Amazon tribe's Starlink internet access made kids 'lazy,' hooked on social media: report

JAVARI VALLEY , BRAZIL - AUGUST 17: Curves of the Ituí and Itaquaí rivers, inside the Vale do Javari indigenous land, in the proximity of the Ituí Funai base. August 17, 2022. (Photo by Rafael Vilela for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Starlink satellite internet access has reached a remote tribe deep in the Amazon rainforest, and now elders say young people are "lazy" and hooked on social media and pornography. 

According to a report from The New York Times, members of the Marubo Indigenous tribe carried internet antennas into its remote villages about nine months ago. The satellite internet service has saved lives during emergency medical situations – and it’s connected tribe members to faraway family and better education. 

But like the rest of the connected world, it has also brought its own set of problems to the Marubo village of about 2,000 Indigenous people. 

"Young people have gotten lazy because of the internet," one tribe member told The Times. "They’re learning the ways of the white people."

READ MORE: Some teen girls using smartphone up to 6 hours per day, study finds

Starlink satellite internet is a service from Space X, Elon Musk’s private space company. Musk first brought Starlink to Brazil in 2022. Ukraine has received some 24,000 Starlink terminals that allow continued internet amid its ongoing war with Russia. 

"It changed the routine so much that it was detrimental," admitted one tribe member who spent decades in the outside world and pushed for internet access in his remote village. "In the village, if you don’t hunt, fish and plant, you don’t eat."

Still, the same tribe members said they don't want to see the Internet disappear. Instead, tribal leaders have imposed limits on when the internet can be accessed. It’s only on for two hours in the morning, five hours in the evening and all day Sunday. 

"Some young people maintain our traditions," TamaSay Marubo, the tribe’s first woman leader, told The Times. "Others just want to spend the whole afternoon on their phones."

One tribal leader said he’s most upset by young tribal men watching pornography – the Marubo tribe frowns upon even kissing in public. 

READ MORE: How AI can help (and hurt) climate change

"We’re worried young people are going to want to try it," he said, noting he’s been made aware of more aggressive sexual behavior from young men in the village.

A respected Marubo shaman once predicted a hand-held device would connect the tribe with the rest of the world "for the good of the people," but warned that "in the end, there would be war."

For now, tribal leaders agree internet access has brought more benefit than harm, and even if that weren’t true, there’s no going back now. 

"We can’t live without the internet," they said.