Mrs Chilton
Head of Student Wellbeing

Does social media cause anxiety?

This question forms a central theme of Dr Jonathan Haidt’s new book The Anxious Generation, which has quickly become essential reading for parents and teachers as we continue to wrestle with the impact of technology on the development of young people.

While there are wonderful aspects of technology, Haidt unpacks research that shows the impact of continuous internet access on teens, drawing them away from the “real world” to the “virtual world”:

“We ended up overprotecting children in the real world while underprotecting them in the virtual world.”

The biggest impact of this outcome, Haidt claims, is that it harms teens’ ability to develop positive relationships and experience and navigate challenges. Four key strategies are suggested in this book to ‘turn the tide’ on the impact of technology on young people:

  • No phones before high school
  • No (or tightly monitored) social media before sixteen
  • Phone-free schools
  • More time for independent, unsupervised play (ideally) outdoors with other children/peers.

As the cadets head off for their Annual Field Exercise (AFX) this week, I am reminded of what a valuable opportunity this is for the girls to connect with one another and face challenges together, in nature, away from their screens.

As we head into the school holiday period it is important that the girls spend time connecting with their friends. Sometimes this might be online; we know that social media is a place where girls share jokes, learn, and can be creative and stay connected. But it is very important that they also experience real-world connections these holidays with their friends and family, and experience the world around them. This will help them to come back in Term 2 refreshed and ready to learn.

It can be easy to feel the ship has sailed on smartphones and social media. While we know it will be a part of the girls’ lives, The Anxious Generation has reminded me that we can and must take control and place limits on their use of technology. It is imperative for the health and wellbeing of our young people.

If you feel your daughter is too attached to her device or her interactions online and is struggling to enjoy real-world relationships and experiences, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with her Year Coordinator or myself to assist you in developing strategies to support her.