Thursday, April 11, 2024

Stop smartphones and social media from harming children

I write this blog post as a plea, to parents with children and young people who anticipate having children. Smartphones and social media are addictive technologies that are damaging the development of children’s brains.  I beg you to inform yourselves about this topic and take action to address the problem in your homes and schools. Your children’s future may depend on it.

I first became aware of the threat to children from these technologies when I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix four years ago. This documentary explored the dangerous human impact of social networking. The code developers who created social media and related algorithms discuss their creations and regret. The information contained in the documentary caused me to cancel all of my social media accounts. I recommend you watch it.

Recent research by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has brought much more detail to the warnings contained in The Social Dilemma. Haidt is a noted social psychologist, scholar, and author who recently released a new book, “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.”  I recommend you buy Haidt’s book for less than $20 and read it. Share it with friends and family. 

Peggy Noonan, a noted columnist, devoted her column in the Wall Street Journal last Sunday to Haidt’s book in, “Can we save our children from Smartphones?” Please use the hyperlink provided to read Noonan’s column.

Noonan says, “There’s a funny thing that happens in a nation’s thoughts. At some point everyone knows something is true, and talks about it with each other. The truth becomes a cliché before it becomes actionable. Then a person of high respect, a good-faith scholar [Haidt] who respects data, say, comes forward with evidence proving what everyone knows, and it is galvanizing. It hits like a thunderclap, and gives us all permission to know what we know and act on it.” Now is that time.

Haidt was recently interviewed by Barri Weiss about the book on her “Honestly” podcast. I highly recommend this interview as an essential summary of Haidt’s work on this topic.  You can listen to it on Apple Podcasts HERE and Spotify HERE.

The last third of Haidt’s book is dedicated to actions to take control and reverse this dangerous trend in childhood development. There are four major categories of action:

1. No Smartphones before high school. There are many alternatives.
2. No social media before 16
3. Phone-free schools
4. More independence, free play, and responsibility in the real world.

I cannot go into all the details on each of these goals, but you can find them in the book. Also, Haidt has created a web site for adults to organize to achieve these goals at .  

Visit the Anxious Generation site to find answers to your questions and recommendations for parental action in the home, as well as actions to take to demand of your school system that Smartphones be disallowed in schools.

I think this issue may be one of the greatest challenges of our time.  Let’s act.


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