All posts by Alexander Magno

A hard look at the internet’s influence on children

With a slew of new kids’ content popping up all over TikTok, YouTube, and any site an unsupervised toddler with an iPad could get to, it’s easy to forget that at one point, the internet was largely untamed, unregulated, and definitely not a place for children. It’s almost foreign to think of an era with no TikTok, YouTube not being nearly as prevalent, and Xbox Live party chats and Skype being the internet’s primary forms of communication. While there are multiple reasons for the internet evolving in the way it has, some of those reasons can be attributed to the kids of the early internet.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on

Children In Gaming

Games like Minecraft, Roblox, Fortnite, and most Nintendo games are commonly associated with children nowadays, but that doesn’t mean that kids can’t be found in games that they really shouldn’t. From mature FPS games like Grand Theft Auto V to obscure indie horror like Poppy Playtime, it’s hard to find a game that hasn’t been played by someone younger than the ESRB rating on the box. While it’s now common practice to ignore games with predominantly young player bases, writing them off as “kids’ games” and leaving them alone to do their own thing, internet users’ first significant experience with an influx of children was not handled quite as deftly as that.

Call of Duty 4 marked a significant change in the series’ history, being the first game to not focus on World War II but on modern – well, modern for 2007 – warfare. The game quickly skyrocketed in popularity due to its revolutionary campaign and endlessly repayable multiplayer modes. With such immense renown came fans of all kinds, particularly fans of all ages.  

I’m not sure what parent thought that getting a COD game for their child – or even leaving them alone with a credit card, for that matter – was a good idea. Still, as young and impressionable kids found their way onto multiplayer servers, they quickly began to gain notoriety as the worst kind of teammate imaginable. While it was possible to ignore their poor in-game performance, it was much harder to ignore a high-pitched and annoying child over the voice chat, screaming their heads off and yelling obscenities at the slightest inconvenience. 

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

The issue wasn’t with the games the kids were playing; it was with the community that played them. For those unaware, the COD community has a reputation of being extremely toxic – especially back in the day – so it’s easy to see the problem with dropping impressionable kids into a lobby with server-wide voice chat with them. “Squeakers,” as they were called, quickly became despised by the community, with some players opting to leave squeaker-occupied servers entirely and search for another match to save themselves from getting a headache, while others stuck around to get a rise out of the tainted and easily excitable new players. The latter would often record these antics and post them to a – then growing – site called YouTube, garnering millions of likes and views in the process.

YouTube, Demonetization, And The Future Of Video

In its early days, YouTube wasn’t nearly as mainstream and, as such, wasn’t as highly regulated as it is now. People on the platform could often get away with posting whatever they wanted, so long as it didn’t break any rules or infringe on any copyrighted material. The idea of monetizing YouTube content – or at least be entitled to it – is a relatively modern concept. Back in the day, monetization was saved for the most prominent creators on the platform. However, as the years passed, the bar for being allowed to monetize content grew lower and lower, and eventually, some pretty offensive content was making reasonable amounts of money.

Around 2017, a lot of YouTube’s advertisers threatened to pull out of the company unless the company cleaned up its act and ensured that the content hitting the front page was clean enough to be suitable to the advertiser’s wishes. YouTube, very interested in keeping its bottom line stable, started demonizing mass amounts of content in what was referred to as the “adpocalypse.” While the terms for demonetization were extremely vague – and sometimes entirely unjustified – it led to a massive change in the image of the platform, even leading to the death of some forms of content in the name of making the platform more advertiser-friendly.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

While not directly trying to make YouTube more accessible to children, the adpocalypse’s aftermath left a landscape that allowed children’s content to flourish, and for years, this was the case. Children’s content – especially the animated variety – was easy, quick to make, and entirely advertiser-friendly. Some channels began using easily recognizable characters in their videos, like Mickey Mouse, superheroes, and Disney princesses. Through this, they spread their content even further, despite the actual content of the videos often being bizarre and completely incoherent at times. Even the comments section of these videos followed this bizarre pattern, with kids seemingly mashing their hands onto the keyboard, letting autocorrect try to decipher the mess they just typed, and posting. YouTube children’s content was an absolute cash cow that many thought unstoppable; however, it would be shipped off to the proverbial slaughterhouse sooner than imagined. 

Around January 2020, the FTC came after YouTube’s predatory ad policy toward children. According to COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule), running targeted ads toward children wasn’t strictly legal, or at least not how YouTube was doing it. It forced another major split in YouTube policy. Now, you have to mark whether your content is targeted toward children 12 and below or not. If you mark your videos as content for younger audiences, you aren’t allowed to run ads before your videos, and the comments section and like number are entirely turned off. Despite doing their best to shun kids’ content on their site, YouTube’s damage had already been done, and children’s media was forever changed. Examples like Cocomelon come to mind when thinking of modern kids’ content, but they aren’t the only thing that comes to mind.

TikTok’s primary goal is to keep us scrolling for as long as possible. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of losing track of time while scrolling social media and later realizing that you’ve spent an hour on mindless scrolling. It’s a pretty solid strategy for TikTok that’s executed pretty well; more time spent scrolling leads to more ads playing, which leads to more money. I’m not wholly against TikTok, but every time I use it, it reminds me of those kids’ YouTube channels with how it presents its content. It’s constantly trying to keep the attention of a demographic with a continually decreasing attention span; it just doesn’t feel like social media to me, it feels like a daycare.

Alex Magno is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.

Ranking the Holidays: Which ones score highest with students?

Unsurprisingly, Americans value some holidays more than others, but have you ever wondered how some of them stack up to their peers? How does Father’s Day compare to the Fourth of July? Saint Patrick’s Day to Groundhog Day? We’ve put together a list that will hopefully answer all these questions.

Black Friday

Black Friday is the worst holiday celebrated by the United States. It isn’t even close either, as no other holiday has a widespread counter for injuries and fatalities associated with it., an updated site since 2006, continues to supply the internet with a stream of Black Friday tragedies. With 17 recorded deaths and 125 recorded injuries, and Black Friday dying out and slowly being replaced by Cyber Monday, it’s not hard to see why Thanksgiving’s second fiddle finds itself at the very bottom of this list.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

D Tier

While it’s not hard to be a better holiday than Black Friday, some fall short of their peers and have settled down into the D-tier. Whereas Black Friday is actively detrimental to people’s well-being, April Fools’ Day and Groundhog Day are simply underwhelming. In other words, they feel less like holidays and more like absurd inside jokes.

It feels somewhat ironic that April Fools’ isn’t even the funniest holiday; that honor goes to Groundhog Day, the most absurd holiday created by the United States. It’s hard not to sound insane when explaining Groundhog Day, seeing as the glorified weather forecast revolves around whether or not a groundhog gets scared by his own shadow. One would think that after the 6th year or so, Punxsutawney Phil – yes, they named the groundhog – would have realized that he doesn’t need to be scared of his own shadow anymore, but he’s managed to maintain his act all these years and land his holiday in D-tier.

C Tier

C-tier is where the unfortunate majority of American holidays lie. Holidays like Memorial Day, make their home in this spot. While almost every holiday in the tier has a good deal of symbolic meaning, they often don’t have the same cultural impact as they should. These holidays should be much higher, but they just don’t get the attention they really deserve!

For example, Labor Day is rarely celebrated with its intended meaning in mind. Honoring the men and women who built America and the accomplishments of the American labor movement should be a holiday held in pretty high regard. However, the holiday has primarily been reduced to a turning point on the calendar – signaling the end of summer break and heralding in the school year – and a three-day weekend.

Photo by Pixabay on

B Tier

B-tier is where the holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, New Year’s, Day of the Dead, and Easter fit into the list and is also where this list’s holidays start to become more exciting. Most of these holidays are pretty good but not quite elite; Easter is a great example, provided you don’t have any traumatic memories of the Easter Bunny. However, New Year’s Day is undoubtedly the best in the tier, letting you acknowledge last year’s ups and downs and giving you a new year to start fresh.

A Tier

A-tier is for the holidays that are still great but have been held back from S-tier. The Fourth of July deserves lots of recognition, essentially being New Year’s Day but during the summer. Watching the fireworks fly on The Fourth is a feeling like no other, and it makes you proud to be American.

Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on

Valentine’s Day is an extremely polarizing holiday, as no other holiday is entirely as dependent on the person celebrating it as Valentine’s is. Depending on who you are, it could be a day you look forward to for months or the one day of the year that you dread more than any other, but because of this holiday’s potential, it has been carefully placed in A-tier.

S Tier

S-tier is home to the trifecta of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. In addition to each being only a month apart from the other, each holiday brings unique celebrations. With the biggest parties being a tossup between Halloween and Christmas, and Thanksgiving being known for its food more than anything, it’s hard to find someone who dislikes all three of these holidays. These three are the holidays that the whole country looks forward to, and there will always be at least one person going all out to make them unique.

Alex Magno is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Harry Kennedy is a senior member of the Multimedia Journalism class

A deep dive into the slow death of American public transit

I’m sure that at some point during your MSJ commute, either to or from campus, you’ve seen the buses around Irvington. It’s not an uncommon sight either, which makes it all the more shocking to learn that only 5% of Americans use public transportation as their primary mode of travel. A significant reason for that is how inefficient and neglected they are.

On paper, public transportation should be much more mainstream. Cars generally take up 17% of annual household expenses, giving public transport an edge in terms of cost, and with fewer people driving themselves, carbon emission levels would generally go down. Public transportation generally seems like a better alternative to cars. Still, most of these modes of transit have become forgotten due to the rising car-centric nature of the United States, and as a result, the quality of their services have stagnated.

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric on

Even in my own experience, American public transport, with the exception of subways, feels inefficient and inadequate. Not only are most trains too expensive for what they give you, but buses always seem behind and almost always have some arbitrary rule or schedule that makes them inconvenient. But why is this? What led to the downfall of a system that is so prevalent in other countries?

After World War II, veterans were sent home with a sizeable sum of money through the GI Bill. The significance of this cannot be ignored, as that money allowed most Americans to buy houses, which led to the creation of the suburbs, residential areas often outlying cities.

More often than not, people from the suburbs would work in the cities, meaning they would need a means of getting there and back. While cars did exist before World War II, the need for them then wasn’t as great as it became after the creation of suburbs. With the GI Bill allowing most Americans to afford cars, the explosion in car ownership was inevitable. As time passed, families would start the tradition of each new generation owning a vehicle, ingraining automobiles into American culture and society.

In fact, cities themselves were shaped by cars and highways, literally and figuratively. Streetcars are a perfect example, as the cabs and rails used to be around every corner of nearly every city. However, as the influence of cars began to spread into cities, the rails were paved over, and most cabs that once rode them were bought out and scrapped. While a few are still in operation today, they aren’t nearly as widespread as they were over 70 years ago.

Photo by Brett Sayles on

In terms of the actual shape of cities, they were usually grids, making it easy to get around on foot or by the now defunct streetcars. While the grid shape is still somewhat visible in today’s cities, the curved lines of highways carve into the once-uniform streets of the cities, disturbing the efficient system that public transport once had.

This efficiency, which can be seen in the public transport systems of other countries, is notably absent in the United States. More specifically, most American buses and subways only succeed at moving outlying communities into city centers and fail to connect the communities themselves to each other.

In 2022, America has been shaped by cars, leaving most modes of public transport to fall by the wayside, not only because of the increase in car ownership but also due to America’s geography. High-speed rails flourish in places like China and Japan, often reaching speeds up to 200 miles per hour due to their area’s relatively flat geography. In contrast, in the United States, rougher geography leads to more difficulty, time, and cost during construction.

Cost is a significant reason that trains specifically have been neglected, and it’s not hard to see why. The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which supported the construction of the Interstate highway system, granted a whopping $175 million to their construction. Accounting for current-day inflation, it totals just under $2 billion, a gargantuan sum of money that our government isn’t exactly keen on spending nowadays.

Photo by Donald Tong on

A recent example of this can be seen in California, through their “train to nowhere,” that cost over $5 billion. Beginning in 2008, the high-speed rail project aimed to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles and eventually connect the entire west coast. However, after 14 years of work, the project is still in indefinite limbo due to its lack of support from the government.

The car-centric nature of the United States, developed over decades of change, has seemingly left public transport in the dust, and despite volatile gas prices, it doesn’t seem like that fact will change any time soon. It’s a shame to see that a system with such potential has been neglected, especially since – if a few slight changes in American history were made – things could have turned out very differently.

Alex Magno is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.

How the Kelly Scholars’ new PSAT practice program is helping students

As the PSAT is now a few weeks behind us, the Brother James Kelly, CFX Scholar’s new initiative has gone off without a hitch. The class of 2024’s Kelly Scholars participated in morning tutoring sessions and an optional practice test in an attempt to improve scores on the PSAT, and most of its participants have come away with positive results.

According to Mr. Jason Ader, one of the moderators of the Kelly Scholars Program, the main goal is to give students practice. He said, “They’re already good at what they’re doing, but they don’t see the test enough – only once a year…Mount Saint Joe doesn’t teach for the test. We’re not a test-specific school, whereas other schools are.”

The program got its start in the spring of 2022, when Kelly Scholars were asked to sign in to Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice. This site was linked to CollegeBoard, meaning that students’ PSAT scores would automatically be linked to the site, and students would receive targeted practice based on their scores.

Despite seeming like the perfect practice tool, there was no real incentive to continue to use it, and it fell out of favor among students. While this resource is still available to any MSJ student, this part of the program just wasn’t enough, as Mr. Ader put it, “Students just didn’t want to do it.”

The reading section of Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice site. Photo credit: Alex Magno

Over the summer, school principal Mr. Frank Espinosa approached the two heads of the Kelly Scholars, Dr. Rebecca Obniski and Mr. Ader, and proposed that they expand on the initiative from the spring. According to Mr. Ader, “Dr. O and I just started brainstorming with the help of Mr. McDivitt and Mr. Espinosa, and this is the original program that we came up with.”

The practice test, which took place on the first of October, consisted of, “A half to three-quarters length practice PSAT test, where the students will take the test under the same sort of timing, and then they’ll get a focused review after that test.” This part of the program was not mandatory, having taken place on a Saturday.

What was mandatory were the four-morning tutoring sessions that took place over the span of two weeks. Each focused on its own specific section, one on reading, one on factoring, one on writing and grammar, and a final class on word problems. “The morning sessions thus far have been well attended…but no matter what, it has been more practice, and the more problems you see, the more prepared you are for the actual PSAT.”

Reactions to the morning sessions among Kelly Scholars were somewhat mixed. According to Mr. Ader, “some students I’ve talked to have said that it’s been incredibly helpful, others haven’t.” Riley Payne from the class of 2024 has more of an unorthodox opinion of his experience.

Riley Payne going over a PSAT practice test in the library. Photo credit: Alex Magno

According to Payne, he struggled a bit to pay attention each morning before school, “I think that’s what inspired me to seek out more practice on the test because I was thinking to myself, ‘I probably won’t remember most of this by the time I take the PSAT.’”

“I was able to look at most of those problems and say: ‘Oh, I’ve seen this one before.” I was feeling pretty confident in my accuracy,” said Payne.

Students are currently waiting for the results of the PSAT Test that they took earlier this month. But if the numbers are an improvement, as is hoped by Mr. Ader, then the program may be implemented and expanded for next year’s Kelly scholars.

Alex Magno is a member of the Multimedia Journalism class

Mankind’s Second Leap

Photo by Pixabay on

Months, if not years, of preparation, had culminated into this one moment. NASA’s largest rocket yet, Artemis-1, was beginning preparations for its first-ever test launch. August 29 was shaping up to be a day for the history books, the day that NASA proved it could send a man back to the moon for the first time in fifty years and maybe even further beyond.

However, while Artemis was gearing for launch, disaster struck. One of Artemis’ engines began to experience temperature issues, and the launch was postponed. The 2nd and 5th of September were selected as potential backup launch dates, but as those days came and went, there was no launch. The cause of the engine malfunction was later revealed on the 5th as a leak of liquid hydrogen. However, not all hope for Artemis’ launch has been lost, as it was recently announced that NASA will attempt another launch on September 27. Whether the launch will succeed or not will remain to be seen.

Photo by Pixabay on

Despite disappointing many expectant onlookers, Artemis-1 succeeded in reigniting the spark of hope that humanity may be able to return to the moon for the first time in nearly half a decade. The dream of landing on the moon is shared by most people, especially those who were around when NASA was still sending astronauts up to our natural satellite. Even for those without that dream, the idea of exploration of something unknown has been a concept shared throughout the ages. Because of this, NASA’s unofficial switch to exclusively unmanned spacecraft shattered the dreams that many had.

It’s been almost 50 years since then, and humanity has been waiting long enough. Although considerable progress has been made through things like the Voyager program and the Exploration rovers, the coming launch will mark the beginning of a new era of space exploration. The day that we, as a species, return to the moon will be considered another one of mankind’s most significant accomplishments, and may even be considered mankind’s second leap.

Alex Magno is a Junior member of the Multimedia Journalism Class.