The “super-connected,” smartphone-addicted teens of “iGen” are lonely and unhappy, writes Jean M. Twenge in The Atlantic. “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011,” tracking the spread of smartphones and social media. The kids are not alright.
Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State, has studied generational differences for 25 years, she writes. Around 2012, she noticed stark changes between Millennials and what she calls iGen.
Today’s teens are waiting longer to assert their independence, Twenge reports. They go out less. They’re less eager to get a driver’s license or a paying job.
Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school. Compared to Gen Xers, iGen kids have more leisure time, writes Twenge. They spend it “on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed.”
“I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” 13-year-old Athena told Twenge. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.”
Connecting with friends online isn’t the same as interacting with people in person.
“The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression,” writes Twenge citing a national survey.
Smartphone addiction also leads to sleep deprivation. Nearly all her San Diego State students tell her they sleep with their phones within reach. Some say that if they wake up in the middle of the night, they check their phones.
Twenge is the author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us.
Parents can restrict kids’ smartphone use, writes John Ellis. They might not like it. So what?
Suicide rates have spiked for middle-school students. Common Core standards are to blame, at least in part, charges Steve Singer in the Huffington Post. That’s “reprehensible” nonsense, counters Erika Sanzi.