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Tags: iphones | virtual | puberty

High-Tech, Social Media Destroying Teen Mental Health

High-Tech, Social Media Destroying Teen Mental Health


George J. Marlin By Monday, 20 May 2024 10:15 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

In 2018, Dr. Jonathan Haidt and his colleague Greg Lukianoff explained in their work, "The Coddling of The American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure," why young people became "snowflakes" who believe they are entitled to get through life without their feelings being hurt.

That book argued that parents and university administrators created a safety bubble, one that "interferes with young people’s social emotional and intellectual development."

The result has been that many college graduates are fragile, anxious, easily hurt,a and are not prepared to face the real world where the playing field is not necessarily level or fair.

The seeds of disaster had been planted by helicopter parents who did not steep their children in traditional moral codes, orderliness, and respect for authority that guided earlier generations.

"Stay busy and don’t hurt yourself" have been the new golden rules to get through one’s youth.

Paranoid parents overprotected their children and restricted their lives. They were "deprived of unsupervised time for play and exploration."

They missed out on "many of the challenges negative experiences and minor risks that help children develop into strong competent and independent adults."

Overprotective parents failed to realize that they denied their children the opportunity to "develop the skills of cooperation and dispute resolution that are closely related to the art of association upon which democracies depend."

Now Dr. Jonathan Haidt, in his new book, "The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness," advances his thesis on the mental condition and attitudes of America’s youth.

Twenty years ago, most Americans were ecstatic over the tech products created in California’s Silicon Valley. Adults not only enjoyed the newly developed iPads and iPhones, but they were pleased these products could keep their children occupied for hours on end.

What parents could not foresee, however, was their children born after 1995 — Gen Z — would not experience a "play-based childhood" but a "phone- based childhood."

They never suspected their children would be victims of manufacturers who played psychological tricks to hook them to keep on clicking "while their brains were rapidly rewiring in response stimulation to incoming stimulation." Parents never imagined that smartphones would produce a generation of kids living like robots.

The prime culprits, Haidt contends, “include social media companies which inflicted their greatest damage on girls, and video game companies and pornography sites which sank their hooks deepest into boys.”

Teenagers addicted to social media are no longer socializing face to face or playing outside with their friends. These slaves to technology are socially isolated.

Everyone has an anecdote when it comes to this phenomenon.

My own took place while waiting, along with six high school age kids, for a train at a suburban station. All six were sitting together on a bench for 20 minutes staring at their iPhones. There was no conversation, no engagement, no clowning around.

Frankly, I found it eerie.

A history professor at a major university I’ve known for years, tells me it’s the same in classrooms. His undergraduate students do not know how to participate in discussions, have trouble expressing themselves verbally, have trouble reading books and can only grasp talking points that appear on a screen.

The four foundational harms of "virtual puberty," Haidt determined are social deprivation, sleep deprivation, attention fragmentation, and addiction.

Time spent face-to-face with friends has plummeted among Gen Z. This has led to isolation, little sense of community and shallow friendships that are "mediated and governed to a large degree by social media."

Sleep deprivation from too much time spent staring at devices, has led to "depression, anxiety, irritability, cognitive deficits, poor learning, lower grades, more accidents, and more deaths from accidents."

Because adolescents are hit with hundreds of notifications every day on electronic devices, they exhibit attention fragmentation — the inability to focus — "to stay on one mental road while many off ramps beckon.”

As for addiction, "the most successful social media apps use advanced behaviorist techniques to hook children into becoming heavy users of their products."

Social media addiction is similar to adults who are addicted to slot machines and gambling.

Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and dysphoria.

The most tragic result of social media addiction: emergency room visits for self-harm among girls has surged 188% since 2010. Among boys, it is up 48%.

The suicide rate among girls is up167% since 2010; for boys, up 91%.

The "great rewiring of childhood from play-based to phone-based," Dr. Haidt concludes, "has been a catastrophic failure."

And to change the trajectory for the next generation of adolescents, Dr. Haidt makes these four foundational recommendations:

  • No smartphones before high school.
  • No social media before 16.
  • Phone-free schools.
  • Far more unsupervised play and childhood independence.

Hopefully, parents finally wake up to the danger of social media devices and realize that following Haidt’s guidelines, may aid in ending the epidemic of mental illness and in restoring a more humane childhood.

George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." Read George J. Marlin's Reports — More Here.

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Most Americans were ecstatic over tech products. Adults were pleased these products could keep their children occupied for hours. Parents never imagined that smartphones would produce a generation of robots.
iphones, virtual, puberty
Monday, 20 May 2024 10:15 AM
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