social media a controlled substance, the same way we consider not like hard drugs, narcotics, big tobacco. And, you know, I think a lot of women tonight have mentioned things like an ad campaign. You know, it’s funny, I just had a conversation with friends at the park last week, what happened to dare? Like, where, you know, where’s like, the ad campaigns of the 80s and 90s telling, ya know, like, this is your brain on drugs, and the egg is like frying on the sidewalk? Like, why aren’t we telling kids the reality? So I think that we actually already had I agree with Amber, that you have to be very thoughtful about it, because of the uniqueness of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and freedom of speech and all that. But we have a playbook. We have had dangerous substances that alter the human brain before and that is what social media in its current form does. And so I think Congress should look at it seriously the same way they look at other controlled substances, and see how they can use some of those same tools, age restrictions, algorithm, you know, restrictions, things like that.
How many of you agree with that position that Congress should be looking at social media, the way that it looks at controlled substances? Raise your hands. Okay, I want to understand why Carol, and Alyssa and Ramona,
I mean, it is addictive as much as I you know, agree that Congress you know, really can’t do a lot. I do think that something needs to be done to caught up to catch up with the times because it is addictive. It is hurting all of our kids and It’s causing, you know, mental issues. It’s causing a lot of problems for society in general, not just kids
always say very quickly, very quickly.
I think that the real issue here is that, you know, you have so many mental health issues that have contributed to getting to these awful, awful school shootings. And nobody is still talking about them. And I think the attention needs to go to social media, because it really contributes to a lot of mental health problems. And I think Congress can play play an important role in age verification efforts in cyber bullying, in addressing some of the regulatory standards in in addressing how these big tech companies are actually regulated, and as with the powers Congress has, it can actually do that. And I liked what she was saying, like I remember dare, and MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But I think Congress is best situated with it, because it can actually put in into place, these legislative actions, and it can also regulate these big tech tech companies who are controlling social media.
Ramona,
I would say that you Congress do definitely need to hold the social media companies accountable for their actions. Because, yeah, because because they are constantly on it. In just just no way to stop it, it’s no way to slow it down. There’s no way to stop it. So Congress just needs to hold them accountable for it.
Why do you think Congress has enacted until now, so many of you, so many of you, are really anxious, and nervous and upset over the situation? And your Congress has done nothing?
Because they can, because they get political donations because they get money? Because they get money from these people who contribute to the reelection campaigns.
Children don’t donate to political campaigns,
how could you expect them to do anything on social media? They don’t care about the six year olds, they don’t care about town a few not too far from me saying Do we expect them to do something about social media that’s like a hamburger and a lobster just so far apart from each other? That’s so low down the totem pole, I wouldn’t even ask them. I think it’s a waste of time, take it in your own means.
Finally, we asked moms to react to AI, and what AI means for social media. The response was immediate, direct, passionate and unforgiving. If social media is the common cold AI is a life threatening virus that’s already spreading. So let’s listen in to our moms one more time.
I have to start to wrap up. Which two questions actually got four but which concerns you more social media? Or AI? AI? AI? AI? Raise your hands? Probably I want to wow, almost everybody
has a mind of its own? You don’t even have to command it. I mean, it’s a mind of its own. It has no intention of carrying humanity.
Can I get three more of you tell me why AI is more dangerous in social media?
Because I can control
social I mean, it’s hard but I can control social media use and access I can control how much of it is in my house. Ai you don’t have that kind of control over it. It’s like Amber just said, you know, if they call your phone and you just answer your phone, now they have your voice, you know, and look at all the things they can do. I have to I have to make a choice to engage with social media and then I get to make a choice about how much more engagement I’m going to do. And as difficult as it is, I can say no to it. Um I don’t I don’t know that we’re going to be given that opportunity with AI it’s not an it’s no law. It’s not going to be an individual thing. It’s not going to be a my family does it My family doesn’t it? That’s not how AI works. AI is too big. You know, it’s not based on this individual connection and engagement.
Then to that point, I think it would be I think it would be even more all encompassing, even then social media is in our lives. I don’t think there would be anything but AI everywhere. I mean is that is phones are in your face. I think it would be even worse with AI.
Basically, are you that concerned about AI?
I am because I think AI is making humans obsolete. I mean, they’re smarter than the average human, they don’t have emotions. They’re taking away jobs from people they’re taking away that human contact.
dehumanize This isn’t as people is, that’s why it’s artificial intelligence, you could make it do a lot of harm. And it’s all artificial, and it doesn’t have any concern for human feelings or human person. So that’s a danger.
It’s hard to listen to ordinary moms from around the country and not be moved by what they face every single day. It’s hard to understand why nothing literally nothing has been done until now to address the damage and danger of social media and the threat of AI. These are questions I’ve been asking for some time now. I have no doubt our viewers will be asking them in the weeks and months ahead. So on behalf of all the moms out there, I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. And this has been America speaks. Thank you for watching, and see you again next week.

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