Are the boys okay?

Teenage pregnancy, smoking, accidents due to driving under the influence of alcohol.

A few decades ago, those were the biggest risks facing boys and girls in America and, to some extent, everywhere.

But today’s world is different and the social and emotional lives of children have changed dramatically. Today’s teenagers were born plugged into the Internet and live with a phone in hand. They reach puberty at an earlier age than previous generations. Dazzled by the screens, they sleep little and badly. And, after two years of the pandemic, millions of them are experiencing profound loneliness.

“Boys experience these stressors before their coping mechanisms are mature enough to handle them,” explains Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology. And he adds that it’s like “having full throttle before you have a good brake system.”

intimate pandemic is a new series from The Times that explores the great crisis afflicting America’s teens, a situation one young man describes: “I would describe my mental health in high school as walking a tightrope: unstable, unbalanced, never felt well really”.

Many young people receive information about the dangers of drunk driving and methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but they do not have clear guidelines to identify an anxiety attack or to deal with depression, compulsive behaviors and suicidal ideation . Between 2001 and 2019, the suicide rate for Americans ages 10 to 19 soared 40 percent, and ER visits for self-harm increased 88 percent.

“This spike in tension has raised controversial questions,” writes Times reporter Matt Richtel. “Are those problems inherent in adolescence and were they just going unnoticed before, or are they now being overdiagnosed?”

The father of one of the young women consulted for the report is a clinical psychologist. At one point, her teenage daughter attempted suicide four times in the course of a month. Allen relates that, as a professional, he is used to treating cases of depression. “But the sheer terror of feeling that your child may not be okay is a form of understanding that can only be gained through personal experience.”

intimate pandemic helps to immerse yourself in those experiences in the words of its protagonists. The work of Matt, who spent more than a year speaking with young people and their families, as well as with experts from different disciplines, is a vivid portrait of the difficulties that thousands of young people go through and the anxiety of their families, who do not always tell with the right tools to help them. Here you can read the full report, which is accompanied by a guide to help parents and an explanation of how he approached the story.

“I heard pain, confusion and a desperate search for answers,” says Matt about his report (here you can read more about the challenges of this journalistic work). But, he says, the boys and their parents told him that speaking up was another way of understanding and also, perhaps, of helping those who are going through a similar situation.

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In 1992, after the cops who beat up Rodney King were acquitted, the city of Los Angeles, California, erupted in riots. The violence, says the most recent edition of The New York Times Magazine, “lasted a week but its causes went back years.” The special includes texts by Myriam Gurba, Héctor Tobar and Walter Thompson-Hernández.

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Are the boys okay?