The graph here come from the post The new CDC report shows that Covid added little to teen mental health trends by Jon Haidt (2/16/2023). His thoughts on this graph:
Here you can see a clear covid effect from 2019 to 2020, for all of the age groups who are 25 and older. You can see how the lines bend downward between 2019 and 2020. But look closely at the line for the youngest group, ages 15-24, in blue. This age group used to spend 2 hours a day hanging out with friends because these are teens and young adults. Most are students, few are married. So 2 hours a day with friends was the norm right up to the time when teens traded in their flip phones for smartphones, in the early 2010s. Once they did that, they moved their social lives onto a few large social media platforms, especially Instagram, Snapchat, and later Tiktok. They were spending vastly more time online, even when they were in the same room as their friends, which meant that they had far less time for each other (in face-to-face interaction or physical play).
I suggest that this is why the effect of covid restrictions on teen mental health was not very large: Gen Z’s in-person social lives were decimated by technology in the 2010s. They were already socially distanced when Covid arrived.
Those of us in education are aware of the challenges teens face with the blame largely put on Covid. Read Jon’s article as he makes a strong case that it isn’t Covid but trends that have been in play for a decade.