This weekend I was telling my daughter a funny story about when I was in high school. The last bell had rung and my friends and I were walking to the car. One of them had brought a fake cell phone to school so we jumped in the car and decided to slowly drive around the parking lot with the windows down. Louder than normal we pretended to talk, “Oh, my gosh! Ya, like totally!” We all thought the ”black brick” phone was the coolest thing ever!
Technology has made leaps and bounds since then and so many wonderful things have made communication fast, easy and fun. But could we even have imagined how it would negatively affect our children? It’s interesting to look back at the release of the first iPhone in June 2007 and see what’s happened to this generation…
Socially — Access to constant communication and excessive screentime is affecting their social skills. While cellphones are meant to connect us with each other, it’s having the opposite effect as healthy, parent-child relationships are decreasing. Kids today have fewer face-to-face conversations and find it harder to make and keep friends. Anxiety and ADHD are two of the most common mental health disorders for kids. Empathy for others is down, and with 24/7 access to social media, the playground bully is now a virtual, constant companion sitting in their back pockets.
Physically — Ubiquitous digital communication is causing children to be chronically sleep deprived, which influences poor mental health. Motivation and engagement have drastically decreased and childhood obesity is at an all-time high with kids choosing screentime over physical activity.
Mentally — Social media is causing children to have more stress, depression, low self-esteem and peer comparison. Phone addiction is considered equally addictive as drugs and alcohol and is now a mental health disorder, with smartphone addiction therapy groups popping up all over the country. And the saddest statistic of all is that suicide rates among tweens and teens have more than doubled in the United States since 2007. While the epidemic of anxiety, depression, and suicide among young people is surely a complex issue, research—and common sense—bear out a link between premature immersion in technology and the isolation and detachment that lead to what is called “deaths of despair.”
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that despite all the goodness technology offers, it has created this epidemic for our children. If you’re like me, it feels like it’s out of control and there’s not a way to get a handle on it. Fortunately, I found some hope on the horizon this weekend!
After my daughter thought my high school cellphone story was so lame, it sparked an interesting conversation. She told me there’s a 15-year-old neighbor who still doesn’t have a cellphone—let alone a smartphone—and she thought how hard it must be because everyone has one. Then she said, “Actually, Mom, she’s kind of lucky because smartphones are so stressful!” This wasn’t the first time I had heard her say this. Knowing I was going to be writing this post I asked, “Are you going to let your kids have smartphones when they’re that age?” Without any hesitation, she said, “No way!”
This totally surprised me, but her simple comment gave me a glimpse of hope that this generation struggling with problems right and left from the overconsumption of tech is actually aware of its dangers. I’m optimistic they are going use the challenges they’re facing today and provide their kids with a safer technological environment to grow up in. They’re going to be the generation to make positive changes that are so desperately needed. Our grandkids are going to be in good hands.