How Our Children Are Dying Because Of Mobile Phones And What We Can Do About It: Answers Jonathan Haidt

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Jonathan Haidt

Over the past few weeks, social scientist Jonathan Haidt has likely lost a lot of the adolescent population. In essence, his latest book, “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness,” urges parents to completely overhaul the way they interact with their teenagers on social media and cellphones. In other words, until they are sixteen, children should have little to no access to either, according to Jonathan Haidt.  

Although some have questioned the scientific validity of Jonathan Haidt’s thesis, Jonathan Haidt contends that the viewpoint is supported by years of research, including studies that show rising mental health issues among American tweens and teens and data that show a large percentage of teenagers in the country already experience some form of anxiety or depression. In a recent report, the American Psychological Association expressed similar concerns, criticizing social networking sites for their designs that are “inherently unsafe for children.” According to the APA’s assessment, which was made public on Tuesday, kids lack “the experience, judgment, and self-control” necessary to use those platforms responsibly. According to the group, platform developers should bear the majority of the responsibility rather than parents, app retailers, or young people. However, parents are unlikely to be able to rely on developers, which brings us to Jonathan Haidt’s startling conclusion: as a society, we are at a tipping point, and if adults do nothing, they might put all young people’s mental health in danger permanently.

Since the book’s March 26 publication, Jonathan Haidt, the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business, has devoted several hours to spreading its message. Haidt recently spoke with CNN about his research, the book, and the future that both parents and teenagers may look forward to. 

How Did We Find Ourselves In Such A Situation? Answers Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt: Children’s childhoods were always centered around play, but in the 1980s and 1990s, as our anxieties of kidnapping and other threats grew, we progressively let it go. Technology emerged to occupy that entire period. We believed that the internet would save democracy in the 1990s. It was meant to increase our kids’ intelligence. The majority of us were techno-optimists, so when our children began using their phones and other screens for four, five, six, and even seven or nine hours a day, we weren’t too concerned.

The book’s main contention is that we have under-protected our kids online while overprotecting them in the physical world. You can see how we approached both portions of it with the expectation that everything would work out. We were mistaken in both cases.

What Are Some Of The Most Shocking Statistics You Discovered?

Jonathan Haidt: The first that quickly springs to mind is the finding that, before the tremendous rewiring of childhood, teenage boys had the greatest incidence of fractured bones. Before 2010, teenage guys who shattered a bone were far more likely than any other group to visit a hospital. By the early 2010s, teenage boys are somewhat less likely than their dads or grandfathers to break a bone. This is because of a sharp decline in their hospitalization rates. They’re protected from harm since they spend the majority of their time playing video games and using computers. However, I contend that this is at the expense of a boy’s normal growth during childhood. 

Do Boys And Girls Experience This Mental Health Crisis Differently?

Jonathan Haidt: When smartphones became commonplace in the early 2010s, guys gravitated toward video games, YouTube, and Reddit, while ladies gravitated toward visual social media sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

Girls and boys exchange emotions more than boys do, which is a second distinction. They are more forthcoming with one another and talk about their emotions more. During the tween and adolescent years, girls see a significant increase in anxiety levels after their hyperconnection with one another through social media. Some girls have traditionally used self-harm as a coping mechanism for worry, and those rates significantly increased in the early 2010s. In the past, self-harm was more commonly committed by older girls than by 12- and 13-year-olds. In the 2010s, the number of females aged 10 to 14 who visited the emergency department (for self-harm) almost quadrupled. Out of all the data that I have studied, that is one of the largest rises in indicators of mental illness.

You Mentioned That This Problem Is Reaching A Tipping Point. Why?

Jonathan Haidt: For several reasons, I believe that this year is the turning moment. The discussion was only getting going in 2019. Subsequently, Covid-19 emerged, masking earlier patterns. After a few years, after COVID-19, after school closings, and after masks, it is abundantly evident to everybody that children are not okay. Furthermore, the data on mental disease rates indicates that the majority of the rise occurred well before the arrival of COVID-19.

Fights over technology are one of the greatest and most common dynamics in American homes these days. Since the publication of the book, I’ve discovered that nearly everyone is aware of the issue. Parents are hopelessly depressed. They get a sense of the genie being released. “You can’t put toothpaste back in a tube, can you?” they ask. “If you have to do it, you’ll do it,” is my response to that.

Upon examining the ruins of teenage mental health, the rise in self-harm and suicide, and the precipitous decline in test results in the US and globally since 2012, I believe action is necessary. In my work, the many collective action difficulties and the four straightforward principles that would resolve them are analyzed.

Which Standards Will Resolve This Crisis?

Jonathan Haidt: No. 1: Before high school, no smartphones. They have to be expelled from both elementary and middle school. When children can support themselves, then give them a flip phone or phone watch.

No. 2: Wait until you’re sixteen to use social media. These are not kid-friendly platforms. They seem to be particularly dangerous for kids. Since the most harm is done during early puberty, we must take extra precautions to safeguard it.

Third: Schools without phones. There isn’t much evidence to support allowing children to have the best distraction gadget ever created in their pockets while they are in class. They will be glued to their phones and messaging during class if they have the phones. They will pay attention to their instructors and interact with other children if they don’t have phones.

Point 4: Greater autonomy, unrestricted play, and accountability in the actual world. The play-based childhood must be reinstated, and the phone-based childhood must be reversed.

For Many Families, Reevaluating Smartphone Privileges Is A Significant Change. How Do You Get Parents To Support The Cause?

Jonathan Haidt: Not so much in elementary school. You can take away your child’s phone or iPad if you’ve already handed it to them. Just be sure to work with your child’s friends’ parents to arrange things so that your child doesn’t feel alone. They can still use a computer to SMS their buddies and maintain access to one. Just commit to hold off on providing these items to your primary school-aged children until after high school. It’s harder in middle school. The majority of middle school students are completely engrossed in social media and cell phones.