How have smartphones affected generations that grew up on social media and text messages? Generations before spent time with friends at the mall, riding a bike outside, at the roller rink or in parks. Are there any differences between the wired generation from those that came before them?
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I remember my parents dropping me off at the roller rink on a Friday or Saturday night at the age of eight or nine. My mom would pull up to the door and shove 25 cents in my hand and tell me to call when I was ready to be picked up. I’d just barely catch her telling me she loved me and to be safe as I raced for the door and sweet, sweet freedom! I’d shove the quarter in the little pocket of my jeans, so I wouldn’t lose it, as the sound of Vanilla Ice welcomed me over the speakers and the smell of sweat attacked my nostrils. Over the years it became the location where the first boy held my hand and where I got my first kiss.
Today’s youth is growing up differently. Neither of my daughters’ childhoods reflects the way that I grew up, though I’ve tried to give them the opportunities. They don’t ask to be driven to the mall or the movie theater half as much as I did at their age and seem content to stay home on their phones. The roller rink has long since closed its doors and a tanning salon has taken its place. My evenings as a youth involved biking or wandering around the neighborhood teasing boys or discussing my latest crush with my girlfriends. I rarely see my own children hanging out with their friends and I often must convince them to go outside for a walk.
It seems that smartphones have had an influence on nearly every aspect of my children’s’ youth. I’m not even sure that they know any of the kids that live around us. They prefer to spend time in their rooms alone; on the internet, social media, texting or video chatting with a friend than to meet them in person. They have had far fewer sleepovers than me and rarely engaged in birthday celebrations past the age of ten. I notice that the younger generation seems far more introverted than mine and have far more social anxiety. I have witnessed my eighteen years old have an anxiety attack over having to call and place a food order over the phone and avoids answering the door when it arrives. She didn’t want to learn to ride a bike until she was eleven and had to be convinced to get her driver’s license. A rite of passage I couldn’t wait to achieve.
To their advantage, I will say that my children’s generation seems to be less interested in alcohol, drugs, and sex than my generation was. But what are the statistics? Recent studies have suggested a correlation between the increase of cellphones in adolescents with lower participation in previously popular social activities. According to social psychologist Jean Twenge’s article for The Atlantic, loneliness, depression, and anxiety have increased since 2012. Children whose adolescence have included increased usage of smartphones seem to be more sheltered and less independent than previous generations.
According to Twenge’s research, twelfth graders today spend less time out of the house without their parents than eighth graders did in 2009. For Baby Boomers and Generation X, 85 percent were dating as a senior while a mere 56 percent high school seniors admitted to dating in 2015. Between 2000 and 2015 the number of teens who spent time, daily, with friends has dropped by 40 percent.
As a parent, I’ve noticed a significant difference between my children’s adolescence and my own. Times have changed, and technology has given us an edge over how we work, communicate and learn, but it has also had an impact on how the youngest in our society grow up.