Jonathan Haidt with Tristan Harris: The Anxious Generation and the Epidemic of Childhood Mental Illness

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 most 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 investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults. Haidt says the “play-based childhood” began to decline in the 1980s, and 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 offers a clear call to action. Join us as 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.


This program is supported by the Ken & Jaclyn Broad Family Fund and the Center for Humane Technology.

Photo courtesy of speaker.

Image - Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt

Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, New York University’s Stern School of Business; Author, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness; X @JonHaidt

Image - Tristan Harris

In Conversation with Tristan Harris

Co-founder and Executive Director, Center for Humane Technology; X @tristanharris