Frank Thoms


A Teaching Life: In the US, England
                        & Russia


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The Anxious Generation

Apr 13, 2024 by Frank Thoms

Time flees faster than I imagine. I have just finished reading Jonathan Haidt’s “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.” It should be a seminal read for parents and teachers. It articulates the crisis our children are in from three-years-old through high school. His book centers around four major points: (1) No smartphones before high school; (2) No social media before 16; (3) Phone-free schools; (4) Far more unsupervised play and childhood independence.

Beginning in the 80s, Haidt explains, “play-based” childhood slowly became lost. Parental suspicion of possible harm to their children from the outside world lurked. Parents became more protective denying their children opportunities to explore their world through play on their own, as all mammals have throughout time.

At the same time around the early 2010s children were free to explore on their own the “phone-based” world of social media with smartphones in their hands accessing the internet––and with a front-facing camera. And along with Instagram, TikTok, et al. they now have millions of apps to choose from. Children navigate this virtual world as their own. And serious mental health crises have spiked.

So what can we do about this?