We are in an age of technology, we spend extended time on our smartphones and other devices. Whether you are trying to research for work or school, keeping up with family and friends on social media or for other reasons, your smartphone is always with you and in use.
The above fact has prompted a San Diego State University psychology professor, Jean Twenge, to carry out a research work. Let us now see what her findings were and what we can learn from it.
Jean Twenge calls our generation the “iGen”, and she sees smartphones and social media as raising an unhappy, compliant generation.
The iGen according to her is the generation born in 1995 and later, and they’re the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. They spend a lot more time online, on social media and playing games, and they spend less time on non-screen activities like reading books, sleeping or seeing their friends in face-to-face interactions.
The effects of this routine are that,
Those children are growing up more slowly. By the age of 18, they are less likely to have a driver’s license, to work in a paying job, to go out on dates, to drink alcohol or to go out without their parents, compared to teens in previous generations.
When asked about her findings after carrying out her research on the behavior and health of millions of teenagers, she shared her result,
“Around 2011 and 2012, I started to see more sudden changes to teens, like big increases of teens, feeling lonely or left out, or that they could not do anything right, that their life was not useful, which are classic symptoms of depression.”
“Depressive symptoms have climbed 60 percent in just five years, with rates of self-harm like cutting (themselves) that have doubled or even tripled in girls. Teen suicide has doubled in a few years.”
“Right at the time when smartphones became common, those mental health issues started to show up. That change in how teens spend their time is so fundamental for mental health. We know, from decades of research, that getting enough sleep and seeing friends in person is a good recipe for mental health and that staring at a screen for many hours a day is not.”
After discovering all of this, she shares some suggestions with parents,
“Many of the things on which happiness and mental health depend are now under our control. We cannot change the genes we were born with and we are not going to solve poverty overnight, but we can control how we spend our leisure time and we can help our children do the same.”
“So sure, use social media to stay in touch with friends, help plan things, and watch a little bit of video but keep it under that two-hour limit for 13- to 18-year-olds. Then you get all the benefits of social media and this technology without the big downside of it.”
“If you feel your child needs a phone, say for getting back and forth to school, you can get them a “dumb” phone that does not have internet and all the temptations of a smartphone.”