Miss a day, miss a lot. Subscribe to The Defender's Top News of the Day. It's free.

Surgeon General: ‘Growing Evidence’ Social Media Harms Kids’ Mental Health

New York Daily News reported:

There is “growing evidence” that the use of social media by kids and adolescents could be detrimental to their mental health, according to the U.S. surgeon general. Dr. Vivek Murthy is sounding the alarm about the negative effects of social media on the mental health and well-being of young people, amid what he calls “a national youth mental health crisis.”

In a new advisory issued Tuesday, Murthy highlighted the “significant” public health challenge posed by the use of social media by U.S. youth — specifically those between the ages of 10 to 19, who “are undergoing a highly sensitive period of brain development.”

“Nearly every teenager in America uses social media, and yet, we do not have enough evidence to conclude that it is sufficiently safe for them, especially at such a vulnerable stage of brain, emotional, and social development,” Murthy said in a statement.

He urged policymakers and tech companies, as well as families of young people in the U.S., to take immediate action to “maximize the benefits and minimize the harms of social media platforms” and create “safer” and “healthier” environments for young users.

Pandemic’s Toll on Reading Still Being Seen in Classrooms Across the Country

Fox News reported:

The desks, once spread apart to fight COVID-19, are back together. Masks cover just a couple of faces. But the pandemic maintains an unmistakable presence.

Look no further than the blue horseshoe-shaped table in the back of the room where Richard Evans calls a handful of students back for extra help in reading — a pivotal subject for third grade — at the end of each day.

Here is where time lost to pandemic shutdowns and quarantines shows itself: in the students who are repeating this grade. In the little fingers slowly sliding beneath words sounded out one syllable at a time. In the teacher’s patient coaching through reading concepts usually mastered in first grade — letter “blends” like “ch” and “sh.”

In a year that is a high-stakes experiment on making up for missed learning, this strategy — assessing individual students’ knowledge and tailoring instruction to them — is among the most widely adopted in American elementary schools. In his classroom of 24 students, each affected differently by the pandemic, Evans faces the urgent challenge of having them all read well enough to succeed in the grades ahead.

TikTok Sues Montana After State Passes Law Banning App

Forbes reported:

TikTok filed a widely expected federal lawsuit against Montana alleging that the state’s new ban on the app — which was signed into law last week and would take effect January 1, 2024 — “unlawfully abridges one of the core freedoms” allowed under the First Amendment by suppressing free speech.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Montana, seeks to have the Montana law overturned, permanently prevented from implementation and declared unconstitutional; the suit is against the state’s attorney general, Austin Knudsen, who is tasked with enforcing the ban.

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed the first-of-its-kind bill banning the app from being downloaded in the state last week, saying he did so “to protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Increased Oversight: Discord Tests New Parental Controls for Teens

TechCrunch reported:

New usernames aren’t the only change coming to the popular chat app Discord, now used by 150 million people every month. The company is also testing a suite of parental controls that would allow for increased oversight of Discord’s youngest users, TechCrunch has learned and Discord confirmed.

In a live test running in Discord’s iOS app in the U.S., the company introduced a new “Family Center” feature, where parents will be able to configure tools that allow them to see the names and avatars of their teen’s recently added friends, the servers the teen has joined or participated in and the names and avatars of users they’ve directly messaged or engaged within group chats.

However, Discord clarifies in an informational screen, parents will not be able to view the content of their teen’s messages or calls in order to respect their privacy.

This approach, which toes a fine line between the need for parental oversight and a minor’s right to privacy, is similar to how Snapchat implemented parental controls in its app last year. Like Discord’s system, Snapchat only allows parents insights into who their teen is talking to and friending, not what they’ve typed or the media they’ve shared.

FTC Issues Warning on Misuse of Biometric Info Amid Rise of Generative AI

FOXBusiness reported:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a warning on the potential for consumers’ biometric information to be misused in connection with emerging technologies like generative artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

A policy statement published by the FTC last week warned that the increasingly pervasive use of consumers’ biometric data, including by technologies powered by machine learning and AI, poses risks to consumers’ privacy and data. Biometric information is data that depicts or describes physical, biological or behavioral traits and characteristics, including measurements of an identified person’s body or a person’s voiceprint.

“In recent years, biometric surveillance has grown more sophisticated and pervasive, posing new threats to privacy and civil rights,” said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s policy statement makes clear that companies must comply with the law regardless of the technology they are using.”

Mother of Unvaccinated Girl Denied Kidney Transplant by Duke Shares Huge Update

The Daily Wire reported:

Yulia Hicks, a child who was denied a kidney transplant by Duke Children’s Hospital last year, will finally be receiving the life-saving operation at another North Carolina hospital.

The teen has a genetic kidney disorder that requires a transplant, but her family said last year that Duke was refusing to put Yulia on the kidney wait list because she is unvaccinated against COVID. Notably, the family says Yulia has already recovered from the virus.

The Daily Wire reported last year that a phone call, the recording of which was obtained by journalist Alex Berenson, revealed a Duke health official telling the Hicks family that Yulia must get vaccinated against COVID before she could become a candidate for the kidney transplant.

Her family said Yulia has already contracted COVID and recovered, but doctors told them Yulia’s natural immunity was not enough, according to the recorded call.

Alberta Worker Who Refused COVID Shot Wins Case for Another Chance to Appeal for EI Benefits

The Epoch Times reported:

An Alberta woman denied Employment Insurance (EI) benefits for refusing COVID-19 vaccination has appealed the ruling and won reconsideration of her case.

Amanda Michaud, a biomedical equipment technologist with Alberta Health Services (AHS) in Grande Prairie, was placed on an unpaid leave of absence during the pandemic due to non-compliance with her employer’s mandatory vaccination policy. Michaud, with AHS for some 15 years, received a letter from her employer on Dec. 6, 2021, that explicitly stated the leave of absence was not disciplinary.

Her lawyer, James Kitchen, told The Epoch Times that when Michaud applied for EI on Dec. 22, 2021, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission decided that her suspension was for “misconduct” and that she wasn’t entitled to EI benefits as a result.