The New York TimesThe New York Times

A Teen's Journey Into the Internet's Darkness and Back Again

By Matt Richtel

22 Aug 2022 · 11 min read

Editor's Note

What is behind the steep decline in adolescent mental health? The NYT provides a balanced look at the troubles faced by one teen, and comes up with some likely answers.

Puberty hit C early — in the fourth grade — and hard: acne, breasts, attention, humiliation. C found refuge in the internet.

Every night, often well past midnight, C lay in bed with an iPod Touch they received from their grandparents as a 10th birthday gift. (C, who is being identified by their first initial for privacy reasons, is gender nonbinary and takes the pronoun “they.”) On the new device, C made friends on social media and uploaded selfies. Viewers posted compliments on a photo of C standing in an orchard, holding an apple and “looking like a full adult,” C said.

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