Connect with us

International

New Study Suggests Social Media Harms May Be Overstated

Published

on

  • A study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that the amount of time young people spend on social media has little impact on their overall life satisfaction.
  • The researchers argue that society should instead focus less on screen time and more on whether particular aspects of online behavior or content are harmful.
  • Similar studies have been conducted in the past giving conflicting conclusions on social media’s impact, however, the research team says that this is partly because data is limited.
  • They are asking tech companies to collaborate with researchers to better explore social media’s effects on overall health and well being.  

Study Finds “Trivial” Impact on Life Satisfaction

Time spent on social media has only a “trivial” impact on happiness among adolescents, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.

The research team conducted a study involving more than 12,000 UK adolescents between 2009 and 2017. Researchers asked the thousands of participants to share how much time they spent using social media on a normal school day. The participants were also asked to rate how satisfied they were with different aspects of life.

The study found that the amount of screentime only had a small negative impact on how happy the children felt about life. Instead family, friends, and school life all had a greater impact on well being.

“99.75% of a young person’s life satisfaction across a year has nothing to do with whether they are using more or less social media,” said Professor Andrew Przybylski, co-author of the research from Oxford University.

The team did say that the effects of time spent on social media had a wider impact on girls over boys, but even so, they said the effects remain very small.

“On an individual basis, time shouldn’t be the thing that parents are worrying about,” said Przybylski. “Thinking about social media like it’s a black box that has kind of a ticking clock on top of it – that way of thinking about screen time is almost certainly wrong.”

Talk to Your Children

Instead, Przybylski said that there are other avenues that researchers need to explore. “It is entirely possible that there are other, specific, aspects of social media that are really not good for kids … or that there are some young people who are more or less vulnerable because of some background factor,” he said.

The research team added that parents should worry less about how much time their children spend on social media sites and instead talk to them about their specific experiences.

“Just as things went awry offline, things will also go awry online, and it is really important for that communication channel to be open,” said Amy Orben, co-study author and psychology lecturer at the University of Oxford

Conflicting Data

The question of the potential impact social media has on young people is one that has been asked many times before, and has resulted in conflicting data. Some studies have suggested that social media could be hurting children’s mental health, while others have said it has positive effects on socialization.

However, Przybylski says that studies are often based on limited evidence and do not give the full picture. In fact, the research team suggested that other studies may have failed to account for the fact that some teens who were already more depressed to begin with may spend more of their time on social media.

“With most of the current debate based on lacklustre evidence, this study represents an important step towards mapping the effects of technology on wellbeing,” said Przybylski

But even this particular study had its limitations. It relies on self-based reported time on social media and does not include how exactly that time was spent or on what platforms.

The researchers at Oxford are urging tech companies to release data on how people use social media in order to help them understand more about the impact technology has on younger people’s lives.

“Access is key to understanding the many roles that social media plays in the lives of young people,” Orben said.

“What this shows us is we need to stop looking at social media as a whole and we need to start thinking about the nuances.”

Dr. Max Davie, officer for health improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told the Guardian that he also supported the call for companies to work with scientists, calling the study“the first small step.”

However, he said there were other issues that needed to be explored. For instance, he suggested more research should be done to analyze screen time’s interference with activities like sleep, exercise and time with family or friends.

Despite its limitations, Professor Liz Twigg from Portsmouth University, who is currently leading a large-scale study of the impact of social media on children, welcomed the study.

“As the authors themselves recognise, no study like this provides definitive evidence, but this one certainly provides compelling evidence,” she said.

See what others are saying: (Sky News) (BBC) (The Guardian)


International

100Mbps Uploads and Downloads Should Be U.S. Standard, Bipartisan Senator Group Says

Published

on

Image via Pixabay
  • On Thursday, a bipartisan group of four U.S. senators sent a letter to the heads of the Federal Communications Commission and the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture arguing that the definition of broadband internet should be changed.
  • Since 2015, broadband internet has been defined by the FCC as a minimum of 25Mbps download speed and 3Mbps uploads, but the senators urged the agency to define the new minimum as 100Mbps for both download and upload speeds.
  • Currently, the U.S. ranks 11th in average wired internet speeds, at 170Mbps, however, many rural parts of the country are far below the current 25Mbps download standard. 
  • The senators hope a higher standard will force companies to raise speeds for millions of rural Americans.

Some Americans Left Behind

A bipartisan group of several US senators have come out in support of increasing U.S. broadband internet speeds.

When it comes to broadband speeds, the U.S. ranks 11th in the world. The average consumer has download speeds at about 170Mbps, with uploads speeds often about one-third of that.

While 170Mpbs is more than enough for nearly any activity online, rural Americans often struggle to even get 11Mbps. That speed is barely enough to function online today.

The Federal Communications Commission has attempted to rectify this in some ways. In 2015, for instance, when it set a 25Mbps download and 3Mpbs upload speed as the minimum to be labeled “broadband.” Despite this, many Americans still fall short of that due to various exceptions to the rule.

On Thursday, in an attempt to rectify this situation and increase speeds for Americans across the board, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Angus King (I-ME), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) sent a letter to the heads of the FCC, U.S. Commerce Department, and the Department of Agriculture urging that a 100Mbps download/upload speed be the new standard to be considered “broadband.”

“We strongly urge you to update federal broadband program speed requirements to reflect current and anticipated 21st century uses,” the four Senators wrote.

“In the years ahead, emerging technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, health IoT, smart grid, 5G, virtual and augmented reality, and tactile telemedicine, will all require broadband networks capable of delivering much faster speeds, lower latency, and higher reliability than those now codified by various federal agencies,” they added.

Overlapping Jurisdiction

The letter was sent to the various agencies because, confusingly, they all have different standards of what broadband internet is, which may explain the discrepancy between speeds for rural and urban/suburban Americans.

The Department of Agriculture claims that 10Mpbs down and 1Mpbs up is enough to be broadband internet. To reiterate, that is barely enough to watch a single YouTube video in 1080p resolution (HD) and do any other activity on the internet.

The issue compounds with multiple users in a household as 11Mpbs (used by most rural Americans) can only account for about two YouTube videos at 1080p resolution being watched at a single time before quality is impacted.

While the FCC hasn’t answered a request to comment, it’s possible that it may consider the proposal in the senators’ letter. Back in 2015, the commission’s acting head, Jessica Rosenworcel, had advocated that the benchmark should be 100Mpbs.

While a new standard may not be agreed upon, the FCC has been making efforts to help rural Americans by distributing billions to internet service providers in an attempt to bring gigabit-broadband speeds to remote areas.

Arguably the most successful venture has been SpaceX’s Starlink platform, which has begun beta-testing with some members of the public and is a drastic difference at between 50Mpbs to 150Mpbs, with low latency.

See what others are saying: (Engadget) (The Verge) (Gizmodo)

Continue Reading

International

Death Toll in Myanmar Surpasses 50 People as Police Continue To Use Live Ammunition

Published

on

  • At least 50 people have died across Myanmar since the start of the coup on Feb. 1, with Wednesday being the single largest loss of life to date after 38 were shot by security forces.
  • Despite the danger, tens of thousands of citizens continue to take to the streets to protest the coup and demand the restoration of democracy in Myanmar.
  • The U.N. Security Council is due to meet Friday to discuss how to deal with the situation in Myanmar in response to calls for a solution from nations and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Growing Violence Across Myanmar

Over the weekend, security forces in Myanmar killed 18 anti-coup protesters and wounded at least 30 more. Across the subsequent three days, that number rose considerably.

According to the U.N., at least 38 people were killed on Wednesday alone.; making it the bloodiest day of the coup so far and raising the overall death toll to over 50. Exact number are difficult to find, as the chaos on the ground precludes outlets from confirming accounts of possibly more deaths.

The violence has occurred across the country, with the deaths largely being tied to the use of live ammunition by security forces. The demonstrations, and the response to them, have been widely captured on camera. Some of the most shocking scenes are of police passing a BA-53 (a Burmese Army variant of the HK G3 military rifle) to fire into protesters.

Despite the death, tens of thousands of citizens continue to take to the streets to protest the coup and demand the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. Thursday morning saw thousands in the streets who attended vigils for those slain on Wednesday, an increasingly common ritual for the prior day’s deaths.

Sanctions May Not Work

The United States has tried to get neighboring countries to join it and the European Union in sanctioning the Burmese military, but few Southeast Asian countries wanted to sign on, which gives the Burmese military breathing room as most of its diplomatic and trade relations are with neighboring countries.

At the U.N., Security Council members are due to meet on Friday to discuss calls from countries and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to stop the coup and the escalating crackdowns against protesters. However, it’s unclear what more they can do. Sanctions against specific military leaders are often ineffective, yet sanctions on the country as a whole would affect the everyday people they’re trying to support.

Other options include direct intervention, but Justine Chambers, Associate Director of the Myanmar Research Center at the Australian National University, pushed back against this, telling The New York Times, “Unfortunately I don’t think the brutality caught on camera is going to change much.”

“I think domestic audiences around the world don’t have much of an appetite for stronger action, i.e. intervention, given the current state of the pandemic and associated economic issues.”

While it’s unclear what more the international community can do, it’s quite likely that violence will continue in Myanmar as citizens try to peacefully restore democracy.

See what others are saying: (AP) (Reuters) (New York Times)

Continue Reading

International

Saudi Arabia To Require Vaccine for Hajj Pilgrims

Published

on

  • Saudi Arabia will require all pilgrims participating in the Hajj this year to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to local media.
  • The Hajj is a pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime if they are physically or financially able to.
  • Many believe the inoculation requirement may help allay suspicions over vaccines within certain Muslim communities.
  • Those suspicions have persisted despite Muslim leaders clarifying that there are no theological problems with taking any of the COVID-19 vaccines available.

COVID-19 Vaccines for Pilgrims

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry will only allow people vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Hajj this year, according to local outlet Okaz.

The Hajj is a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca for all Muslims at least once in their lifetime – assuming they are physically and financially able to. However, requiring a vaccine before taking part in the Hajj isn’t a new thing. In fact, Saudi Arabia already has a list of necessary vaccinations for pilgrims.

For a virus that is among the most virulent in recent history and requiring a COVID-19 vaccine makes sense, especially since the Hajj is among the most densely populated events in the world.

In an effort to combat COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has also introduced restrictions over how many pilgrims can come to Mecca for the first time in modern history.

Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine to partake in the Hajj will likely have the added benefit of allaying fears about COVID-19 vaccines in Muslim communities, which account for nearly 2 billion people in the world. While Muslims overall support vaccinations and their religious leaders openly support vaccination efforts, some do doubt vaccines for either political reasons or religious ones.

Changes in Vaccine Hesitancy

Suspicions have arisen due to recent history, notably after Osama bin Laden was located through a vaccine program that acted as a front for the C.I.A. That incident led to a wider-anti vaccine movement in parts of Pakistan that have seen vaccine clinics burned to the ground.

Others are worried over more religious concerns, such as whether the vaccines are Halal, which is roughly the Muslim version of Kosher. To that, most major vaccines say that they are Halal and contain no animal products, such as Pfizer’s, Moderna’s, and AstraZeneca’s,

While other possibly non-Halal vaccines, such as Sinovac’s, have been given the okay from major Islamic authorities, such as Indonesia’ Ulema Council.

The concerns over whether a vaccine is Halal or not may be mute as most imams and Islamic councils have clarified that such dietary restrictions are trumped by the need to save human lives.

While the Health Ministry’s statement is for 2021, it’s possible that the decision will last beyond that based on the pandemic’s progress.

See what other are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Hill) (Middle East Eye)

Continue Reading