Smartphones and Generations

Recently I read an article “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?” by Jean Twenge. An overview of some recent generational studies of the “iGen”, the generation born between 1995 and 2012, has revealed some interesting facts.  Some pretty good, like this generation of teenagers are more safe than those in the past or that the rates of teenage pregnancy is down.  Other facts are a little more startling.  It seems the iGen is less likely to spend time with others, are more depressed, and have higher rates of suicidal thoughts and plans.

Twenge states that this age group is a “lonely, dislocated generation”.  In the article, the teenagers are framed as still having the age-old issues of fitting in with others.  Even though the teens are not spending as much time together, the relentless documentation of their engagement in the outside world when they do venture out feeds the lonely feelings of those being left out. These factors, along with some others, are increasing depression within teens. It makes me sad to think about all of these youths who are missing out on living because they are mostly interacting with their electronic versions of their friends.

As I am preparing some lessons on teaching middle and late childhood development to master’s level counseling students, I recognize that many of these students have some similarities to the iGen.  Not in the higher depression or other factors, but have stronger ties to the internet and living in a more connected method.  Even with a broader age range of students at the graduate school level, there is still a big way we document our lives.

Perhaps previous generations who have walked along side the birth and rise of the internet and social media have gained some skills in balance.  Maybe not…as I can say that many from Generation X (my peeps), Gen Y, and the Millennials have felt the twinges of not being able to “keep up with Jones”.  Postings of outings, things being accomplished, and hashtags of our lives can still leave some adults feeling inadequate.  There is that feeling of some unknown pressure to do all of these super-cool things; to balance life, work, home, family, and social with ease and elegance.  Possibly, we have more willpower to be able to step away from the computer screen or put down the phone and interact with each other.

Ironically, I type all of this on my computer screen and will probably check in on social media before I go to bed.  Fortunately, I can say that I smell my dinner being cooked and I will have interaction with others during dinner.  I value the human interaction without the distractions of electronics.  I leave with one thought and a plea – if you are able, try to unplug and interact.  Not only just for you, but for those around you.  Do not be afraid to connect in real ways, rather than just virtual ways.

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