Grom social: Facebook for kids

So there's this 11 year old kid whose parents kicked him off Facebook.  He responded by inventing his own Facebook.  It currently has over 7000 users.  So, that's a thing.  Via SourceFed:

The good stuff

I have a few problems with the specific implementation, but altogether I think this is a really good idea.  As has been pointed out in just about every conversation about he internet in the last five years, kids these days are jumping into an environment where all their actions might be permanent, and they don't necessarily have the maturity or perspective to understand what that means.

In that sense, kids on Facebook is a terrible idea, and it's good that they have a more monitored, more controlled social network in which to begin to learn what it means to be a citizen of the internet.

As SourceFed points out, it's also good that they won't be exposed to (a.) creepy adults friending kids in a predatory manner, (b.) aggressive normalization of adult content and rude behavior, and (possibly most importantly because it's probably the most pervasive) (c.) normal adults being their normal, whiny, underachieving and petty selves, normalizing being an awful person for all the kids watching how they talk to each other.

Grom's anti-drug policy

As far as problems, they're going for an aggressively anti-drug policy, which I don't think is really going to help these kids.  I mean, I'm not for under-sixteen year olds doing drugs.  That's the area where research really does show that drugs are bad.  But SourceFed calls it a "D.A.R.E.-like program."  The D.A.R.E. program is a well-established failure -- their extremist approach to insisting all drugs are apocalyptically bad, and the implied message "All your friends are doing it" behind the "Don't listen to all your friends when they tell you to do it" message reliably increase drug use and degrade trust in authority.  Which is legitimate -- the authority is lying to the kids, why would they keep trusting it?

Videos like this one equate the dangers of drugs like alcohol and weed to the dangers of drugs like meth and heroin, which is counterproductive.  They also bulldoze over important distinctions like "You shouldn't do this while your brain and body are still developing" vs. "You're not in a good place in your life to use this drug responsibly" vs. "This is a prescription drug, which should only be used at the advice of a doctor," vs. "This drug is seriously dangerous and addictive, and you should avoid it entirely."  (Alcohol, marijuana, ritalin, and cigarettes respectively.)


It's great to see that kids are getting their own social network, that the frontier-attitude of the internet is beginning to break down enough that we're really trying for safe places for people who aren't yet necessarily in a good place to brave the frontiers of the web.  I hope that they employ the drug policy maturely and effectively, but I don't think they're going to -- they have to appeal to parents, after all, and parents are notoriously irrational about teaching kids lessons consistent with reality -- and I think that's going to degrade trust in the network and ultimately lead to its failure.  But it might not, and the website has enough going for it that I hope it doesn't.

Kids' soceoeconomic status and brain function

Children of low socioeconomic status work harder to filter out irrelevant environmental information than those from a high-income background because of learned differences in what they pay attention to, according to new research published in the open access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Hey, look!  More evidence that severe income inequality objectively handicaps poorer children.  This is from the recent EurekAlert article, Family's economic situation influences brain function in children.  It turns out, while wealthier kids' brains more actively respond to information they need to respond to positively, seeking opportunities, poorer kids' brains constantly scan for things to go wrong, and respond when they know they have to, when there doesn't seem to be any threat.

There were no significant differences between the two groups in the accuracy or reaction time during the task. The researchers did, however, observe differences in brain wave patterns between the two groups. Higher SES children exhibited far larger theta waves in response to sounds they attended to than to than those they should have ignored. In the lower SES children, however, this pattern was reversed – the theta waves evoked by the unattended sounds were much larger than those for the attended sounds.


The findings suggest that lower SES children have to exert more cognitive control to avoid attending to irrelevant stimuli than higher SES children, and that doing so therefore requires more mental effort. This may be because they live in more threatening environments, in which it might be advantageous to pay attention to a broad range of environmental stimuli which are not unambiguous distractions, and may turn out to be important for survival.

This is good science, but more importantly, isn't it kind of horrifying that some classes of American children are in such a more threatening environment that their brains end up wired completely differently?