When I was growing up, 16 families including mine shared the same phone line. It was rare when I could talk to a friend. When could, I couldn’t go to my room to talk in private because the phone was connected by a cord to the outlet. It is much different today. Teens have phones in their pockets and can have private conversations anytime and anywhere.
Teens Prefer to Be Alone than with Friends
The Atlantic published an article about the isolating effects of technology. Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen, interviewed a 13-year-old girl about her cell phone usage. She reported that instead of being with friends, they preferred being alone in their rooms using Snapchat and other apps to communicate with and in some cases blackmail each other. The teen stated: “ I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.” She added, “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,”
Excessive Cell Phone Usage Leads to
Unhappiness & Depression
Studies overwhelmingly reveal the more time teens spend on cell phones, Instagraming, Snapchatting and Facebooking the more unhappy they are, and the less time they spend in these activities, the happier they are.
This depression increased dramatically when more than 50% of America owned cell phones. Since then the amount of “boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent . . . while girls’ increased by 50 percent—more than twice as much.”
One distressing warning is “Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.”
Increase Fear & Anxiety
Social media has other disturbing side effects. When not connected, some teens experience more fear as well as judgment worrying if their latest post was liked. Two of the greatest human fears are not being enough and being excluded. It is easy to see how these are intensified when someone’s photo or post has been ignored. I admit that I’ve felt this way when my posts were overlooked—it’s like I’m being passed over or don’t measure up.
Another side effect is that teens are missing out on sleep because many sleep with their phones. Some report that it gives them a sense of security. Often cell phones are the last thing they see at night and the first thing they see in the morning. Studies point out that teens who spend three or more hours a day talking, texting, posting and gaming sleep less than those who spend less than three hours a day. Sleep deprivations leads to more problems than just depression and anxiety. It includes “compromised thinking and reasoning, susceptibility to illness, weight gain, and high blood pressure.”
Loss of Self
Have you noticed that while you are scrolling you are not creating or contributing. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “When you cease to make contribution, you begin to die.” Today’s youth is one of the most talented generations with access to more knowledge that any before it. I wonder if their time and talents are being wasted as they sit alone in their rooms texting each other and creating electronic alliances and battling electronic enemies.
Lack Vital Social Skills
Rachel Ehmke points out another concern. Teens who spend their time communicating through texts are not learning how to communicate face to face.
It is much less intimidating to communicate through emojis, abbreviations and acronyms than to talk with someone face to face. Texting doesn’t allow teens to express their thoughts and feelings, see others’ immediate responses, and resolve disagreements. It doesn’t allow them to make friends and maintain friendships. All of these are far riskier to do in person and are important social skills needed when they leave home and move into the work force.
Not learning these skills will only increase their anxiety as they move into adulthood and life becomes more complicated.
I wonder if avoiding challenges as teenagers will decrease their desire and ability to face them as adults.
Anonymity Leads to Cruelty
As the world becomes more and more anonymous, it becomes more and more uncivil and vicious. Social media allows teens to namelessly hurtle abuse at others and never see the consequences or be held accountable.
Think about it, relationships and accountability help keep our world functioning. If people didn’t have to be responsible for their actions how many would be?
Anonymity is destroying relationships and undermining accountability.
Our Kid’s Future
Don’t we want our kids to live in a functioning world?
Then it’s time we parent up–it will be painful, but I promise it will be less now than later–and set boundaries on technology to reconnect with them.
Next time you eat out with your family, notice how many people in the restaurant are ignoring each other and focused on their phones. Then post your results.