By the Way

What can we do when teens find likes more addictive than drugs?

Police Chief Leonard Papania basically told parents in a video interview the police department can’t raise their kids for them.

This statement, and more, followed an incident that can only be described as a mob gathered after school Tuesday for a fight at Goldin Sports Complex.

There was lots of cussing, girls whaling on girls, boys hitting one another with clenched fists. Even gunfire early on that was not caught on tape. Plenty of bystanders encouraged the fighters.

And almost everyone not swinging fists seemed to have phones raised like torches, trained on the fighters.

Papania said in his video speech, “Nobody was breaking that fight up. They were agitating it and they were fighting for spots to get the best video. That’s pretty sick. That’s pretty sick … and I blame nobody but those that were depicted in it.”

And those videographers were rewarded with video views on social media. On Thursday morning, 33,000 views, 117 likes or reactions, 482 shares, and counting.

Did you know those likes and views can be like drugs, stimulating the reward center of a child’s brain? Gulfport police spokesman Josh Bromen, who videotaped the chief talking about the fights, sent the Sun Herald a link to an interview about this.

The interview quoted Lauren Sherman, a former UCLA researcher, now a postdoctoral fellow at Temple University, according to her LinkedIn account. She studies how social media affects teenagers, using functional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain as one of her techniques.

She was at UCLA when National Public Radio talked to her and reported, “Sherman and her colleagues found that when a photo had more likes, it generated greater activation in the reward centers of the brain. This was true of all photos, including photos the kids had taken themselves.

“ ... The brains of the teenagers responded very strongly to the pictures deemed popular, regardless of which pictures they were.”

What if some civic-minded community members joined with school administrators to channel their students’ social media use in a more positive direction? Would this help?

You’ve probably seen the Mannequin Challenge on social media.

Everyone’s taken it up, including Adele, Michele Obama, Beyoncé and a host of others.

And guess where news sites are reporting this more-wholesome video craze likely started? A high school in Jacksonville, Fla.

As the chief said, our children need help. They need positive role models and constructive direction.

Is it naive to think some talented adult or young adults might want to team up with the Gulfport and Harrison County school systems and help these kids see they can get video views without hurting one another?

One grandma called this morning and suggested to the Sun Herald that the children should be punished. Their phones should be taken away.

Maybe my suggestion is naive. Feel free to let me know if you think so. But I’m not naive enough to think social media and cell phones are going away, or that taking them away from kids will work.

So we might as well help these kids do something positive with their time and energy.

What do you think?

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99