Never Too Late

Submitted By:
Jessica Flaxman, Rye Country Day School, Rye, NY

End the Phone-Based Childhood Now by Jonathan Haidt
The Atlantic, March 13, 2024

In his 1854 memoir Walden; Or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau argued that it is not the bounty but the scarcity of social interaction that gives it value. He felt that too much social discourse resulted in a loss of both meaning and health: “We live thick and are in each other’s way, and stumble over one another... certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and hearty communications.” What Thoreau would think about today’s level of connectivity, one can only guess, but it would be safe to assume that he would share Jonathan Haidt’s concern about the dizzying and sometimes devastating impact of too much information, particularly for children who do not know enough of the world to effectively sort or make sense of it. In his recent Atlantic article, “End the Phone-Based Childhood Now,” Haidt points out that since the moment “young people began carrying the entire internet in their pockets, available to them day and night,” they have experienced an alarming uptick in depression, anxiety, and self-harm. To help the next generations better retain their focus, health, and optimism, Haidt offers some challenging directives given the reality we now inhabit in both life and school: 1) don’t give smartphones to kids until high school; 2) don’t give kids access to social media until they are 16; 3) don’t allow smartphones in school; and 4) give kids more independence, responsibility, and time to play. Although the chance is slim at best that any or all of Haidt’s four suggestions will take root universally, Haidt’s message is a good reminder that it is never too late to make a better decision, especially where children are concerned.

Psychology & Human Development
Student Wellness & Safety