Saturday, 30 March 2024 11:32

Smartphones and Social Media - How Do They Affect the Mental Health of the Youth?

Smartphones and Social Media - How Do They Affect the Mental Health of the Youth? pixabay

The debate on the impact of smartphones and social media on the younger generation is gaining momentum. On one hand, we observe a rise in the popularity of anti-smartphone movements and initiatives aimed at limiting access to these technologies for the youngest users. On the other hand, voices are emerging that recognize the potential positive impact of these tools on personal and social development. At the center of this debate are two new books presenting radically different views on the subject.

The Many Faces of Screens

Jonathan Haidt, in his latest publication "The Anxious Generation," argues that smartphones and social media are the main reasons for the decline in mental health observed among the youth since the early 2010s. According to Haidt, a pivotal moment was Apple's introduction of the first front-facing camera and the launch of Instagram, which transformed childhood, made it always available online, and contributed to the increase in anxiety, depression, and self-harm, especially among young girls. Haidt also points to a culture of "safetyism," which, instead of free play, promotes excessive protection and limits the natural development of children.

A Completely Different Perspective

Pete Etchells presents a totally different perspective in his book "Unlocked: The Real Science of Screen Time." Etchells approaches the topic more cautiously, emphasizing that the existing scientific literature on screen time and its impact on mental health is too complex and ambiguous to draw hasty conclusions. According to him, better research is needed to understand how different forms of screen time affect our lives.

Seeking a Middle Ground

Although based on different assumptions, both books encourage reflection on our relationship with technology. Haidt calls for radical changes and restrictions, believing they are necessary to protect the mental health of the youth. Etchells, on the other hand, encourages a more balanced approach that takes into account individual needs and circumstances.

Against the backdrop of these discussions, a question about the future of our society and the role that smartphones and social media play in it arises. Is it possible to find a balance that allows young people to benefit from technology while protecting them from potential threats? Answering this question will require joint efforts from scientists, parents, educators, and the young people themselves, ready for open dialogue and collaboration towards a healthier future.

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