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New book says smartphones and social media are making our kids anxious and depressed

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New book says smartphones and social media are making our kids anxious and depressed

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Social psychologist Professor Jonathan Haidt writes that over the past ten years, he has seen “the radical transformation of childhood into something inhuman: a ­phone-​based existence.” According to The New York Post, Haidt has written a book that is due to be released soon titled “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.”

To back up his statement about children’s phone-based existence, he points out that teen girls are spending 20 hours a week on social media which makes browsing and posting on these platforms a part-time job for these girls. The book will be out on March 26th and Haidt says that the combination of smartphones and social media is causing children to suffer from sleep deprivation, social deprivation, attention fragmentation, addiction, and spiritual degradation. The psychologist calls this the “great rewiring” of childhood.

Smartphones and social media are making kids depressed and anxious

The bottom line is that these kids are becoming the most depressed and anxious generation in history although girls and boys are being affected differently. Consider how the former are impacted by social media platforms. “Social media really does a number on girls,” Haidt told The Post. “It takes all the worst parts of middle school — social comparison, focusing on your looks, insecurity — and multiplies them by ten.” You can imagine how comments made about such topics on social media might impact the mind of a teen girl.

The professor says that he has found a link between heavy social media usage and poor mental health outcomes in girls. He writes, “For boys, the story is less clear. There’s no one smoking gun. They’ve just experienced a progressive withdrawal from the real world, where boys have historically exerted effort.” He adds, “The trend is really accelerating as the virtual world becomes so magnificently enticing and attractive.” When boys do withdraw from the real world, their destinations are often porn and video games states the psychologist.

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Haidt says kids shouldn’t get a smartphone until they are 18

With a 14-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son, Haidt has many of the same arguments with his kids over their phones as others do. “We still have the same problem that all parents have, which is just trying to say stop spending so much time on your screens,” he said. “There is still a constant, a chronic tug of war over usage.” Because his children walk to school in New York City, he gave his son a phone in the fourth grade and his daughter one in the sixth grade. While they both received smartphones, in retrospect, he wishes that he had given them flip phones instead.

He suggests that parents keep their kids off of social media until they are 16, and keep them away from smartphones until they are in high school. “We have to delay the phones but also give them engaging activities in the real world. [Parents] have under-protected children online but we’ve also overprotected them in the real world. And we need to address both halves. Kids need to be anchored in the real world with real relationships, real responsibilities, real love. Virtual activities don’t substitute.”

Haidt’s book offers many solutions for parents and he told The Post, “We can solve this problem most of the way within a year if we just work collectively. These are collective action problems, and we can solve them with collective action, even if we don’t get help from our lawmakers.”

The professor says that members of Gen Z have been receptive to what he is saying. “They see the problems of their phone-based childhoods. They see that it’s a huge waste of their time. But when I ask them why they don’t get off TikTok and Instagram, they say they can’t because everyone else is on them.”

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