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How Smartphones Are Rewiring Our Brains, Why Social Media is Eradicating Childhood & The Truth About The Mental Health Epidemic with Jonathan Haidt

by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee   /  May 29, 2024

Today’s episode is about a topic that I am truly passionate about – the introduction of social media and smartphones into all aspects of our lives – and what impact this is having on us individually, collectively and, perhaps most urgently, what impact is this having on our children.

Jonathan Haidt is arguably one of the worlds’ most eminent psychologists. He is a Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business and the author of 4 best-selling books, including his latest ‘The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness’.  

In this episode, Jonathan and I explore how the fundamental differences between online and real-world interactions are affecting young people’s social, emotional and cognitive development. We discuss why girls face unique risks on social media, from damaged relationships and reputations to harassment, and how gaming and pornography are shaping boys’ expectations of relationships.

Jonathan also shares some eye-opening data about the link between a decline in teen mental health and the widespread adoption of smartphones and social media. He emphasises the need for collective action to create healthier norms around technology use, both at home and in schools.

We dive into practical strategies for parents, including setting clear boundaries and prioritising hobbies and family time. Our conversation also touches on the challenges of navigating technology use in a world where the pace of change has been so fast.

Jonathan remains optimistic that we’re nearing a tipping point and outlines four key norms we can all adopt with our children—even if they’re already dependent on their phones throughout the day. We also discuss in detail what we believe schools could be doing to help their students have less screen time and the importance of collaborating with other families to support healthier habits.

As a parent and a doctor, I’m deeply concerned about the mental health crisis facing our children and young people. But if, as a society, we can come together to raise awareness and take purposeful action, we can create a healthier future for the next generation.

I think this is one of the most important conversations that I have ever had on my podcast.

Jonathan and I both believe that the rewiring of our children’s brains to be one of the most urgent societal harms that needs addressing.  My hope is that you find this conversation eye opening, enlightening and thought provoking – and I very much hope it prompts you to take action.

Disclaimer: The content in the podcast and on this webpage is not intended to constitute or be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.*

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*DISCLAIMER: Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.

†Disclosure: All books marked with a † are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We take part in Amazon’s affiliate advertising program designed to provide a way for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon’s website. You are not charged any extra by using these links to purchase books.

Dr. Rangan Chatterjee MbChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP