It’s not the homework. It’s the phones.
I'm a retired teacher (ret. Dec. 2018). I saw the same trend in my final years of teaching. I was competing for their most precious classroom asset -- their attention.
My competition? The high IQ's and salaries of brilliant app developers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. And I was losing. Badly. I wrote about it in one of my first pieces on Substack about 18 months ago (see link above). I concluded we need a 12-Step program for phone addiction. The first people who should do the 12-Step ... the parents.
First, the academic pressure assertion is more dangerous thinking that contributes to unpreparedness for adulthood. What an insidiously infantilizing assertion! Of course being overwhelmed and overworked can make one depressed, but there’s a goal in this case, and pressure can be very useful towards getting there. Making too much of pressure is only going to discourage teens from rising to the occasion.
This insidious line of thought correlates to what on social media is destroying young minds. Catastrophic ideation. All men are rapists. White people are evil oppressors. The planet is dying. Being female is a lifetime of trauma. If grabbed by a guy you should be traumatized for life....on and on and on. These ideas are CRUEL and peddled by useful idiot teachers....not just social media, often feminist unmarried childless teachers ironically living their best life while destroying the minds of our youth.
Nice article. The last few--maybe as many as 10, years before I retired from full-time college teaching I resorted to penalizing students for using their phones in class. I had a teaching assistant in the back of the room. And even though my students on average had higher SAT or ACT scores in 2015 than in 1986, and my classes were more demanding in the 1980s, the latter students did not do as well because they clearly were not used to taking demanding classes. They were used to be called outstanding.
Curious if it might be worth looking into whether there are particular aspects of the internet and social media, beyond the addictive engagement, that could help explain some of the effects on various groups. For example, the psychology of status. At face value social media seems to have taken the aspects of status that people feel in general, and teens feel acutely (reference John Hughes movies) and super-sized them. No longer do teens have to measure themselves against only their local peers at school - they have an entire world of online peers, and the heights and distribution of status seem dramatically greater as a result. Thinking about examples of "flexing" online, YouTubers making millions, stories of instagram models taking hundreds of pictures to get the "perfect" shot that gets posted. The curated lives and personas of teens' "peers" don't have the humbling checks of observable day-to-day life that may have been present in real life local circumstances pre-internet.
The effects on low status, low achieving groups from observing the curated hyper-status of online "peers" that far exceeds the normal distribution, and that is largely fabricated, may be worth investigating.
Prof Twenge, you’re one of my heroes. Thank you for all you do!!
Also, more time on the "smartphones" -> ever worsening focus & memory -> lesser ability to do the homework -> increased depression.
Thank you for this excellent article and detailed analysis. I will feature it on my radio spot (discussion news in education/family/homeschooling) next week as it emphasizes that we need to focus on the impact of social media on mental health rather than academic stress. Parents need support in helping their children step away from this candy-coated crack, see my article TikTok Brain Cure with Three Ingredients. https://schooloftheunconformed.substack.com/p/tiktok-brain-cure-with-three-ingredients
On a related note:
We homeschooled our children and my daughter is now in her first year of university studies. She observed that students spend an incessant amount of time complaining about the work they need to do but seem to spend comparatively little time actually studying.
Much of students' lives is spent on a screen for entertainment; yet most learning now also requires them to read, complete exercises, write, and study using screens. The constant pull to check messages, tweets, or some other pleasure kernel, must certainly scatter attention and leave students wallowing in a feeling of distraction rather than a sense of academic mastery.
Throw the phones away.
But in recent years, exponentially more young people are claiming trans identity, teen girls in particular. In surveys by the American College Health Association, the number of females embracing “non-binary” gender status soared from one in 2,000 in 2008 to 1 in 20 today. That’s an increase of 2,000 percent.
Why the sudden spike in gender confusion? Is “gender fluency” a latent adolescent psychological disorder undetected in previous generations? Has the human species evolved in a decade from dimorphic to multi-morphic?
This is so helpful. I just shared this with one of my students, in fact. Thanks so much!
Is there any work being done around the use of, frequency of, widespread availability of and thus the impact of catastrophic language describing climate phenomena that has the potential to promulgate fear and hopelessness? I am on board with the screen time hypothesis; there may be content of the screen time that harbors the seeds of teen depression.
Is it possible that young girls are more sensitive to the world around them that's the cause of the bump in depression. Between SM and the internet you can't help being exposed to:
Constant dissonance at so many levels
Maybe this barrage of chaos is playing a part in this bump.
IMHO, Replace "Mental Illness" with "B.A.D. moods" ... Replace CBT's "Mind Reading" with "Face Gaming"... where "B.A.D." is an acronym for "Brief Mood Survey especially Anxiety and Depression"... My Point: DISAMBIGUATION from incurable "Mental Illness"... IMHO. the only ( flimsy!) justification for Dr Beck using a phrase that lay people use TO MEAN SOMETHING ELSE... was to FORCE US TO DISAMBIGUATE FOREVER 😳😲👹...thus I've advocated to replace CBT's Mind Reading with Face Gaming (from Simon and Garfunkel's THEY'VE ALL COME TO LOOK FOR AMERICA). Since humans suck at empathy ( "... one of the most common causes of suicide --the therapist...")... lay use of the words Scientists measure is BS ( requiring us to DISAMBIGUATE FOREVER the scientific use of these words: anxiety depression anger empathy suicidality etc)
"brief mood survey"
"one of the most common causes of suicide --the therapist"
Thank you. There is a mental health crisis among teens & there seems to be no will to address this. Florida has chosen to exacerbate this epidemic by mandating the avoidance of gender identity & sexual orientation in the classroom, hiring unqualified teachers & banning books. DeSantis & other red state Governors have all but declared war on LGBTQ+ people & are criminalizing abortion. Some are even loosening up the rules for employment of minors. I can’t imagine that these draconian measures will help the situation.
And, in Congress, there are no mental health professionals to raise this issue on a daily basis. I’m hoping that your upcoming book will include some possible interventions to reduce this trend.
I can 100% tell you for a FACT it is not academic pressure. It is the social media responsible.
I was an international student in Canada, I went there in 2007 (feels like another universe now). In 2012 a year before my graduation 🎓, I started seeing the university change. They offered safe spaces, started giving students "more time" to complete assignments, they even started lowering grading standards. Focus on asking the students how they felt took priority and students were told that if they were depressed to seek mental help from a counsellor etc
None of these behaviours existed the first three years I was at that university and it has only exploded in the real world. 2012 was really the year it all changed. Jon Haidt's Atlantic article and Jon Ronson's "So You've Been Publicly Shamed" saved me and helped me realised I wasn't crazy.
In 2016, teens mental health really went off a cliff and social media played a huge part in this ESPECIALLY TIK TOK!!!
I have lived in so many places and I am currently living in Europe right now. North America kids are attached to their phones like it's an appendage. They are permanently online and the kind psychopathology that creates in not normal. Even the social media know this but they are motivated by profit. .
You're a low-key savage, Mr Haidt, and I appreciate both the low-keyness and the savageness.