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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Sad girls: Social isolation predates Covid

Fifty-seven percent of teenage girls felt "persistently sad or hopeless" in 2021, reports the Centers for Disease Control. That's double the rate for boys.

Feeling "connected" in middle and high school is a "very powerful protective factor,” said Dr. Kathleen Ethier, head of the CDC's adolescent and school health program. When schools closed, those connections were disrupted.

We should "expect lockdowns, school closures, and constant fear messaging (including the loathsome farewell phrase 'be safe') to take a toll on teen mental health," writes Jon Haidt, but there's "not much evidence of a Covid effect," especially for boys.

He believes the teen mental illness epidemic started around 2012. "When school closures and social distancing were implemented in 2020, teens had already lost most of their social lives to their phones," Haidt writes.

Teenagers were averaging two hours a day with friends until they traded "flip phones for smartphones, in the early 2010s," he writes. Their social lives moved to Instagram, Snapchat, and later Tiktok. They were spending far more time online and far less time interacting face to face with friends.

"Time spent on screens went way up for both sexes during the Covid pandemic," Haidt writes, but girls spent more time on social media, while boys primarily play video games and watch videos on Youtube.

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