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last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas.
What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior?
We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned.
Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear.
The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans.
The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.