Under Protecting

Submitted By:
Eileen Bouffard, The Taft School, Watertown, CT

In an academic yet approachable tone, Jonathan Haidt’s call for fundamental reforms – "no smartphones before high school; no social media before 16; phone-free schools; far more unsupervised play and childhood independence” – is furthered in this engaging text. Haidt makes the compelling claim that with the increased emphasis on standardized testing and quantifiable learning in schools, students’ inability to come together to play and to problem solve independent of adult interference or outside of scheduled activities has exacerbated the issues associated with near-constant digital device use. In fact, children and teenagers are now “overprotected in real life and under protected in digital spaces.” The chapter, “What Schools Can Do Now,” is particularly illuminating as Haidt suggests that to curb adolescent addiction to smartphones, and thus lessen some of the mental health issues that come with their reliance, collective action is needed among families, schools, and districts. Likewise, the text asks readers, how might schools offer more opportunities for students to engage with productive difficulty, risk, or moments of collaboration with limited adult interference? Fundamentally, this is a book for anyone who has sensed there might be something problematic about the fact that in our hyper-connected world, “Everything is available to every individual, all the time, with little or no effort.”

Student Wellness & Safety
Teaching Practice