The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness

Written by:
Jonathan Haidt
Narrated by:
Jonathan Haidt , Sean Pratt

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date
March 2024
10 hours 32 minutes
THE INSTANT #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A must-read for all parents: the generation-defining investigation into the collapse of youth mental health in the era of smartphones, social media, and big tech—and a plan for a healthier, freer childhood.

“Erudite, engaging, combative, crusading.” —New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“Words that chill the parental heart… thanks to Mr. Haidt, we can glimpse the true horror of what happened not only in the U.S. but also elsewhere in the English-speaking world… lucid, memorable… galvanizing.” —Wall Street Journal

“[An] important new book... The shift in kids’ energy and attention from the physical world to the virtual one, Haidt shows, has been catastrophic, especially for girls.” —Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times

After more than a decade of stability or improvement, the mental health of adolescents plunged in the early 2010s. Rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide rose sharply, more than doubling on many measures. Why?

In The Anxious Generation, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt lays out the facts about the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time. He then investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults. Haidt shows how the “play-based childhood” began to decline in the 1980s, and how it was finally wiped out by the arrival of the “phone-based childhood” in the early 2010s. He presents more than a dozen mechanisms by which this “great rewiring of childhood” has interfered with children’s social and neurological development, covering everything from sleep deprivation to attention fragmentation, addiction, loneliness, social contagion, social comparison, and perfectionism. He explains why social media damages girls more than boys and why boys have been withdrawing from the real world into the virtual world, with disastrous consequences for themselves, their families, and their societies.

Most important, Haidt issues a clear call to action. He diagnoses the “collective action problems” that trap us, and then proposes four simple rules that might set us free. He describes steps that parents, teachers, schools, tech companies, and governments can take to end the epidemic of mental illness and restore a more humane childhood.

Haidt has spent his career speaking truth backed by data in the most difficult landscapes—communities polarized by politics and religion, campuses battling culture wars, and now the public health emergency faced by Gen Z. We cannot afford to ignore his findings about protecting our children—and ourselves—from the psychological damage of a phone-based life.
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Amazingly researched and presented data! This book needs to be read by anyone and everyone to help push for positive change for humanity. This book clearly identifies one of the biggest issues society, particularly western society, is facing. Hollywood and fiction writers have had much success in portraying "A Zombie Apocalypse's" of a human created, world/human ending nature, yet humans are literally living a zombie like world, constantly 'connected' and blissfully unaware of the destruction this is causing not only to the planet as a whole, but to every individuals health and well being. Its time to unplug, wake up and literally smell the roses, get back to the basics of living in harmony with nature, instead of becoming a Cybernetic organism or Bot.

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Great research and sensible solutions.

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Jack B.

Absolute must read for parents with children 18 and under. A slap in the face about how we’re abusing our own children.

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