"Would you be happy if you were in a court of law, and the evidence that is used against you was of the quality that the author used to justify their opinion in this article?"
"The US Department of Health has revealed that 48 per cent of children who use electronic devices, like smart-phones, for five or more hours a day have suicide-related thoughts. The rise in teenage depression in the USA between 2010-16 was 60 per cent."
This opinion piece (disguised as an informative research article) is a template of the poor quality of information most people receive about the impact of technology on children and teenagers and the conclusions that are subsequently drawn.
Which parent with a child who uses an electronic device would not be concerned about these statistics?
However, the way the article is written leads the reader to come to certain polarising conclusions based on information it does not include, and it accuses those who are not concerned about the statistic to be disregarding the mental health of children.
Rather than enter into the debate again about the proposed harms of technology on people, I wanted to ask the question "Would you be happy if you were in a court of law, and the evidence that is used against you was of the quality that the author used to justify their opinion in this article?"
What information is lacking to allow the reader to come to an informed and objective conclusion?
I would want my lawyer to ask specific questions...
"What percentage of children who do not use electronic devices have suicidal thoughts?" (We are led to assume it considerably less based on how the article is written. We know this is not the case!)
"Specifically, what electronic devices were being used?" (The last significant study by the US Dept of Health was based on TV viewing usage from which most of the conclusions about the impact of interactive electronic devices has been drawn.)
"How were the devices being used?" (Were the children passively watching TV, were the children playing age-inappropriate games, doing homework on their computer etc.?)
"Is it normal for people to have suicidal thoughts (what is the definition) and how is this different from having suicidal tendencies?"
"Five hours a day, every day, is a significant amount of time. What percentage of people surveyed had five hours or more a day of continuous use and how did this reflect the home life and the choices the parent condoned?"
So what is my point? When we read articles like this, we need to be careful to avoid jumping to conclusions based on crucial information that is omitted either through lazy research or deliberately avoiding contrasting information to substantiate personal opinions.