Correlation between mental health, social media

By Christine Do

Correlation between mental health, social media


Social media has unknowingly taken over our modern day society, manipulating our everyday lives. With phones one reach away and most information accessible with a Google search, it’s easier to fall into the world of the internet than to live in the present. Has social media been affecting our mental health? If so, how?

According to an official from Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches Inc., a study in 2017 of over half a million eighth through twelfth graders found that their levels of depressive symptoms increased by 33 percent between 2010 and 2015. In this same period, the rate of suicide for girls in this age range increased by 65 percent. These increased percentages “correlate with smartphone adoption during that period, even when matched year by year,” according to the study’s lead author, San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge. Clearly, there is a relationship between smartphone usage and the declining mental health of teens.

Perhaps it all started as a way to stay connected to others through innocent acts like Snapchatting or liking a post on Instagram. However, in an attempt to communicate with those far away from us, we distance ourselves from those next to us. Most of us have experienced the common awkward situation of not knowing what to say in a conversation. Instead of trying to talk it out, we instinctively take out our phones as a safety net to avoid the awkwardness of it in general.

“Sometimes when I’m in a big group and I’m not comfortable or I don’t really know the people, I just go on my phone to pass the time,” says sophomore Vanessa Ng.

Because of this, people are not able to build their social skills, making them more susceptible to social anxiety. People have less experience with real social situations and are left with a feeling of isolation. The connections made through social media lack the deep empathy that is present in a face-to-face conversation. Digital emoticons can never fully express an emotion or feeling. Ironically, we are connected, yet alone.

As stated by that same study, “If we’re always playing catch-up to endless online updates, we’re prioritizing social interactions that aren’t as emotionally rewarding and can actually make us feel more isolated.”

With the constant scrolling through pictures and life updates from people you barely know, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of comparing yourself to someone else. Seeing someone out traveling or living their best life could spark a feeling of envy.

“I think it’s inevitable to compare ourselves to social media because we all have our insecurities,” says junior Sophia Pham.

Comparing ourselves to others lowers our self-esteem, and soon enough, some will depend on the number of likes and comments on a post to determine their self-worth.

Along with this, people tend to grab their phones when they’re bored. Such a small instinct can lead to long-term consequences, however. This makes it harder for the brain to focus on a task for a long amount of time, such as writing as essay or finishing our homework. Our attention-span becomes shorter, possibly affecting our academic performance as well.

We’ve all stayed up late to binge our favorite TV show, but sleep deprivation messes with our body clock. According to the Healthline Editorial Team and Rachel Nall, it is known that teenagers need around eight hours of sleep each night, but with homework, extracurricular activities and distractions from our phones, we seldom meet this requirement.

In the end, social media is not necessarily a direct cause of declining mental health, but there is a definite correlation. Despite its possible negative effects, it does vary for each person and impacts everyone in a different way.
“I don’t think social media itself is a bad thing. I think it’s the individual. It’s up to them what they use social media for because it’s just a platform,” says junior Stacy Truong.

In this technological age, it’s best to be mindful of the information we’re feeding our brains. So next time you find yourself scrolling mindlessly on your phone, take a minute to think of what else you could be doing and simply be present.


New Principal’s Secretary

By Trisha Trinh


Asha Lujan, former secretary of Assoc. Principal Honey Gubuan, has been a part of the Pirate community for many years. She has now taken the role of being Principal Ginny Davis’ new secretary. Ms. Lujan loves learning new things and working with teachers. The best part of her job is helping everyone out in the Pirate community.

“Everything is on a learning curve for me. Sometimes, the job gets a little hectic, but I haven’t been tasked with a lot of difficult things yet,” responded Ms. Lujan.

As a secretary, her job on a daily basis is to help find substitutes for teachers, assign substitutes to all the classes in need of one and help teachers with reimbursements and timesheets. She also assists with the attendance in the main office when it gets overwhelming.

“These fairly difficult tasks make me learn as well as get ready for challenges in the future,” expresses Ms. Lujan.

Ms. Lujan is determined to gain more experience as the new secretary for Principal Davis.

“I learned that I needed to be more organized, clear-minded or ready for any challenges that come my way,” says Ms. Lujan.

Ms. Lujan loves the environment and community at Piedmont Hills and is proud to be a pirate.




Is caffeine actually good for you?

By Sophia Xiao


Forget the pledge of allegiance, consuming caffeine has become the quintessential daily American ritual, with about 90 percent of Americans consuming caffeine in one form or another every single day, according to a study by John Hopkins.

“More than half of all American adults consume more than 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine every day, making it by far America’s most popular drug,” writes Villanova University on their website.

Millions of Americans use caffeine to stay awake, boost productivity and alleviate fatigue. Caffeine acts on the nervous system. Over the course of the day, adenosine will build up in the brain, causing us to become sleepy. Caffeine blocks the effects of adenosine on our brain.

“I drink it whenever I feel tired, which is every day, whatever time is suitable. So if I’m tired in the morning, I’ll drink coffee in the morning, if I feel tired at 3am, I’ll drink coffee at 3am. There’s not really a (time) cutoff for me,” explains avid coffee drinker Kevin Su. “Sometimes I start shaking a lot, and if I drink too much coffee my face gets really red, so it’s kind of like a caffeine overdose for me. Sometimes it gets harder to concentrate.”

However, caffeine consumption has gained a bad reputation for being addictive and allegedly causing a host of health problems.

“Whenever you’re addicted to anything, it’s probably not a good thing. Especially for the people who like coffee, they say they can’t survive in the morning without coffee because without the drug, they go through withdrawal symptoms like headaches. They feel miserable until they have their coffee,” explains Physiology teacher David Vasquez.

For decades, doctors warned that caffeine could cause heart disease, stunt growth and damage the digestive tract. However, new studies have shown that consuming up to 400 mg, or about 32-oz of coffee, is safe for most healthy adults, according to Mayo Clinic. Beyond its addictive qualities, coffee in moderation could actually be good for you. Coffee has been shown to lower risks of Type 2 diabetes and stroke. It is high in antioxidants, reducing inflammation and slow down processes that drive aging.

However, the story is very different for adolescents. According to the American Pediatric Assoc., adolescents ages 12 to 18 should cap daily caffeine intake at 100 mg, because kids and adolescents can be more sensitive to caffeine’s undesirable side effects, such as anxiety, diarrhea and dehydration. Even within suggested doses, caffeine use in the afternoon and evening can have negative impacts on sleep quality and quantity.

Children and teens are much better off relying on proper nutrition and a good night’s sleep to stay awake in class, rather than caffeine.



By Henry Zheng

Exercise is known to have many benefits such as better physique, cardiovascular health and a longer life. However, to a few dedicated athletes, there are other numerous non-physical benefits that motivate them.

Perhaps the most obvious and well known benefit of exercise is mental health. There is no doubt that hard exercise helps one develop their mental toughness.

“When you’re running like 15 miles or biking 100 miles, it makes everything in life seem not as big,” says photography teacher and Iron Man athlete Ian Tippets, who has competed in multiple marathons and triathlons.

Along with improving mental toughness, exercise can also relieve a lot of pent-up stress from our everyday lives and motivate us to be productive as we push temporary problems out of the way.

“I’ve found that exercising has made my mind clearer. An hour at the gym or a quick running session never fails to help take my mind off of whatever is troubling me and gives me motivation to keep pushing on at the same time,” explains senior Thomas Chan.

Improving mental toughness also helps one develop better habits to help them stay more organized and get more out of their day, which is especially important for students who want to be on their A-game.

“I believe that exercise makes me more disciplined. I have to stick to a schedule and manage my time properly to juggle school, work and exercise,” says PHHS alumni Iris Wu, who is now on the triathlon team at UCSB.

If these benefits don’t interest the average person enough, exercise can also make you feel “high”. For those who love those dopamine or endorphin rushes, exercise can also do the same.

An article on describes how runners can get “runner’s high” after or during running many miles, as the brain releases endorphins to cope with the body’s pain. This high has the ability to temporarily numb your pain and in fact turn you into a productive beast.

Along with getting you high, exercising also has the potential to greatly increase your overall mood, which can trickle down to other aspects of your life. An article written by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center states how the center actually promotes exercise as a way to treat clinical depression and reduce anxiety. Not only do people feel happier overall, but these same people are also less likely to get sick because less stress constitutes a stronger immune system.

All these benefits are great, but how does one start exercising? Many struggle to even go outside, let alone run or bike a few miles. As intimidating as exercising seems, nothing is impossible, and with a little bit of effort and patience even just a five-minute walk could work wonders if done consistently.

“Consistency is key, (and) it’s okay to start small and build up slowly, but make sure you stick with it,” explains Iris.

Taking things slow and breaking down workouts slowly are key tips that will help anybody get on the right track. There will be days where you just want to quit everything entirely and remain a couch potato the rest of your life. When those days come along, just remember the importance of what you’re doing and the whole gravity that exercising has on your life.

“Many things will change in your life, but your health will (always) follow you wherever you go. Taking care of your body, both physically and mentally, should always be your first priority,” urges Iris.

From strengthening one’s mind to greatly improving one’s daily routine, work ethic and overall happiness, exercise has the ability to completely flip your life around and should be incorporated into your daily routine.

how bad is boba?

By Vincent Hoang


Many students drink massive amounts of boba and milk tea on a weekly basis, but do they know the health risks hidden within these delicious drinks?

There are various milk tea stores that are scattered throughout San Jose. Like many, senior Vi Tran really enjoys her milk tea.

“If I had to give an estimation of how often I drink boba, I would say I drink like two times a week. Honestly, it’s dependent on whether I’m going out with friends.”

Vi does not like to get her milk tea extremely sweet.

“I typically get my drinks at 50/50. I don’t like drinking anything sickly sweet but I don’t want tasteless water so I go for 50/50,” says Vi.

However there are some who do not care as much as they should when it comes to milk tea.

“I drink milk tea at least two times a week at 100 percent sweetness for all my milk tea. I don’t care as much as I should, because I swim and work out a lot, therefore my sugar intake balances out with all the physical activities I partake in,” says senior Chloe Nguyen.

Lastly, there are the rare few who do care about what they drink.

“I drink milk tea once every 1 or 2 weeks, depends when my little brother wants it. When I do, I usually get it at 25 percent sweetness,” says senior Andrew Do.

In the end, most of us do enjoy a cool cup of milk tea anytime of the year, but the bigger question is how unhealthy the drink proves to be. On average, a 16-ounce cup of milk tea is 278 calories, 0.6 grams of fat, 68 grams of carbohydrates, and 1.2 grams of protein.

“I try to limit myself from getting drinks that have less calories and always get less sugar if it’s an option. If I get 100% I start to feel bad because it’s too sweet. Another way I deal with how unhealthy is by not getting pearls. I haven’t ordered pearls in about one year,” says senior Andrew Do.

This all doesn’t sound that awful, right? Wrong. The amount of sugar put into these drinks make it much worse. An average cup of milk tea, has an average of 22 grams of sugar; 12 of those grams comes from added sugar, such as the sweetener, syrup, and toppings.

Like Andrew, we should consider what we put into our boba drinks, such as the pearls and other toppings. The toppings add much more sugar and calories to your daily intake of food. Instead, opt for fruit toppings for natural sugar and great taste. Along with this, consider other types of milk to put into your drink such as almond or organic oak milk instead of condensed milk, which adds much more sugar.

Math Team

By Andrew Wong


The annual Science Olympiad competition took place last Saturday at San Jose City College. Along with this, Math Team will be participating in the annual SCVMA (Santa Clara Valley Mathematics Association) competition this Friday.

Science Olympiad is a regional competition in which participants compete in over twenty events covering subjects such as Physics, Earth Science and more. With this, they set themselves to answer questions and build electronics as a team.

The SCVMA competition includes high schools from across Santa Clara Valley. Contestants compete in one of several categories; there are categories for each high school math class (Math 1 through 3, Calculus, Statistics, Pre-calculus) and additional events open to all grades such as Leap Frog and Discovery Quest.

Science Olympiad has been preparing for this competition through study sessions. Those competing in the biology event attend biweekly practices, and other teams have been meeting up to practice usually once a week as well. Science Olympiad’s funding is self-raised and completely student-run.

“Our school has never qualified, and we usually rank in the lower half or near bottom because we’re a new school with no funding and no coach or teacher support,” said Co-President Kenneth Lien.

Despite this, the Science Olympiad team stays hopeful.

“We try to have study sessions at least once a week. Especially because it’s second semester and everything’s super busy right now, we try to have them whenever we can or when the team captains assign them,” says co-president Vivian Lin.

Math Team has also been preparing for SCVMA through weekly practices on Fridays. With math teacher Stewart Kuang’s help, they review math techniques and previous tests in order to compete against their strong opponents.

“I prepare for the math and physics contest by taking classes outside and doing a lot of problems at home. Giving a rough estimate, I would say I spend about ten hours per week on physics and five hours per week on math, if you only count the time that I really sit down and slowly do those subjects,” explains Math Team Vice Captain Gavin Yu.

Science Olympiad is determined to place higher this year, since they’ve also been practicing more.

“Every year we are improving. We’re set to beat records again because we did last year. We placed twice, actually,” says Kenneth.

Math Team is equally as determined to compete against their long-time opponents, Lynbrook, and other schools.

“Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. When you work together, you can solve more problems rather than working alone. I’m not really good at geometry but I’m really good at manipulating equations,” explains senior Asher Twu.

If the teams place, the top five winners of SCVMA will receive trophies and the top 15 will receive medals. If PHHS gets first place in Science Olympiad, they will be able to move onto the next competition.

Hidden Sugars

By Megan Laser


Sugar is defined as a sweet, crystalline substance obtained from various plants, especially sugar cane and sugar beet, consisting of sucrose and used as a sweetener. The American Heart Assoc. recommends limiting the amount of sugars you consume to no more than 9 teaspoons or 36 grams per day for men and 6 teaspoons and 25 grams per day for women.

There are many foods and drinks commonly associated as having sugar, and we do as much as we can to avoid these foods. Some examples include cookies, candies, ice cream and soda pops.

But, there are still sugars out there that sneak their way into our diets if we don’t check the label carefully.


Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce isn’t commonly associated as something with sugar, because it has a savory and saltier taste to it. Yet, the amount of sugar inside of pasta sauce could surprise you.

Depending on the size of the jar, putting pasta sauce in your noodles can have anywhere between 6 to 12 grams of sugar, which is equal to that of a single chocolate chip cookie.

So, next time you’re trying to cut down on sugars, check the label before you add it to your diet. There’s no true alternative to pasta sauce or replacement, so you either consume a little or none at all.


Granola Bars

We usually eat granola bars thinking that they benefit us as healthier alternative to a chocolate candy bar. However, there are so many sweeteners added into a single granola bar. They add things like corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, brown sugar syrup, fructose and other sugary components.

There are also different kinds of granola bars as opposed to the plain ones, like the ones coated in yogurt or dipped in chocolate.

One granola bar can have anywhere between 8 to 12 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor and type you buy.

If you’re trying to watch the sugar, it’s recommended that you eat a bowl of granola and add your own sugars at will. Doing so could easily decrease your sugar intake from 8 down to 5 grams.


Salad Dressing

Salads are the main source of meal that people go to when they think about starting a healthier lifestyle. Salads are full of all kinds of vegetables and fruits, but when topped off with the dressing can add up in sugars.

And yet, some dressings like Raspberry Vinaigrette, French, and Catalina can have anywhere between 5 to 7 grams in just two tablespoons.

An alternative that you can have instead of regular dressing is mixing your salad with just vinegar and oil. This can have just one gram of sugar for every two tablespoons of the dressing.


Breakfast Cereals

We all know that children’s cereals are full of all kinds of sugar. For example, Lucky Charms has cheerios coated in sugar as well as marshmallows inside the cereal, stacking up the amount of sugar higher. But, some cereals viewed as healthier can also have tons of sugar.

Cereals such as oats, corn, and bran cereals can sneak in sugar to coat the cereal with some sort of flavor. It can have anywhere between 10 to 20 grams of sugar for every one cup of cereal.

If you want to reduce the amount of sugar, check the label before you eat the cereal, and adjust to however much you’d like.


Packaged Fruits

Have you ever wondered what the juice inside of a fruit cup was? Companies add syrup to sweeten the fruit, keeping the fruit fresh and juicy. The amount of syrup can add up to 39 grams of sugar, and even if you drain the syrup from the cup can still add up to 15.5 grams.

If you don’t want sugar, fresh fruit is the perfect healthy alternative.


In conclusion, you can’t avoid sugar completely because it’s in everything we eat. But, you can watch the amount of sugar you eat in one sitting.


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Dangers of Meat Consumption

By: Rose Lu

In today’s society, meat is thought to be an essential part of our daily diets. While it may taste great and provide a lot of nutrients such as protein, people don’t often question where meat comes from or what it goes through to make it onto the table.

Many argue that meat is unhealthy for human consumption, as they are associated with all types of different diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Often, poultry also has added antibiotics and growth hormones that can affect and promote cancer growth.

Not only is meat unhealthy for the body, it is also inhumane and brutal to produce. According to the Huffington Post, animals are not allowed outside of their pens or cages unless it is slaughter day. Poultry animals are brought into the world solely to function as food later in their life.

Meat goes through a long process to get to our dinner tables. Factory farming, farms that raise large amounts of animals for food, encourages consumers to buy more meat products because they are so cheap. Factory farms barely make revenue off of selling these animals. Both the environment and the consumers facing the consequences, however.

It is extremely pricey to raise poultry for consumption. According to foot-tank, a site dedicated to tracking down the consequences of different subjects, the total amount of water needed to produce a pound of beef is 1,799 grams and 576 grams to produce a pound of pork. In comparison, soybeans take about 216 grams and corn takes about 108 grams. It also costs more resources to transport poultry across the world, which damages the environment in turn. Rather than feeding these plants to animals, humans could consume the plants directly rather than having an extra step.

There is another method that many small farms are adopting to make meat production less cruel and more sustainable. Rather than confining animals and forcing hormones into them, these farms are allowing these animals to free-range and adopt more natural diets.

Another solution to meat consumption is to become a vegetarian or vegan. A Harvard study has been proven that plant-based diets are healthier. Athletes such as Serena Williams have adopted a plant-based diet in order to perform better in their sports.



Fantastics Classes preparing for the battle of the year

By Harleen Kaur

Classes preparing for the battle of the year


There seems to be only one thing that gets Piedmont Hills through the dreadful and long month of March: FANTASTICS season. This year, FANTASTICS will be held this Friday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Big Gym.

“FANTASTICS is a night rally where classes prepare teams for games, skits and show class spirit to compete for points to win the trophy,” says 2022 President Jacob Dinh.

One change this year is the guest policy at FANTASTICS. Many Piedmont Hills students invite other students from other high schools to come and help support the classes.

“Students this year have to sign a guest pass to attend FANTASTICS,” states Jacob.

The themes for each class this year are Class of 2022, Tangled; Class of 2021, Phineas and Ferb; Class of 2020, Jumanji; Class of 2019, High School Musical.

Ticket sales began last Monday and will continue until FANTASTICS Day. The prices include $5 for a ticket, $7 for a shirt, thunder sticks for $3 and $2 for bandannas. A shirt and ticket will be sold for $10.

All the classes have been preparing by holding practices for games and skits weekly.

“We practice games and activities for about an hour every day and skit for two hours,” explains 2021 Dedicated Pirate Ethan Nguyen.

Class of 2019 feels sentimental as this will be their last FANTASTICS.

“Since it is my last year, I am super sad. That is why I am participating in skit for the very last time. I want to make my last year memorable,” says 2019 Dedicated Pirate Koby Pham.

This is the most competitive event of the year as the winner gets bragging rights and spirit clout. Many mixed opinions were shared about who’s going to take the trophy this year.

“I think the juniors are going to win because they are the most spirited class,” said Jacob.

“We believe the seniors are going to win since they have been working hard to get results that will show,” said Ethan.

Many students are excited for the most anticipated school event of the year and can’t wait till FANTASTICS.


By Trisha Trinh


Vaping become increasingly common among middle and high school students, leading to increased smoking rates among the youth. Whether kids think vaping is cool or hip, it’s dangerous. There’s a common misconception about vaping or e-cigarettes being deemed more “healthy”. This is in fact a myth. Young people that aren’t smokers that recently start vaping will have a short-term sensation or calmness, according to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. However, the nicotine wears off quickly, leading to the urge for another hit of it. This could slowly lead to addiction. In a 2015 launch campaign, JUUL labs were “aiming at adult smokers in the 25 to 34 demographic, featuring models from that specific age group.” JUUL are now being widely used among the youth especially in the demographic of middle school and high school students due to their different flavors of nicotine.

In schools, there have been stricter rules to prevent students from vaping or smoking. For instance, Palo Alto High School administration installed more cameras on campus and has staff patrolling usual vaping spots, according to Palo Alto Online.

“Everytime you go into the bathrooms, you are hit right away with a giant scent of vape and it’s disgusting,” expresses senior Tammy Ngo.

This epidemic of vaping spreads rapidly amongst teens that are being experimental without knowing what they’re putting into their bodies. A study done by National Institutes of Health in 2017 discovered that more than one in four high school teenagers reported vaping.

Most of the youth who vape do not even know that the attractively flavored vapor pods contains highly addictive nicotine. The same product found in regular tobacco products.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) last year gave e-cigarette companies and vaping companies 60 days to submit a plan to prevent the youth from vaping.  The major e-cigarettes and vaping companies succeeded in creating a label or a warning to alert of how addictive it is. Failure to do so resulted in pulling their products off the market, according to USA Today.

“Vaping has turned the youth in a widespread epidemic that needs to stop because it’s not cool,” says senior Christine Vu.