Social Psychologist Issues Dire Warning to Today’s Parents

selective photo of a girl holding bubblesSocial Psychologist Issues Dire Warning to Today’s Parents

By Movieguide® Contributor

Social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt is urging parents to get their kids away from screens. 

“What we all discovered, as soon as the iPhone came out, is that you can have peace and quiet at the restaurant if you just give your kid your phone,” he said while appearing on Katherine Schwarzenegger’s BDA BABY podcast. “You can do your email, you can cook dinner, you can do whatever you want to — just give the kid what he wants. More than candy, what they want is either an iPhone or an iPad. It’s so exciting, it’s so stimulating.”

Haidt likened technology to “babysitters,” adding, “We thought it was okay. But, you know, 150 years ago, people gave morphine to kids.”

“Kids need to run around, have adventures,” he continued. “They need to master their bodies, they need to be outside, they need sunlight, they need nature. They need a lot of things to grow up healthy.”

The Anxious Generation

It’s a topic Haidt explores in his book, “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.”

“In ‘The Anxious Generation,’ social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the facts about the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time,” a description of the book reads. “He then investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults.”

The description continues, “Most important, Haidt issues a clear call to action. He diagnoses the ‘collective action problems’ that trap us, and then proposes four simple rules that might set us free. He describes steps that parents, teachers, schools, tech companies, and governments can take to end the epidemic of mental illness and restore a more humane childhood.”

Rules for a Better Childhood

Haidt shared his four rules with Today.com: “No smartphones before high school, no social media before 16, phone-free schools, and more independence, free play and responsibility in the real world.”

“Nobody wants their kid to be the only one. Nobody wants their kid to be alone,” he said. “If [parents] coordinate with the parents of their kids’ friends, they can all escape the collective action problem. All it takes is three or four other families.”

Movieguide® previously reported on Haidt’s research:

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. 

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.”

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