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Why is Oprah talking about “The Anxious Generation”?

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Read Time: 2 minutes

“Phones are experience blockers,” says Let Grow co-founder, Jon Haidt. A lot of people are listening to him, including Oprah. On a recent Oprah Daily interview, he shared compelling evidence that social media and smart phones are taking over the lives of adolescents and teens. In fact, they are spending 8-9 hours a day on social media. That’s why he is calling for “more independence, responsibility, and free play” in real life.

Remember when “in real life” was….well….life?

Many of today’s teens haven’t had experiences that used to be typical during high school. They are missing things like getting a driver’s license, filling out job applications, household chores, or managing money. University professors and employers have long been lamenting a lack of life skills, confidence, and resilience in high school graduates. In fact, that concern had a large part of the founding of Let Grow.

Our school program, The Let Grow Experience, was originally designed for K-8th grade students, using a simple homework assignment to do something new without adult help. But it can be hard for parents to step back, so the monthly assignment gives a little extra reminder that kids need to experience things, even struggle, on their own. The impact is powerful, as the kids at Ortwein Elementary School explain in this video. Independence, responsibility, and lots of play can help vaccinate them against anxiety, and naturally provide alternatives more appealing than scrolling social media.

How can we get teens to have more IRL experiences and build their independence?

We heard that from so many school counselors at the American School Counselor Association’s conference last summer. Could we make a version of our independence-building curriculum for teens and tweens? So we did! We had input from high school teachers, counselors, parents, and a few teenagers and created a version for 8th-12th grade students. Our new Independence Inventory helps families identify common activities most teens should have to help them prepare for life on their own.

It’s not just about taking care of themselves or knowing how to handle a power outage. Social experiences, getting around, and collaborating with others are also on the list, like

Plan an outing with friends and use public transportation to get to your destination.

You don’t have to wait for your school to start Let Grow. We have Family Editions of The Let Grow Experience for K-8th, and The Independence Inventory for 8th-12th. They’re free and we’ll send the links to download them. Just Join Let Grow and then check your email inbox. And if you’re a fan, check out Jon Haidt on Oprah Daily.

Dr Becky Zz 240430 03 11372e
Eli Schmidt / Oprah Daily


  1. CaryCary says:

    I’ll never forget saving wages from my part-time job, when I was fifteen, to pay $75.00 for my first car, an old Studebaker with a manual transmission. Not only that, but the hours my best friend and I spent teaching ourselves how to change the oil and spark plugs, set the timing, replace a burned out tail light bulb, etc. The day–my sixteenth birthday–when an older friend took me to the DMV to get my license was the opening of a new world of freedom, when I could range tens of miles from home, or even hundreds, beyond anyplace I had been on foot or my bicycle.

    By the way, social media time wasting isn’t just a problem for adolescents and teens. It also afflicts children and kids, adults and grownups, as well as the elderly and old people. Only infants and babies seem to be free from overuse of “smart” phones.