New York Times: Experts as prophets

“Parents, Stop Talking About the ‘Lost Year’” (NYT, April 11, 2021) contains 7 occurrences of the word “experts”

Teenagers and tweens will be fine, experts say — if adults model resilience.

Experts say some of their worries are justified — but only up to a point. There’s no doubt that the pandemic has taken a major toll on many adolescents’ emotional well-being. According to a much-cited report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of emergency room visits that were mental health-related for 12 to 17 year olds increased by 31 percent from April to October 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. And there’s no question that witnessing their loneliness, difficulties with online learning and seemingly endless hours on social media has been enormously stressful for the adults who care about them the most.

Yet, as the nation begins to pivot from trauma to recovery, many mental-health experts and educators are trying to spread the message that parents, too, need a reset. If adults want to guide their children toward resilience, these experts say, then they need to get their own minds out of crisis mode.

Despite all of this, Ms. Fagell, much like the dozen-plus other experts in adolescent development who were interviewed for this article, was adamant that parents should not panic — and that, furthermore, the spread of the “lost year” narrative needed to stop. Getting a full picture of what’s going on with middle schoolers — and being ready to help them — they agreed, requires holding two seemingly contradictory ideas simultaneously in mind: The past year has been terrible. And most middle schoolers will be fine.

What factors keep adolescents from tipping from one state to the other? Mental health experts point to a few: their connection to at least one good friend; any underlying vulnerabilities like mood disorders;the adversity in their daily lives; the availability of adults to help them cope with hardship — and whether their parents are keeping it together.

“Social media is mitigating some of the effects of isolation,” he said.

That message, frequently repeated by experts and educators, should offer some relief to the many parents who feel guilty about the amount of screen time they’ve allowed their children this past year.

So much great stuff in here! Facebook, formerly associated with making adolescents (and everyone else) worse off mentally, is now recommended. But that’s a minor joy compared to the idea that people can be “expert” in predicting the effect of something that had never previously happened, i.e., coronapanic and associated mass school closure, the shutdown of social life, travel, jobs, gyms, etc.

Credentials are a big help in prophecy as in other areas. One of Dr. Jill Biden’s colleagues:

Rabiah Harris, a public middle-school science teacher in Washington, has a doctorate in education, which permits her, as the mother of an almost 12-year-old, to take a philosophical view.

(If it is “Dr. Jill Biden,” why isn’t it “Dr. Rabiah Harris”? Her LinkedIn page shows that she has the same Ed.D. degree as Dr. Biden.)

Even more interesting to me than the editors of the NYT thinking that readers would buy into the idea that experts could predict the long-term effects of the Great Panic of 2020-2021-2022-…(?): the experts’ idea that teenagers listen to their parents.

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