The Teen Mental Illness Epidemic Began Around 2012.

Jonathan Haidt

By Jonathan Haidt

From the first time I wrote about Gen Z in 2015 (with Greg Lukianoff, in our essay “The Coddling of the American Mind”) through my most recent discussion in a December interview with Tunku Varadarajan in The Wall Street Journal, the main criticism I have heard is that I’m just another old man (I’m 59) shaking his fist and complaining about “kids these days,” when in fact “the kids are alright.” If that’s true, then the first half of my Babel project—on what social media did to childhood and to teen mental health—is fatally flawed. Is the criticism valid?

Two responses to that WSJ essay do us the favor of collecting quotations from previous generations complaining about the behavior of youth. First, see this Twitter thread from Paul Fairie, titled “A Brief History of Kids Today Are Spoiled.”

Fairie includes this 1925 gem: 

"Remove the girl or boy of today from radio, the telephone, furnace heat, the automobile, the libraries, movies, and other forms of amusement and comfort—give them merely a jackknife and nature’s unchanging wonders for amusement, and how would they fare?…Ennui would claim them for its own and…they would fare ill until returned to their accustomed habitat of convenience and plenty."

Read the full Persuasion article.
Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership.