Between 2014 and 2021, the national homicide rate for 15- to 19-year-olds increased by 91%. But as Alec McGillis reports in this co-published feature, something has fundamentally changed even beyond that staggering statistic—and the adults who try to defuse youth violence find it nearly impossible to stop.

Smartphones and social platforms existed long before the homicide spike; they are obviously not its singular cause. But considering the recent past, it’s not hard to see why social media might be a newly potent driver of violence. When the pandemic led officials to close civic hubs such as schools, libraries and rec centers for more than a year, people — especially young people — ­were pushed even further into virtual space. Much has been said about the possible links between heavy social media use and mental health problems and suicide among teenagers. Now Timpson and other violence prevention workers are carrying that concern to the logical next step. If social media plays a role in the rising tendency of young people to harm themselves, could it also be playing a role when they harm others?