Forever Elsewhere

Submitted By:
Meghan Tally, Woodlawn School, Moorseville, NC

"This Is Our Chance to Pull Teenagers Out of the Smartphone Trap" by Jonathan Haidt and Jean M. Twenge
The New York Times, July 31, 2021

If you missed this late summer article by Jonathan Haidt and Jean Twenge and you work in a school where teenagers are permitted their cell phones throughout the day, it isn't too late to engage your faculty and/or families with the article's argument. Such engagement is particularly salient if you see any negative impact of smartphones on the learning environment, culture, and/or individual students at your school. Quoting Sherry Turkle, Haidt and Twenge say of all of us during the smartphones era, "We are forever elsewhere," a truth it is difficult to ignore, particularly when it comes to the research regarding adolescents. In English-speaking countries all over the world, there has been a huge increase in rates of adolescent loneliness directly correlated to the rise of smartphones. Haidt and Twenge review the published research and note, too, worse health outcomes with increased social media use, ultimately calling on educators to "give kids a long period each day when they are not distracted by their devices: the school day." (They have other recommendations, too, including "delay[ing] entry into social media.") In independent school education, we aspire to be responsive to our students and to the latest research, making adjustments to our practices throughout the year. Haidt and Twenge present their own version of this challenge: "Will students spontaneously put away their phones and switch back to old-fashioned in-person socializing, at least for the hours that they are together in school? We have a historic opportunity to help them do so."

Psychology & Human Development