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  1. Young people can see the president’s tweets as jokes, but they still often share his negative feelings about the press. Since President Trump took office, he has relentlessly attacked the media. He’s shunned individual reporters, referred to the press as “the enemy of the American people,” and popularized the term “fake news” to denigrate credible articles. Meanwhile, public trust in the press is at an all-time low. According to a recent Knight-Gallup report, only a third of Americans view the press positively. There is increasing evidence that this skepticism, exacerbated by the president’s relentless attacks, is trickling down to the next generation of voters. A 2017 report on a series of focus groups with 52 people between the ages of 14 and 24, conducted by Data & Society and the Knight Foundation, found that many young Americans believe the news is biased and are skeptical of its accuracy. “There was no assumption that the news would convey the truth or would be worthy of their trust,” the study reported. Teenagers, in particular, appear to be increasingly questioning the credibility and value of traditional media organizations. In interviews with The Atlantic, teens expressed great skepticism about the accuracy of the mainstream media, reiterated Trump’s biased characterization of many news sources, and said the president’s outrageous tweets have become so much a part of everyday life that they’ve morphed into catchphrases. “I don’t believe there [are] any neutral news organizations,” said Emma Neely, a 19-year-old in Tennessee. “Each writer and editor has their own personal bias. What they write, even if it’s a little biased, it’s still biased.” Angie, a 16-year-old in New York, agreed. She contends that Trump’s comments have revealed to people that the news media cannot be trusted. “I think this whole phenomenon has given teens awareness that bias exists and things are not what they seem,” she said. Sally, a 17-year-old in Puerto Rico, said she’s learned not to trust the media and was disappointed with the biases she found in how some outlets handled coverage of Hurricane Maria’s destruction. “They say what they want to say,” she said. “I don’t feel they say the truth as it is.” Social media has given young people unprecedented access to real-time news. Many teens I spoke with follow the president, other politicians, journalists, and news outlets on Twitter. The ones who don’t follow Trump directly all said they were aware of almost everything he tweets thanks to screenshots posted to Snapchat or Instagram, where his comments are warped into punch lines and memes. “I see a huge change from six years ago,” said Kathleen Carver, an AP government teacher at Wylie East High School in Texas. “When I started working, students weren’t really interested or even knowledgeable about basic current issues. Today, though, students are talking about current events ... Kids talk about current events and issues like it’s high-school gossip. It’s become a lot more relevant to them.” That doesn’t mean they take the president seriously. Even teenagers who said they identified as conservative-leaning said they joke about the outrageousness of Trump’s comments. Carver said that she has been amazed at how quickly Trump’s tweets are adapted into punch lines in her classroom. “When I say a crazy fact or something that shocks the students, I always have a student yell out ‘fake news,’ which causes a lot of laughter,” she said. “The younger internet, we all understand it’s irresponsible of [Trump to tweet], but at the same time we laugh at it and make it into a meme,” said Colin, a 16-year-old in Pennsylvania. “Like how often does a person tweet ‘Thank you Kanye, very cool’? ... People see something crazy now and say ‘thank you Kanye very cool,’ or they edit random stuff over [Trump’s] tweets.” “I can’t take him seriously if he’s tweeting more than I do,” said Samara, a 16-year-old in Texas. “A lot of people have him blocked, it’s like whatever.” Trolling the president on his own social channels by replying to his tweets or commenting on his Instagram is entertaining, said several teens, but the amount of backlash you get from conservative-leaning accounts when doing so gets old. Bennet, a 15-year-old in Massachusetts who asked to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns, said they often go on Instagram or Twitter to “comment something snarky. I get the usual, ‘oh you’re some dumb liberal blah blah. You’re stupid antifa.’” CJ Pearson, a 16-year-old conservative commentator, said the reason why Trump’s messages permeate so deeply into teen culture is because “President Trump understands the meme culture better than so many people. Every tweet he makes doesn’t just live on Twitter. It goes across every platform and stirs discussion among people who aren’t even political.” Pearson, an avid Trump supporter, said he has lots of friends with political beliefs different from his own, but even they are hyperaware of everything the president does and says, and enjoy debating it. “Trump has been able to connect with teens in a way no president has before,” he said. “When Obama wanted to connect with young people, he sat down with [the 46-year-old YouTube star] Glozell, someone his own age. If Trump wants to reach young people, he’ll just tweet.” Even Pearson doesn’t take what the president says on Twitter seriously. “I will literally reply to a tweet, quote tweet it like, ‘LMAO,’ because that’s what I’m doing when I read the tweet. I’m laughing so hard,” he said. As much as they laugh, though, Trump’s negative views on the media have undoubtedly affected teens’ views of certain outlets. The teens I spoke with often had strong opinions about CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Fox News. Colin said he tries to avoid CNN and most mainstream news sites, instead following independent journalists he likes on YouTube. “In 2016, I became a little more skeptical of the mainstream media, just because I know how corporate donors and commercials work,” he said. “Why wouldn’t CNN endorse Clinton or talk about her in a better way than Trump when Time Warner was donating so much money to her campaign?” (CNN did not officially endorse any candidate in the last election, but Trump supporters have frequently attacked the network for what they have seen as a pro-Clinton bias.) Laura Medici Fleming, a history teacher at Ridgewood High School in New Jersey for 35 years, said she’s seen a huge shift in the way her students perceive mainstream news organizations. “When I first started teaching, the word of The New York Times was practically gospel, but that has changed in the past few years,” she said. “The current climate has had an impact. Some of the students make disparaging comments about CNN and ‘fake news.’ And some roll their eyes at Fox.” Carver said she’s had to alter which news sources she uses to teach her students, since if she presents an article from the wrong “side,” students will write the information off. “If I present CNN or Fox, that may automatically cause some limitations,” she said. Travis Grandt, a history teacher in Colorado, said that he was once admonished by kids in his classroom for pulling up an article from CNN on the classroom’s smart board before class started. Grandt said a student told him it was obvious CNN was picking on Trump, based on the headlines. “I asked him if it seemed ridiculous that there are lots of stories about the most powerful person in the world on an international news site,” Grandt said. “He said no, but all of the stories on CNN were super negative.” For “non-biased news,” the teens I spoke to said they turn directly to journalists themselves or news-related pages on social media vetted by people they trust. “I follow a few political Instagram accounts,” Colin said. “They’ll post memes and headlines and stuff and people discuss them. Political Instagram is a thing. It’s sort of like a weird mesh between a meme page and a news page.” Pearson said that he thinks it’s much more valuable to follow individual journalists online than faceless media networks. “I put the same weight on tweets from reporters as a story they actually have a byline on,” he said. “If you have a checkmark there’s a lot of credibility that comes with that.” Neely said she also mostly gets her news on Twitter and follows several journalists, though she doesn’t trust most of what she sees. “On Twitter, there’s always all kinds of different news stories coming up. You never know if they’re real or not, of course,” she said. “Sometimes if I see a news story on Twitter, I’ll go on Instagram and look up the person they’re talking about to get more information on who the person is.” One thing teens did feel positively about was their ability to impact the broader media and political landscape. They all felt empowered by social media to make their voices heard, despite the fact that most still can’t vote. “Teenagers and young people in general have taken the world by storm,” said Isabel, a 13-year-old in New York. “We are human beings with real minds. Whether you want to listen to us is your choice but we are going to talk and be heard out in the long run.” Source
  2. Teens who start vaping are nearly three times more likely to go on to smoke cigarettes than their peers who don’t use any type of tobacco product, a new study finds. The results are alarming for both medical experts — who would rather kids not smoke — and for the e-cigarette industry, which is increasingly marketing its products as smoking-cessation tools for adults. Today’s study, published in the journal JAMA Network Open, couldn’t say whether vaping caused the kids to go on to smoking. But the study authors did find some pretty strong associations between vaping and later cigarette smoking, particularly for kids who would normally be considered “low risk” for substance use: the ones that aren’t big on thrill-seeking, drinking, or misusing prescription drugs. The findings are especially timely in light of the Food and Drug Administration’s recent announcement that 3.6 million high school and middle school students used e-cigarettes in 2018. The paper comes on the heels of a major clinical study that showed e-cigarettes helped a small proportion of adult smokers quit cigarettes. The back-to-back publications show the tightrope on which regulators and the e-cigarette industry are walking: on one hand, e-cigarettes may wind up being a useful tool for helping adults stop smoking. On the other hand, there’s a growing body of evidence that they act as what FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has called an “on ramp” to the more dangerous, combustible kind of cigarette. Today’s study adds a new link in that worrying chain of correlation. “These two papers highlight the conundrum public health policymakers are faced with,” says Gideon St. Helen, a tobacco researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who was not involved in the research, in an email to The Verge. There are a few limitations, including that the study looks at a window of time before Juul really took off, says Michael Ong, a professor of medicine and public health at UCLA who didn’t participate in the study. That means the results aren’t a perfect window into the e-cigarette market of today. Still, he says, “This study probably gives us the best estimates yet of what we might expect in terms of individuals who use electronic cigarettes as youth, and what might happen to them.” The massive Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study — a long-term, nationwide survey of tobacco product use — provided the data for the study. Researchers led by Andrew Stokes, an assistant professor of global health at Boston University, analyzed survey responses from more than 6,100 12- to 15-year-olds between 2013 and 2016 who answered questions about their families, their tolerance for risk, and what they liked to smoke or vape. About 8.6 percent said the first tobacco products they used were e-cigarettes, 5 percent said they tried other tobacco products like hookah or cigarillos first, and 3.3 percent said they started with cigarettes. By the end of the study, the percentage of kids who tried at least one or two puffs of cigarettes had grown to 20.5 percent. Kids who started out trying e-cigarettes were roughly four times more likely to go on to try cigarettes, and nearly three times more likely to have used cigarettes in the past 30 days compared to their classmates who didn’t vape or smoke anything. The odds were similar for the other non-cigarette tobacco products, but fewer started out with them. The link between e-cigarette use and eventual cigarette use was especially strong for low-risk kids. Those are the kids who aren’t big on thrill-seeking, who don’t drink or take prescription drugs without a prescription, and who thought they’d say no if their friends offered them a smoke. “This by itself is noteworthy,” St. Helen says. Even more surprising is that specific link wasn’t true for the kids who started with other types of tobacco, like hookah or cigarillos: all the kids, from low- to high-risk, were about as equally likely to go on to try cigarettes. “There seems to be something unique about e-cigarettes that leads to this increased risk of smoking initiation among low-risk youth,” St. Helen says. The study authors don’t get into why that might be. Maybe starting out with vaping gets otherwise low-risk kids hooked on nicotine, or maybe it normalizes smoking behavior so they’re less turned off by cigarettes later on. But the researchers do run the numbers for how their results might shake out across the US. They estimate that more than 43,400 young cigarette smokers might have started with e-cigarettes over a two-year period between 2013 and 2016. That’s assuming the link is causal, however, which the study can’t say for sure. (It’s a major limitation of the study.) Plus, the survey didn’t ask which e-cigarettes the kids were using, so the researchers couldn’t say if specific types of e-cigarettes predisposed kids more to using cigarettes later. And even if it had, the results are already outdated because Juul started dominating the market after the survey started. Future studies will have to investigate how the rise of Juul has changed those results, Ong says. In the meantime, he says, “We’re all concerned it would lead to more use because they’re going to be addicted to a greater degree given that the amount of nicotine in one Juul pod is equal to about 20 cigarettes.” The medical community has been looking forward to these results, which give regulators another reason to try to curb youth vaping, Ong says. “The hard thing is that there’s going to always be this counterbalance of, ‘Is there value to these products?’” St. Helen agrees, calling today’s study a “well-done, rigorous analysis” that highlights the difficult balance the FDA will have to strike as it decides how to go forward with regulating the growing e-cigarette industry. Source
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