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Award-winning poet, filmmaker and speaker, Max Stossel strongly contends “technology is amazing.”
But he equally believes social media has deceptively overstepped its bounds, is intentionally addictive and negatively impacting the mental health, self-worth, social lives, productivity, communication and focusing skills of young people.
In two compelling assembly presentations _ “We’ve Been Sneaking Into Your Brains” at Newark High School and Newark Middle School November 8th with students and at an evening program “Social Media and Your Kids” geared to parents _ Stossel, who lives in Los Angeles, engagingly, but unapologetically shared his concerns in ways appropriate to his audiences.
During his two talks with NHS and NMS students, he detailed, with skilled use of convincing supporting images and videos, the specific ways technology and social media are designed to be addictive & distracting and suggested some ways to use them more wisely.
Likewise, in his evening presentation to parents and educators in the NHS auditorium, he gave an overview of how students are being negatively impacted by social media and suggested some ways parents can help _including and most importantly _ setting an example by not overusing social media themselves to the exclusion of quality time spent with their children.
The presentations concluded withs brief question and answer sessions.
Youth & Education Advisor for the Center for Humane Technology (CHT), an organization of former tech insiders dedicated to aligning “technology with humanity,” Stossel’s bold assertions are backed by his experiences in the tech world.
Before working with CHT and founding Social Awakening, his “Social Awakening” website explains he was “a media strategist, running social media for multinational brands, and later working for a social media company where he designed some of the notification structures to distract people that he now raises awareness about.
“He has spent the past six years speaking with 100,000+ students, parents, and educators around the world about social media's impact on our lives, and creating resources to help manage that impact. Max provides a unique and much-needed perspective on the role of technology in our homes, schools, and in our society.”
Sandra Ordan, Newark Central School District Director of Innovation and Grants Services and Julia Solan, NCSD Family Outreach Community Schools Coordinator attended one of Stossel’s riveting presentations in September to 200 eighth graders in the Webster Central School District and were so impressed they advocated to bring him here.
Superintendent Susan Hasenauer agreed, contending Stossel’s presentations here would serve to jump start this important and ongoing conversation in the school district.
“As stated in our Strategic Plan, we are committed to supporting the culture and climate across the district by focusing on the social and emotional health of our students and their safety and security,” Hasenauer wrote to parents in her October 18‘Superintendent’s Message.’ We are beyond excited to bring our community together as a whole to hear two nationally acclaimed speakers discuss two very distinct topics that continue to create barriers in our District and in society, social media usage and substance abuse.”
Hasenauer attended Stossel’s evening program Nov. 8th.
“Social media has changed the landscape of what occurs in our schools and in our lives,” she said. “As Max Stossel stated, students are constantly justifying their worth through the quantification of "likes" or "streaks" they receive, or they live in a false world of gamification. This false reality has led to significant social emotional needs in our school community. Max's presentation was an opportunity for our students and parents to better understand what happens behind the scenes of social media so that both can be proactive in their choices regarding their use of various platforms.”
After the morning assembly at NHS Nov. 8th, Stossel had lunch and talked with a small group of Newark High School 10th and 12th graders who’ve been trained in Restorative Practices through Partners In Restorative Initiatives (PiRi).
When asked what is most troubling to them about social media, their answers included:
“The weirdos that follow you on Snapchat”
“Instagram affects my mental health the most”
“The comparisons what I don’t have, what I do have, what I can’t get.”
When asked what they felt could be done at NHS to help, answers included: “
Continue to talk about it”
“Share more positive apps with our community”
“Continue to make school fun so we won’t want to use our phones as much.”
“Kids need to be taught how to use social media safely”
Having Max Stossel present to our secondary students, staff, and families was important to showcase health boundaries with social media and phone use,” Solan said. “During his presentation, he pointed out how tech companies consume our attentions and how unhealthy some applications can be. Even from an adult perspective, there were many moments of reflection of my own social media and phone use and how it has impacted me. During our leadership lunch with Max, it was fascinating to me how consumed we are by our phones and what is happening digitally instead of right in front of our physical eyes. I heard a lot of positive commentary around Max's presentation and have already seen individuals try different techniques to help curb the constant phone use.”
Stossel also met with a small group of administrators and counselors after the NMS session.
“There were so many wonderful moments today having Max in our district,” Ordan said. I think one of my personal highlights was when he met with a small group of high school students in between sessions. The conversations were around what their current struggles are with social media. They all said how it’s so addicting and their way to communicate and also escape. The students said that they want the conversation to continue in Newark High School and more lessons should be taught around the social media affects and possible addiction. The students at Newark Middle School loved the presentation! They were laughing and very engaged in what Max was saying. Teachers seemed to love it also and were very active participants. We are grateful that Max is going to be sending us more information to utilize in our PRIDE Social Emotional Learning time.”
Later Nov. 8, Ordan credited Kyle Bliek NCSD Audiovisual and Social Media Coordinator for his “behind the scenes” audiovisual help in setting up for Stossel’s presentations.
“This could not have happened without his help!” she said.
Learn more about Stossel here:https:// www.socialawakening.org/
In May, former Boston Celtics basketball player Chris Herren will make presentations to NHS and NMS students about substance abuse