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Kids Are Not Alright

“We have overprotected our children in the real world and underprotected them online.”

That’s from Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business, whose new book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, makes a powerful case that the “mass migration of childhood into the virtual world” is having devastating effects on children.

We’re now in a world in which preteens spend five hours a day on screens and teenagers spend eight hours. And they are not thriving.

Rates of depression and anxiety for American adolescents increased over 50% from 2010 to 2019. The suicide rate for children 10 to 14 tripled from 2007 to 2021.

Still, there’s hope — we just have to collectively decide that our children’s future is worth it. As Haidt says, “When you have a system which everyone hates, and then you have a way to escape it, it can change within a year.”

As a starting point, Haidt proposes four norms that would better protect our children:

  • No smartphones before high school

  • No social media before 16

  • Phone-free schools

  • More independence, free play and responsibility in the real world

As Haidt writes, “We didn’t know what we were doing in the early 2010s. Now we do. It’s time to end the phone-based childhood.”


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