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'The Anxious Generation' Has the Worst of Both Worlds

Lenore Skenazy on

In a blockbuster Atlantic piece, "The Terrible Costs of a Phone-Based Childhood," my Let Grow co-founder Jonathan Haidt says our culture is getting it all wrong when it comes to kids: We "underprotect" them in the virtual world and overprotect them in the real one.

That's the worst of both worlds if we want to raise healthy, happy kids.

The piece focuses heavily on how smartphones, introduced about 15 years ago, have "re-wired" childhood. They did this in part by throwing kids (and the rest of us) into a maelstrom of "likes," comparisons and misinformation. But phones also warped childhood by siphoning off the time kids would otherwise spend in the real world, running around, playing, flirting, exploring and even sleeping. These are things kids NEED but aren't getting enough of.

Haidt quotes Henry David Thoreau who memorably said about cell phones -- well, about time, attention, money, love and action -- that "The cost of a thing is the amount of ... life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run." Whether it's on a smartphone, or in an extracurricular where adults run the show or in an SUV on the way to that orchestrated event -- with no time for free play and autonomy, kids are paying for their childhood with passivity.

Result? A generation of young people ever more depressed, anxious and harming themselves, Haidt says. And he's got lots of graphs to prove it.

But Haidt doesn't just despair. He proposes four solutions. Three are about phones:


1 -- Get them out of the schools, all day.

2 -- Don't let kids have a smartphone till age 14.

3 -- Keep everyone off social media till age 16.

His fourth and final plea?


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Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate, Inc.




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