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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Jean Twenge begins her essay by suggesting a thought experiment. “Imagine that a company began mass-producing a new toy. This was not a toy for little kids; instead, it appealed most to adolescents. The toy became wildly popular, first with teens and eventually with younger children as well. The toy was so engaging that some teens stayed up until 2 a.m. just to play with it. Before long, teens spent so much time using the toy that they cut back on socializing in person.”

As you can probably guess, she is talking about the smartphone that began to change the lives of teenagers beginning around 2012. She argues that “the growing popularity of smartphones and social media over the past decade and a half has fundamentally changed the lives of teenagers.”

I would encourage parents and grandparents to read her article linked to this commentary. She provides graphs showing in-person socializing decreasing and an increasing number of sleep-deprived teens who are sleeping less than seven hours a night. There are graphs showing a significant increase in major depression and loneliness. Also, she documents teens decrease in adult activities (getting a driver’s license, going on a date).

She also takes the time to eliminate other possible explanations. Could the increase in depression be due to school shootings or the opioid crisis? She reminds us that these (and other) explanations are specific to the US. We see a similar uptick in other countries.

She concludes with specific recommendations that might strike some as radical. But she then explains the cost-benefit analysis for keeping children and young teens off social media. She makes a compelling case.viewpoints new web version

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