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Psychologist Urges Parents to ‘Act Together’ to Keep Kids Off Smartphones

Psychologist Urges Parents to ‘Act Together’ to Keep Kids Off Smartphones

By Movieguide® Contributor

Social psychologist and NYU professor Jonathan Haidt urges parents to keep their middle schoolers away from smartphones. 

“We’ve got to let kids get through at least early puberty. Get this all out of middle school. Let’s really protect middle schoolers’ brains. Give them a flip phone if you want to communicate with them, not a smartphone,” Haidt said while appearing on FOX & FRIENDS. 

He explained that smartphones “lock you in” in a way that flip phones don’t due to the lack of easy access to social media platforms. 

Haidt also shared statistics that show the steep decline in mental health once young people start regularly using smartphones. 

“For girls, their mental health from 2000 to 2010, 2011 is actually pretty stable,” he explained. “Then, all of a sudden, around 2013, we have a very sharp curve where the girls get very, very depressed and especially [turn to] self-harm. Self-harm rates go up more than 100%. For the pre-teen girls, it’s closer to 200%, so something was happening to girls, and it seems to be related to social media.”

Haidt said that boys are also “doing much worse,” adding, “[with smartphones], they get more and more onto video games. They spend more and more time on screens, so their mental health does get worse.”

His main piece of advice for parents who want to keep their kids away from smartphones and social media is to team up with other like-minded parents. 

“Individually we are fairly powerless,” Haidt said. “But as soon as we act together, boom. Problem solved. What you need to do, especially if your kids are young, talk to the parents of your friends, [the parents] of your kids’ friends…Everywhere I go, everyone wants to solve this. Even Gen Z, the young people see the problem, so I think we’re going to win on this.”

Haidt elaborated on his views on young people’s relationship with technology in an interview with TODAY.com, saying, “I call smartphones ‘experience blockers,’ because once you give the phone to a child, it’s going to take up every moment that is not nailed down to something else. That means that there will be very little other experience other than through the phone. It’s basically the loss of childhood in the real world.”

He has also recently published a book about what can be done about children and teenagers’ relationship with smartphones titled “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.”

“Most parents and even most members of Gen Z don’t like the new phone-based childhood, yet somehow we’re all stuck with it,” he wrote in an Instagram post about the book. “For example, even if most of the parents of kids at a middle school want to delay the age at which their kids get smartphones and social media, they find it really hard to act on their wishes because once some kids get these things, anyone who doesn’t have them feels excluded, and no parent wants that for their child.”

Haidt continued, “In the book I lay out how these trends emerged (in short: from best intentions), what their effects on kids are, and what practical steps we can take as parents, organizations, and society to roll back the phone-based childhood.” 

Movieguide® previously reported on Haidt’s research:

There is a mental health crisis plaguing Gen Z (those born after 1995), and experts say that smartphones are to blame.

They are the first generation to go through puberty with the information highway in their pockets, and the pressures of social media have produced anxiety for today’s teens.

“Gen Z teenagers got sucked into spending many hours of each day scrolling through the shiny happy posts of friends, acquaintances and distant influencers. They watched increasing quantities of user-generated videos and streamed entertainment, fed to them by algorithms that were designed to keep them online as long as possible,” said Jonathan Haidt.

“They spent far less time playing with, talking to, touching, or even making eye contact with their friends and families, thereby reducing their participation in social behaviour that is essential for successful human development,” he added.

Haidt calls this “the Great Rewiring of Childhood.”

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4000+ Faith Based Articles and Movie Reviews – Will you Support Us?

Our small team works tirelessly to provide resources to protect families from harmful media, reviewing 415 movies/shows and writing 3,626 uplifting articles this year. We believe that the gospel can transform entertainment. That’s why we emphasize positive and faith-filled articles and entertainment news, and release hundreds of Christian movie reviews to the public, for free. No paywalls, just trusted, biblically sound content to bless you and your family. Online, Movieguide is the closest thing to a biblical entertainment expert at your fingertips. As a reader-funded operation, we welcome any and all contributions – so if you can, please give something. It won’t take more than 52 seconds (we timed it for you). Thank you.