Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents: are digital technologies to blame? Why do technologies designed to foster connectedness and relationships seem to be producing the opposite effect? Center founder Jeffrey Cole explores the issue.

In early November, University of Southern California President Carol L. Folt sent a campus-wide email addressing the problem of nine student deaths since August 24th. (The Center is part of the Annenberg School at USC.) It was the fifth email of the semester dealing with this horrible problem, and it let the community know that increased counseling and mental health support have been established on campus.

Of the nine deaths, at least three were suicides. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24.

All campuses deal with these issues. To its credit, USC is one of the few to go public, acknowledging the problem, the numbers, and efforts to address it.

Generation Z (born 1997-2012) faces a particularly difficult and unique set of challenges. Especially worrisome are the large numbers of students who feel lonely and disconnected from other people. What used to be simple tasks — finding friends, a romantic partner, or a group to belong to — now feel impossibly difficult. Loneliness is a chronic disease creating overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Every generation of young people has faced special challenges and problems. The”Greatest Generation” had to deal with World War II while boomers faced Vietnam. They eventually dealt with these issues and came through to lead normal lives. The same is likely for Gen Z.

However, there is one critical difference with today’s post-millennial generation: they have had digital technology and social media almost all of their lives.  (more)

From the Center’s Future of Transportation Study.

Infographic by Ryan Robbins.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

How quickly should one reply to a personal message received online? What is the appropriate length of time? And has the perceived appropriate length changed over the years?

We have asked this question in our Digital Future Survey since 2012… (more)

Is Mayor Pete Buttigieg really surging? Is Senator Elizabeth Warren really the new frontrunner? Can any of the Democratic candidates match Trump’s social media presence? Chief Strategy Officer Brad Berens examines the political Twitterverse.

Most Americans, regardless of party, will agree that Donald Trump has been an unusual President of the United States, including his use of Twitter.

Between his personal Twitter account (@realDonaldTrump) with 66.3 million followers and the official presidential account (@POTUS) with 27 million followers, Trump has a potential 100 million people with whom he can directly connect at any time without the help of his press secretary and even without the press itself.

Never before has a president spoken so directly to the public, or so often. At the moment I’m writing this column, Trump has tweeted or retweeted 18 times today from his personal account.

Advertising people talk about P.O.E.M., which stands for Paid, Owned, and Earned Media. When the Trump re-election campaign buys an ad on Twitter, that is paid media. When somebody retweets the president, that is earned media. Trump’s tweets are owned media: he controls the content utterly. Each tweet has the potential to be seen by 100 million people, which, again in ad-speak, means that it can earn 100 million potential “impressions.”  (more)

There has always been tension among different generations, but over the last few weeks things have started turning ugly. Center director Jeffrey Cole dives into the fray.

It’s not news that we live in a divided country. Historians say we are looking at the most significant and dangerous divides since the Civil War 150 years ago. What’s truly alarming is that some believe that another Civil War is not a far-fetched idea.

In my lifetime, the divides between the left and the right, or between Democrats and Republicans, have never been so acute or dangerous. We watch different media, collect separate (and opposing) facts, believe in different science, and, most worrisome of all, want to see the other side destroyed or weakened to the point of irrelevance.

Every presidential election since 2000 (and some before) has seen people make the case that the future of democracy rests on the outcome because the other side is an existential threat. The 2020 election may be the most contentious and ugly campaign ever.

The divide extends to the super rich and the rest of us. Never have the gaps in income and assets been so great. The top one percent of the country makes 188 times what the bottom 90% makes and the problem is getting worse. Billionaires (previously thought of as the people who can fix America—like Warren Buffet or Bill Gates) are now seen as enemies.

The merits of capitalism are being seriously questioned for the first time since the Great Depression as some of the presidential candidates call for wealth taxes, free college, health care for all regardless of the ability to pay, and other measures designed to reduce wealth inequality. Bernie Sanders came right out and said, “There should be no billionaires.”  (more)

How many hours per week do you use the Internet at work, not in the home?

The internet is an important tool in many places of work. How many hours per week do workers use the internet at their place of employment, and how has this been changing over time?

Looking at all employed internet users in the Center’s Digital Future Study, the amount of time spent online has been increasing…(more)

From the Center’s Future of Transportation Study.

Infographic by Lara Washington.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

From the Center’s Future of Transportation Study.

Infographic by Lara Washington.

See all of the Center’s infographics here

Although Netflix, Apple TV+, and Disney+ have been grabbing headlines, Center director Jeffrey Cole describes how NBCU’s Peacock service from Comcast has identified a strategic opportunity in the streaming wars.

On November 1, Apple TV+ and its high profile The Morning Show (Jennifer Anniston, Reece Witherspoon, and Steve Carell) premiered, not surprisingly, to mixed reviews. Many have been predicting that Apple’s move into streaming would be a rocky one.

On November 12, the streaming wars officially began as Disney unveiled its new service, Disney +. This is the one that people have been waiting for ever since August of 2017, when CEO Bob Iger pulled his company’s content off of Netflix and announced it would be starting its own streaming channel.

Now, more than two years later, Disney is betting the company on a new way of watching content with high-profile shows such as The Mandalorian (a live action Star Wars series), a sequel to High School Musical, a live version of Lady and the Tramp, every Simpsons episode (over 600), and much more.

Consumers will be thrilled, confused, and overwhelmed. Not the least of their problems will be figuring how much more they are willing to spend every month on “television,” and which services are worth paying for.  (more)

(This is the second in a series of practical tips about parenting in the digital age.)

There’s an important distinction between privacy and dignity when it comes to your kid’s smartphone, and it’s the parent’s job to articulate this. Chief Strategy Officer Brad Berens explains.

My last column described conversations that parents should have before giving a kid that first smartphone. I held back talking about one important topic because it needs its own discussion: should you look at your kid’s phone?

The short answer is of course you should.

The longer answer starts with why and then moves to how.

Why: You should look at your kid’s phone because adolescents are not, in the general scheme of things, blessed with abundant executive function. Their brains don’t finish developing until they’re 25, so good judgment isn’t something you should expect.

Smartphones offer infinite temptations to do and say and photograph and look at and listen to things that can spiral out of control more quickly than you can imagine.  (more)

The Center’s new 147-page “Surveying the Digital Future” report includes more than 100 issues that explore the impact of digital technology on American users and non-users.

New subjects in the study include views about using body-implanted chips for increased security, fake news, mainstream media, and regulation of social media.

Download the report here.

Nearly 60 percent of American banking customers would consider moving their money to accounts offered by familiar companies, such as online retailers, search engines, or big-box stores, even though they have no experience with financial services, according to a new study on the future of money and banking by the Center.

“We strongly believe banking is the next industry to be completely disrupted by digital change,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the center. “Our research shows customers are far ahead of the banks in looking to the web and apps as their preferred banking methods. Download the Future of Money and Banking Report here.

The Center has published the ninth edition of World Internet Project report, the collaboration between the Center for the Digital Future and partner organizations in countries worldwide.

The 54-page study explores views and behavior about internet use and non-use, devices for internet access, years online, user proficiency, reasons for not going online, politics and the internet, freedom of expression online, media reliability, online security and personal privacy, and activities on the internet.

Download the World Internet Project Report here.

Center director Jeffrey Cole explores transformation of the media for the keynote address at the leadership meeting of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

View the video here.