Challenging Conversations

Responding To The “Facebook Files,” Let’s Act Now!

Delaney Ruston, MD
September 28, 2021
Speak up illustration

The Wall Street Journal recently released a series of articles called “The Facebook Files,” written by journalists who got hold of internal documents from Instagram and its parent company Facebook. The documents reveal many ways that the companies have been manipulative and dishonest. 


Let’s mobilize and ramp up our concerted efforts to put limits on tech’s reach into our homes. 

I have always said, “Our tech revolution warrants a parenting revolution.” Part of the revolution requires that we step out of our comfort zone to speak up. So often, parents are worried about sharing their parenting struggles, fueled by a fear of judgment. We love our kids, and anything that puts us at risk of feeling judged can feel really risky. 


I remember when I asked other parents with whom I shared a carpool for our middle schoolers to make it device-free. I worried I would look too controlling by even asking the question. In the end, though it worked out great, we had a device-free carpool, the kids had many good conversations, and we parents were so appreciative of that and that we got to interact with all the kids more. But it was hard to bring up this topic in the first place.


I encourage anyone who has thought about being a bit more vulnerable as a parent to read on. I offer concrete action steps today — steps particularly relevant with this latest information about the inner workings of our social media giants.


So often, people ask me what they can do beyond organizing screening events at their schools or communities to help effect change.

Today I share ideas.

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Be a Town Hall Organizer (at Home)  Invite over 2 or 3 families to talk about the Facebook Files articles. Decide if everyone should read the same article, such as The Facebook Files, Part 2: ‘We Make Body Image Issues Worse’ or if families want to be assigned one of the articles. Once all together, see if you can get the youngest members of families to start the discussion. It is an amazing opportunity to shift focus away from parent-child conflicts and instead focus on these mega businesses issues. 


Be a Sharer Let friends know both rules that have worked in your home and some that have not worked. Parents are hungry to have examples and to learn from other parents. Not just the rules that are working well but also ones that didn’t go so well. Being the perfect parent rarely inspires anyone to join — we are okay if someone is the "perfect" dinner planner, think Martha Stewart.” But, being a "perfect" parent usually raises feelings of defensiveness by those who “do not feel so "perfect.”


Be a Conversation Starter We need a galaxy of conversation starters about how we make tech work for our youth and not against them? Bringing up specific questions with friends at a dinner or on the sidelines at a kid’s sports game is a good place to start. You might even consider putting the question on a corkboard at work or on your social media. 


Be a Group Organizer Many parents across the country have started their groups to bring people together to decide how to work to support their kids. For example, some parents have helped start a monthly tech advisory-type group at their schools, where a few teachers, administrators and parents, meet to discuss ways to improve school and home issues about tech. I know of parents who started a book club with the theme of screen time issues and their kids. Others have started support-type groups on these topics. You could even start a group of adults with kids and have the kids lead it, informing the parents what they see as the pluses and minuses of their tech life. Talk about creating deep thinkers on these topics.

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Be a Resource Sharer Let friends, work colleagues, family, and others know about resources that have helped you with parenting more effectively around screen time. It could be a book recommendation, such as Laura Kastner's Wise Minded Parenting or The Washington Posts’ On Parenting blog. Also, on our website, we have many resources for helping parents. You are welcome to share all these with your work, friends, PTA, etc.


Be a Motivator for Schools To Speak Up One year, right before the elementary class graduation, the administration at Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC recommended in their newsletter that the parents consider not giving a smartphone as a graduation gift. They explained that they were concerned kids at that age would have a hard time navigating the complications social media can bring. You might not like the idea of your school making such a suggestion, but I think it is fine as long as schools explain their reasoning and bring up good things to think about —  and the age of phone ownership is one of those issues that takes a lot of thought. If you have ideas, talk with your PTA, school principal, or other leadership about recommendations they may have for parents that they could put in the newsletter or hold an evening event to discuss. 


Here are a few questions to get the conversation started this week:

  1. Have people in your circles been talking about the Facebook Files?
  2. Is there an action move listed above that seems doable? 
  3. If you had a billboard, what message would you put on it related to screen-time balance?

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Challenging Conversations

Responding To The “Facebook Files,” Let’s Act Now!

Delaney Ruston, MD
September 28, 2021
Speak up illustration

The Wall Street Journal recently released a series of articles called “The Facebook Files,” written by journalists who got hold of internal documents from Instagram and its parent company Facebook. The documents reveal many ways that the companies have been manipulative and dishonest. 


Let’s mobilize and ramp up our concerted efforts to put limits on tech’s reach into our homes. 

I have always said, “Our tech revolution warrants a parenting revolution.” Part of the revolution requires that we step out of our comfort zone to speak up. So often, parents are worried about sharing their parenting struggles, fueled by a fear of judgment. We love our kids, and anything that puts us at risk of feeling judged can feel really risky. 


I remember when I asked other parents with whom I shared a carpool for our middle schoolers to make it device-free. I worried I would look too controlling by even asking the question. In the end, though it worked out great, we had a device-free carpool, the kids had many good conversations, and we parents were so appreciative of that and that we got to interact with all the kids more. But it was hard to bring up this topic in the first place.


I encourage anyone who has thought about being a bit more vulnerable as a parent to read on. I offer concrete action steps today — steps particularly relevant with this latest information about the inner workings of our social media giants.


So often, people ask me what they can do beyond organizing screening events at their schools or communities to help effect change.

Today I share ideas.

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