The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) inflated data about teen girls and sexual assault in a news release about a new CDC report on teenage mental health. In 2021, the percentage of teen girls who reported that they had ever been "forced to have sex" was up 27 percent since 2019, the health agency said, calling it "the first increase since the CDC began monitoring this measure."
The percentage of teen girls reporting this in the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey reporting did rise, unfortunately—but not by quite the magnitude that the CDC news release said, reports Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler. The actual increase was not 27 percent, but 18.4 percent.
And even this number leaves some room for doubt, owing to differences in data collection between previous-year surveys and 2021.
Could lack of independence explain teen mental health problems? For social psychologist and pundit Jonathan Haidt (and many, many others), declines in teen mental health measures are primarily a function of social media and too much time in front of screens. And perhaps because this theory fits so nicely into so many preexisting political narratives and plays into longstanding fears of new technology, you'll actually be hard-pressed to find many people who will challenge it. But a group of professors writing in The Journal of Pediatrics offer an alternative explanation: A decline in independent activity is causing a decline in young people's mental well-being.
"Our thesis is that a primary cause of the rise in mental disorders is a decline over decades in opportunities for children and teens to play, roam, and engage in other activities independent of direct oversight and control by adults," they write.
Economist Emily Oster calls it "extremely hard to be fully convincing in this case," but finds "the data they talk about interesting" and offers a summary here. "It seems hard to argue with the conclusion that, relative to the 1980s, children have less physical freedom," she writes. But "if we acknowledge that independence has gone down, making the link to happiness would require knowing those factors are related," and "the evidence here is a lot more indirect":
The authors link their ideas to theories about locus of control. It has been widely demonstrated that having low levels of internal locus of control — basically, feeling that you do not have a lot of control over your own life — leads to higher levels of depression and anxiety. Feelings of internal locus of control have declined over time. The authors hypothesize that independence at younger ages, with the associated need to problem-solve, could contribute to higher levels of internal locus of control. By extension, the loss of this time may contribute to the decline in these levels. This fits, but requires us to stretch beyond the data in the link between independence and these feelings.
A second theoretical link is with self-determination theory, which suggests that people are happier if they feel like they are living in accordance with their own desires, rather than being driven from the outside. The authors again hypothesize — although this isn't something we see directly in data — that independence might play a role in increasing these feelings of self-determination.
A final point relates to our evolutionary background. For most of human history, and still in many societies today, children had more freedom (and more was expected of them in terms of contribution to the larger group). The common setup we have today, with the combination of scaffolding and expectation, is counter to this. So perhaps kids are not adapted to it. (I'd recommend Hunt, Gather, Parent for a different type of perspective on this.)
Biden follows Trump playbook on TikTok. Like the Trump administration did previously, "the Biden administration wants TikTok's Chinese ownership to sell the app or face a possible ban," reports The New York Times:
The new demand to sell the app was delivered to TikTok in recent weeks, two people with knowledge of the matter said. TikTok is owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance.
The move is a significant shift in the Biden administration's position toward TikTok, which has been under scrutiny over fears that Beijing could request Americans' data from the app. The White House had been trying to negotiate an agreement with TikTok that would apply new safeguards to its data and eliminate a need for ByteDance to sell its shares in the app.
But the demand for a sale — coupled with the White House's support for legislation that would allow it to ban TikTok in the United States — hardens the administration's approach. It harks back to the position of former President Donald J. Trump, who threatened to ban TikTok unless it was sold to an American company.
TikTok said it was weighing its options and was disappointed by the decision. The company said its security proposal, which involves storing Americans' data in the United States, offered the best protection for users.
Reporters, including me, have tried for years to prove these executives are not telling the truth but have turned up nothing. Current and former TikTok staff members have dished plenty of dirt on the company to me, but no one has ever confirmed a great data transfer.
Reason has previously published a lot about why fears of TikTok as a national security threat are overblown and a ban is unworkable, unwise, and authoritarian, so I'll leave you with some of those:
- TikTok Is Not a National Security Threat
- Bipartisan Bill To Ban TikTok Is Unworkable and Unnecessary
- TikTok and How Congress Treats Americans Like 'Unruly Children'
????????Well this is something else.
GPT-4 passes basically every exam. And doesn't just pass…
The Bar Exam: 90%
GRE Quantitative: 80%, Verbal: 99%
Every AP, the SAT… pic.twitter.com/zQW3k6uM6Z
— Ethan Mollick (@emollick) March 14, 2023
• Takeaways from yesterday's federal court hearing on a lawsuit seeking to ban abortion-inducing drugs.
• "Texas officials on Wednesday announced a state takeover of Houston's nearly 200,000-student public school district, the eighth-largest in the country, acting on years of threats and angering Democrats who assailed the move as political," reports NBC News.
• The U.S. maternal death rate continued its recent rise in 2021. Some 1,205 women died in childbirth or from related causes, up from 658 deaths in 2018, 754 in 2019, and 861 in 2020.
• Writer Freddie deBoer attempts a thorough (but critical) definition of woke politics.
• "Most of the nation's major cities face a daunting future as middle-class taxpayers join an exodus to the suburbs, opting to work remotely as they exit downtowns marred by empty offices, vacant retail space and a deteriorating tax base," writes Thomas B. Edsall in The New York Times.
• Some reasons to be skeptical about President Joe Biden's story of him and his father witnessing two men kiss on the streets in the early 1960s.
• ChatGPT may have a political bias problem.
• The city of Newark, New Jersey, "was about to become a Sister City with a Hindu nation, but there was one problem -- the nation doesn't exist," reports CBS News.
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