The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness

Penguin Pr. Mar. 2024. 400p. ISBN 9780593655030. $30. PSYCH
The advent of smartphone technology has affected the lives and emotional, social, and intellectual well-being of many children and teenagers. Social psychologist Haidt (ethical leadership, NYU; The Happiness Hypothesis) asserts that when children have childhoods based on playing and engaging with others in the real world, they are likely to be more curious, resilient, and independent. He argues that unsupervised internet access, virtual worlds, and phone-based childhoods have replaced that, however, and it’s affecting their mental health. For example, his data-backed book explains how social comparisons have led to increased rates of depression, loneliness, deaths by suicide, and more; he says it’s impacted their neurological development too. His recommendations to improve the situation include not only restricting social media consumption and technical devices usage but also creating opportunities for more unsupervised and unstructured time away from parents. He says this will develop what he calls “antifragile kids.” He also suggests specific ideas for low-interference parenting and practices at school that would make such formative play possible.
VERDICT A vigorous contribution to the conversation and discourse about how to protect youths from psychological and neurological damage linked to technology. For parents, educators, and tech decision-makers.
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