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We Need Parents and Policy to Save Our Kids from Big Tech

Newsweek reported:

It is now firmly established that social media are ruining the minds and bodies of America’s children. Facebook‘s own internal studies find that among teens, especially teen girls, the company’s products lead to “increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.” Social media are designed to be addictive. Heavy use leads to sleep disorders, body dysmorphia and suicidal thoughts.

This should be enough reason for a sane society to stop, think and change course. They are kids, after all, who deserve peace of mind and time with their loved ones undisturbed by digital encroachments. But we live in a technological age, in which the imperatives of Silicon Valley are given precedence over everything, including the well-being of children. So instead of sending our kids a life raft, we are packing their bags for the Metaverse, where their minds will be beyond reach.​​

What can parents do to help their kids? That’s what the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), where I am executive director, and the Wheatley Institute asked with Teens and Tech: What Difference Does Family Structure Make, based on an original survey, fielded by Ipsos, of 1,600 U.S. teens ages 11 to 18.

The report’s findings glimpse the limits of what even the most proactive parents can do. Of high school-age teens in the sample whose parents forbid them to use tech, 76% still use it in secret. Strong families are a buffer against the worst harms of Big Tech, but they are surrounded. Big Tech invests untold sums of money, employing world-class psychologists and behaviorists, to capture the will of our children. The dopamine hits it routinely delivers, the sheer ubiquity of it and the way it has become the center of kids’ social lives, mean even the most heroic parents will need help.

How a Missed Period Reported by the Gym Teacher Could Spell Trouble for Girls

CNN Opinion reported:

As a physician, a public health professional and a parent of a teenage girl, I’ve been following news about a Florida school district’s decision to digitize kids’ school athletic records with interest — and with concern. What should be a simple decision about medical best practice has been turned into a Gordian knot of not just health, but also policy, politics, technology and bodily autonomy.

For kids of all genders to safely participate in competitive sports, a consortium of medical organizations has agreed on a standardized pre-sports physical screening and exam. The exact rules and regulations differ between states, but the overarching goal of a pre-sports physical is to allow physicians (or other appropriate clinicians) to identify and then mitigate potential harms from youth sports participation.

There is a big difference between a physician or other trained healthcare professional asking these questions in private, as part of a clinical assessment, and the physician sharing all the details with third parties.

That some states may share the full physical and screening exam — including information about youth athletes’ menstrual cycles — with school districts, state officials and third-party digital record-keeping companies is, to me, deeply worrisome. The strictures of the post-Dobbs world, the reality of today’s tech world and the suggestive examples of other instances where these intersections have left women and girls vulnerable could put parents and doctors in an untenable position.

Biden Administration Looking to Block Some Depositions, but Not Fauci’s

The Epoch Times reported:

President Joe Biden’s administration is seeking to block the deposition of several key officials, but Dr. Anthony Fauci is not one of them. A judge recently ordered Fauci, Biden’s top medical adviser, and other high-level officials to testify in a case alleging collusion between Big Tech companies and the government to censor users.

In a motion for a partial stay on Oct. 27, U.S. lawyers said that plaintiffs should not be able to depose Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a Biden appointee; Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, a Biden appointee; and Rob Flaherty, a deputy assistant to the president.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty authorized eight depositions in his Oct. 21 order, including depositions of Fauci, Jen Psaki, the former White House press secretary; FBI special agent Elvis Chan, Murthy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official Carol Crawford and State Department official Daniel Kimmage.

He also ordered the depositions of Flaherty or former White House COVID-19 adviser Andrew Slavitt and of Easterly or Lauren Protentis, another official in the cybersecurity agency.

Lockdown Babies May Be Slower to Communicate but Faster to Crawl, Study Says

The Washington Post reported:

Early in the pandemic, when much of the world was in lockdown, many parents and other caregivers expressed fears about how a historic period of prolonged isolation could affect their children.

Now, a study out of Ireland has shed some light on this question. Its results suggest that babies born during Ireland’s first COVID-19 lockdown were likely to be slower to develop some social communication skills than their pre-pandemic peers. They were less likely to be able to wave goodbye, point at things and know one “definite and meaningful word” by the time they turn 1. On the other hand, they were more likely to be able to crawl.

Experts say children’s early years of life are their most formative — their brains soak up every interaction and experience, positive and negative, to build the neural connections that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

For the cohort of “lockdown babies,” the “first year of life was very different to the pre-pandemic babies,” Susan Byrne, a pediatric neurologist at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and lead author of the study, told The Washington Post.

While the pandemic is not over, and experts say it could be years before they have a fuller picture of its effects on children, parents around the world have already begun to report noticing differences in their lockdown babies.

The Last of the COVID Vaccine Mandates

Politico reported:

Once touted by federal and state officials as essential to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine mandates are fading away.

Backing off: New York City health officials voted last week to end the first-in-the-nation private-sector mandate former Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered 10 months ago, as well as the city’s requirement that students in “high-risk” extracurricular activities, such as sports, band, chorus, orchestra and dance, be vaccinated.

New York state Judge Ralph J. Porzio also ruled last week that the city must rehire a group of sanitation workers it fired in February for refusing the shots and give them back pay. “There is nothing in the record to support the rationality of keeping a vaccination mandate for public employees, while vacating the mandate for private-sector employees or creating a carveout for certain professions, like athletes, artists and performers,” Porzio explained.

Changed tune: The Biden administration once pushed vaccination hard, attempting unsuccessfully to require private-sector workers to get the jab or be tested regularly for the disease. But the administration isn’t encouraging schools to align their vaccine requirements with new CDC guidance recommending the shots be treated as routine.

Mass. State Workers Rehired After COVID Vaccine Mandate Firings Not Being Offered Back Pay

MassLive reported:

The nearly 50 former Massachusetts state workers who lost their jobs last year to Gov. Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 mandate should not expect guaranteed back pay if they accept the commonwealth’s recent offers of reinstated employment.

The limited pool of former Executive Department employees — out of about 1,000 individuals who were fired or voluntarily resigned over Baker’s requirement — face an Oct. 31 deadline to decide whether they want to reclaim their old positions, according to letters obtained by MassLive this week. That includes a janitor and driver’s license examiner previously employed by MassDOT, but the Baker administration confirmed several other state agencies are seeking to recruit former workers, too.

New information obtained by MassLive indicates that unvaccinated employees will be welcomed back with few perks. But, the commonwealth is now more willing to handle certain religious and medical exemption requests that previously led to a wave of departures, Baker told reporters Tuesday.

The state government, at least for now, does not intend to offer compensation to workers spanning the time of their departures to their reinstated employment, MassLive has learned.

Tim Robbins: Society Just Wants ‘Art to Die’ Amid COVID Vaccine Requirements

IndieWire reported:

The vast majority of the entertainment industry was quick to embrace COVID-19 safety protocols, seeing masks and vaccine mandates as a way back to work during a pandemic that would have otherwise shut productions down. But not everyone sees those rules as universally positive.

In a new Substack interview with Matt Taibbi, Tim Robbins expressed his concerns that too much pandemic-related caution could ultimately make the arts less accessible. The “Shawshank Redemption” star explained that the Actors Gang Theatre, a Los Angeles theatre company where he serves as artistic director, made the decision to postpone its reopening in 2021 because he did not want to enforce a vaccine mandate for audience members.

“I had a problem with this idea of having a litmus test at the door for entry,” Robinson said of the vaccine mandates in California.  “I understood the health concerns, but I also understand that theater is a forum and it has to be open to everybody. If you start specifying reasons why people can’t be in a theater, I don’t think it’s a theater anymore. Not in the tradition of what it has always been historically, which is a forum where stories are told and disparate elements come together and figure it out.”

Ultimately, Robbins is concerned that preventative public health measures taken during the pandemic went too far and could ultimately be a dangerous trend for the arts. “I almost feel like there are forces within our society that just want art to die,” he said.

Fordham University’s Upcoming Vaccine Mandate Has Some Staffers Pursuing Legal Action Against Requirement

News 12 Westchester reported:

Fordham University is set to enforce this coming week one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the country for all staff, students and visitors. The mandate has some up in arms and now they’re pursuing legal action.

“We live in a free society and in a free society you have a choice about what you put into your body,” says Nicholas Tampio, professor of political science at Fordham University. Tampio is just one of the hundreds who are against the school’s latest vaccine mandate.

The new mandate says all students, staff and visitors must have a full round of COVID-19 shots, including the new bivalent booster by this Tuesday, Nov. 1. If they do not comply, they will lose access to campus. Just two weeks ago, dozens of people protested the decision and now they’ve taken legal action.

The Mermigis Law Group sent a letter to University President Tania Tetlow on behalf of 1,600 people. They’re calling on the school to change the policy, saying Fordham University is just one of 20 schools across the country with a mandate like this one.

On Saturday morning, Fordham University told News 12 that the requirement will stay.

Workers Are Fleeing From Foxconn, China’s Biggest iPhone Factory, by Climbing Over Fences and Walking Down Highways on Foot Amid COVID Fears, Photos and Videos Show

Insider reported:

Workers at the world’s largest iPhone factory in China are fleeing the facility in droves, amid fears of severe COVID-19 restrictions following an outbreak, according to reports.

The facility, located in Zhengzhou city in the central Chinese province of Henan, employs over 200,000 workers. They make the majority of the world’s iPhones. The facilities were hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, which triggered strict pandemic containment curbs under China’s COVID-zero policy and worsened living conditions, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing five workers.

A risk of food shortages became a source of unrest, as only those working on production lines were provided with meal boxes, Bloomberg said on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter. Workers infected with COVID-19, or those who feared leaving their dormitories, were just provided with basic supplies such as bread and instant noodles, the media outlet reported.

Dramatic photos and videos of Foxconn workers escaping the Zhengzhou compound have made their way online. One video appears to show the workers carrying bags of their belongings while making their way out on foot.

What TikTok Does to Your Mental Health: ‘It’s Embarrassing We Know so Little’

The Guardian reported:

In the few years since its launch, TikTok has already altered the face of the social media landscape, attracting more than 1 billion users and leading competitors to replicate some of its most unique features.

The impact of that explosive growth and the ‘TikTok-ification’ of the internet at large on social media users remains little understood, experts warn, exacerbating concerns about the impact of social media on our habits and mental health.

“It’s embarrassing that we know so little about TikTok and its effects,” said Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. “Research often lags behind industry, and this is an example of an instance where that could become a big problem.”

The lack of understanding of how TikTok affects its users is particularly concerning given the app’s massive popularity among young people, experts say. Increasingly called “the TikTok generation,” Gen Z prefers the platform to other social media, with nearly six in 10 teenagers counting themselves as daily users. The majority of U.S. teens have accounts on TikTok, with 67% saying they have ever used the app and 16% saying they use it “almost constantly.”

Facebook Probably Has Your Phone Number, Even if You Never Shared It. Now It Has a Secret Tool to Let You Delete It.

Insider reported:

Facebook‘s parent firm Meta has quietly rolled out a new service that lets people check whether the firm holds their contact information, such as their phone number or email address, and delete and block it.

The tool has been available since May 2022, Insider understands, although Meta does not seem to have said anything publicly about it.

A tipster pointed us to the tool, which is well-hidden and apparently only available via a link that is embedded 780 words into a fairly obscure page in Facebook’s help section for non-users. The linked text gives no indication that it’s sending you to a privacy tool, and simply reads: “Click here if you have a question about the rights you may have.”

For many years, the firm asked users signing up for any of its apps to share their phone contacts, with the stated goal of helping them find friends. A side effect is that Meta, whose combined apps boast almost 3 billion daily users, has amassed an unknown but likely vast amount of personal contact information for people who have never signed up for an account, nor opted to share their information.