top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Childhood's end

Phone-centered childhood is a disaster, writes Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic.

In the early 2010s, "adolescents in rich countries traded in their flip phones for smartphones and moved much more of their social lives online — particularly onto social-media platforms designed for virality and addiction," he writes. Then, younger children "began to get access to their parents’ smartphones and, later, got their own iPads, laptops, and even smartphones during elementary school."

Depression, anxiety, self-harm rates rose sharply in the U.S. and other developed countries, while teens reported more loneliness and friendlessness.

Academic achievement went down in the U.S. and globally beginning in the early 2010s.

"Young adults are dating less, having less sex, and showing less interest in ever having children than prior generations," he writes. Gen Z adults "are more likely to live with their parents. They were less likely to get jobs as teens, and managers say they are harder to work with."

The change in childhood began before the Internet, Haidt writes. In the 1990's, American parents became more fearful, less willing to let their kids go outside and play independently. Supervised by adults, children had fewer opportunities "to make their own choices, resolve their own conflicts, and take care of one another."

But the real slide in mental health started with the smartphone. With the iPhone (2007), the App Store (2008), and high-speed internet (50 percent of American homes in 2007), many providers of social media, video games, and porn pivoted to mobile, he writes. Childhood went online.

In 2011, only 23 percent of teens had a smartphone. By 2015, that number had risen to 73 percent, and a quarter of teens said they were online “almost constantly.” Their younger siblings in elementary school didn’t usually have their own smartphones, but after its release in 2010, the iPad quickly became a staple of young children’s daily lives. It was in this brief period, from 2010 to 2015, that childhood in America (and many other countries) was rewired into a form that was more sedentary, solitary, virtual, and incompatible with healthy human development.

Teenagers' phones are "pinging constantly," writes Haidt. "One study found that the typical adolescent now gets 237 notifications a day, roughly 15 every waking hour." If students have cell phones in class, they "use them, especially for texting and checking social media, and their grades and learning suffer."

An estimated seven to 15 percent of boys and young men have “Internet gaming disorder,” and seven percent of American men say they're "addicted to pornography," Haidt writes.

For girls, the issue is social media. Five to 15 percent of teens in 29 countries engage in "problematic social media use," according to one study. Symptoms include "preoccupation, withdrawal symptoms, neglect of other areas of life, and lying to parents and friends about time spent on social media." Rates of "problematic use" are higher for girls.

A University of Chicago study asked college students "how much they’d need to be paid to deactivate their accounts on either Instagram or TikTok for four weeks," writes Haidt. They wanted $59 for TikTok, $47 for Instagram. "Then the experimenters told the students that they were going to try to get most of the others in their school to deactivate that same platform, offering to pay them to do so as well, and asked, Now how much would you have to be paid to deactivate, if most others did so? The answer, on average, was less than zero. In each case, most students were willing to pay to have that happen."

When students were asked if they'd “prefer to live in a world without Instagram [or TikTok]?,” 58 percent said "yes" for each app, Haidt notes.

1 Comment

Unknown member
Apr 19

The change in childhood began before the Internet. geometry dash subzero

bottom of page