The Anxious Generation: The Epidemic of Teenage Mental Illness

If you are visiting our website you are likely experiencing concerns with your tween or teenager. Rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide rose sharply, more than doubling on many measures.


A new book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness, by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores and explains how smartphones and social media rewired society since 2010.

Haidt explains why social media damages girls more than boys and why boys have been withdrawing from the real world into the virtual world, with disastrous consequences for themselves, their families, and their societies.

The book is split into four parts: 

  1. The Tidal Wave: In this section, it shows the basic statistics on the mental health of young people.
  2. The Decline of the Play-Based Childhood: In this section, it discusses the nature of childhood and how we messed it up by depriving children of play and role-models, damaging attachment systems, and erasing any clear path from childhood to adulthood. 
  3. The Rise of the Phone-Based Childhood: In this section, it discusses the harms that result from the new phone-based childhood, with a chapter devoted to harms to girls, a chapter on harm to boys, and a chapter on the “spiritual degradation” that is happening to all of us––including adults––from our new phone-based lives. 
  4. Collective Actions for Better Childhood: In this final section, it explains what we must do to reverse the damage. I explain how parents, school, governments, tech companies, and young people are trapped in “collective action problems” and how these can be resolved when individuals organize and act together. 

Jonathan Haidt’s suggestions include:

  • Give children far more time playing with other children. This play should ideally be outdoors, in mixed age groups, with little or no adult supervision (which is the way most parents grew up, at least until the 1980s).
  • Look for more ways to embed children in stable real-world communities.  Online networks are not nearly as binding or satisfying.
  • Don’t give a smartphone as the first phone. Give a phone or watch that is specialized for communication, not for internet-based apps.
  • Don’t give a smartphone until high school.  This is easy to do, if many of your child’s friends’ parents are doing the same thing.
  • Delay the opening of accounts on nearly all social media platforms until the beginning of high school (at least). This will become easier to do if we can support legislators who are trying to raise the age of “internet adulthood” from today’s 13 (with no verification) to 16 (with mandatory age verification).

In The Anxious Generation, it explains the major causes of the international epidemic of mental illness that hit adolescents in the early 2010s, and Haidt offers a path forward for parents, teachers, friends, and relatives who want to help improve the mental health of children and teens.

Order on Amazon today. An absolute must read for all parents today.

Also read:

Teens and Mental Health Concerns

How Cell Phones Effect Mental Health


Help Your Teens With

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Many parents are at their wit’s end with the challenges of raising teenagers. If you are considering residential therapy, contact us for a free consultation.

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