Intuitively, every parent knows it’s true: smartphones have changed the world for our kids, and not always for the better.
What can we do to guide our kids through it when we lack any historical precedent, and our kids are forced to participate or be left out?
Not to mention how many adults have also grown accustomed to smartphones as constant companions and conduits for work and entertainment.
Of course, smartphones, hyper-speed internet, streaming video, and the ubiquity of devices have given us and our kids tremendous advantages. It’s doubtful any of us would want to turn back time, despite how nostalgic we might feel for the simplicity of our lives before the internet and smartphones.
The advantages of communication, healthcare, access to information, and connection to a global economy are assets that are here to stay for good.
So what if we explored our intuition a bit more and looked further into the data about how smartphones are impacting our kids?
As Dr. Jean Twenge reports in her book, 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, “teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”
Happiness isn’t everything, but that’s just the start. Twenge goes on with her research: “screen activities are linked to more loneliness, and nonscreen activities are linked to less loneliness.”
Kids these days spend less time per week in social interactions or just hanging out with friends. When they do spend time together, they’re often distracted by their own smartphones.
There’s a correlation between social media use and depression, as well (perhaps no surprise to you). Twenge writes, “the teens who are the most active on social media are also those who are most in danger of developing depression, a mental health issue that devastates millions of US teens each year.” She continues, “depression is not just a sad mood: if it leads someone to contemplate suicide it can be physically dangerous as well.”
We share these alarming stats not to scare you or create more anxiety but in hopes that we’ll all become better informed, more cautious, and more judicious in how we monitor the screen time activities of our kids.
What we model to them matters, and the guardrails we put in place for them will give them a greater opportunity to flourish into adulthood.