The world is changing at a fast pace due to technology, which is making smartphones almost a must-have in today’s society. But this technology may have an unforeseen negative impact on the young generation, or as Dr. Jean Twenge calls them, the “iGen.” Dr. Jean Twenge has been studying generational differences for 25 years, and her research reveals some remarkable findings of the alarming impact on today’s kids who regularly use smartphones. Here is what parents need to know.
Who Are the iGen Kids
Dr. Twenge categorizes all those born from 1995 to 2012 in her iGen category. According to Dr. Twenge, this group has changed the most compared to other generations. This is primarily due to the fact that during this time more than 50 percent of Americans owned smartphones. Many in this generation also saw a Great Recession that lasted from 2007 until 2009.
Choosing to Stay Home
Dr. Twenge’s research revealed that the iGens are not going outdoors as past generations have done in their childhood. For example, the previous generation would regularly venture out to the mall or other public places to meet with their peers. However, this is often not the case for the iGens. Instead, these kids tend to limit outings to once-a-month excursions and would prefer to do their social gathering on the phone at home.
Change in Social Interaction
Smartphones have been around since the 90s and became popular around 2010, while social media took off in the early 2000s. In 2007, the iPhone came out and changed how smartphones were used. As a result, Americans were now able to quickly access social media on their phones. Other innovations followed, including the iPad. These new tools greatly impacted every household.
Vulnerable to Depression
Compared to millennials, this new generation is more vulnerable and more likely to suffer from depression. According to the study, there was a 50 percent increase in clinical depression among these kids from 2011–2015. The increase in depression also leads to a higher suicide rate. Unlike other generations, iGens must often face ongoing public criticism via social media sites, which can severely affect their self esteem and cause depression.
Feelings of Loneliness and Isolation
iGen teens and younger kids may feel particularly lonely or cut off from others due to the isolation that smartphones seem to cause for many. Since they are not physically socializing as much, they may rely on “likes” or comments to feel valued. If they don’t receive enough engagement on their social media channels, they can begin to feel isolated or left out. The smartphone gives the illusion that they are quickly able to connect with others but in reality, they can feel lonely.
Thanks in part to Dr. Twenge’s study, parents can now see how smartphones might be affecting their kids and the warning signs to look out for. Smartphones can be a great tool to help keep in touch with friends and family around the world, but the negative impact when kids rely on it for all of their social interaction is not healthy. Finally, Dr. Jean Twenge states if parents feel their child must use a smartphone at a young age, it is best to limit them to under two hours a day, as her study shows that such time limits don’t seem to have a negative effect.