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Smartphones and Kids

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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Jean Twenge has been researching generational differences for a quarter-century. But she noticed in 2012 abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. Up until that time, there were gentle slopes of line graphs. Suddenly they became steep mountains and sheer cliffs. That year is when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent.

Her article in The Atlantic asks the ominous question: “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The generation she is thinking about would be the trailing edge of the millennial generation (born between 1995 and 2012). She calls them iGen because the smartphone and social media have shaped their lives.

Psychologically they are more emotionally vulnerable than the leading-edge millennials. “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

A national survey of seniors found that “Teens who spend more time than average on-screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.” Jean Twenge says, “There’s not a single exception.” She says the advice she would give to a teenager based on this survey is: “Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do anything that does not involve a screen.”

Of course, we don’t have to look at these dismal statistics and just lament. Her article and research should be a call to action for parents and grandparents. They are the ones buying these devices, so they need to reevaluate the potential dangers to their children and grandchildren.viewpoints new web version

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