In this week's column, Dr. Grauer shares excerpts from a study by noted psychologist Jean Twenge, covering breaking research on "smartphone" use—the most ironic name in technology history. Dr. Grauer's question, which might be yours after you read this column, is: Why aren't smartphones treated like a controlled substance?
(Excerpts from Research Study: "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?" —Jean M. Twenge, The Atlantic, September 2017)
"A lot of times I feel lonely." "I often feel left out of things." – Today's texting teens
Around 15 years ago, we first started seeing "computer addiction" at The Grauer School. I approached one parent and told her her son was addicted, and she must take the computer away. She said, "I can't, it's all he has. He needs it." I replied, "Would you give him heroin if you thought it was all he had? Take it away! He needs help." She refused, then a month later stormed into his room and smashed the computer beyond recognition. My question, which I think might be yours after you read the next 1000 words, is: Why aren't smartphones treated like a controlled substance?
Below, I am sharing the new article from noted psychologist Jean Twenge, which covers breaking research on "smartphone" use—the most ironic name in technology history. I have picked the most important excerpts. Please spend some time with these quotes. Pick one for dinner talk. Facebook one. Sit with one. Send me your favorite one. Ask your child about one. These findings are both groundbreaking and obvious at once. And after you are done, ask yourself, what will you do?
"She'd spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone."
"Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it."
"What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior? It was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent."
"A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone. ... The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers' lives. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone."
"More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today's teens are physically safer than teens have ever been. Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones."
"The twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we've not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we've placed in young people's hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy."
"Today's teens are less likely to leave the house without their parents. The shift is stunning: 12th-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eighth-graders did as recently as 2009."
"About 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; for Boomers and Gen Xers, the number was about 85 percent."
"Putting off the responsibilities of adulthood: In the late 1970s, 77 percent of high-school seniors worked for pay during the school year; by the mid-2010s, only 55 percent did."
"Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school."
"Athena, one typical student surveyed, said she spent much of her summer keeping up with friends, but nearly all of it was over text or Snapchat. 'I've been on my phone more than I've been with actual people,' she said. 'My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.'"
"Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy. There's not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness."
"If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence based on this survey, it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen."
"Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation. Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements "A lot of times I feel lonely," "I often feel left out of things.""
"Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly."
"Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide."
"For all their power to link kids day and night, social media also exacerbate the age-old teen concern about being left out. Today's teens may go to fewer parties and spend less time together in person, but when they do congregate, they document their hangouts relentlessly—on Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. Those not invited to come along are keenly aware of it."
"The number of teens who feel left out has reached all-time highs across age groups: Forty-eight percent more girls said they often felt left out in 2015 than in 2010, compared with 27 percent more boys."
"A recently leaked Facebook document indicated that the company had been touting to advertisers its ability to determine teens' emotional state based on their on-site behavior."
"Why would anyone sleep with her phone beside her in bed?"
"The smartphone is cutting into teens' sleep: Many now sleep less than seven hours most nights. Sleep experts say that teens should get about nine hours of sleep a night; a teen who is getting less than seven hours a night is significantly sleep deprived. Fifty-seven percent more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991. In just the four years from 2012 to 2015, 22 percent more teens failed to get seven hours of sleep."
"Electronic devices and social media seem to have an especially strong ability to disrupt sleep. Teens who read books and magazines more often than the average are actually slightly less likely to be sleep deprived."
"The correlations between depression and smartphone use are strong enough to suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phone."
"Adolescence is a key time for developing social skills; as teens spend less time with their friends face-to-face, they have fewer opportunities to practice them."
"Significant effects on both mental health and sleep time appear after two or more hours a day on electronic devices. The average teen spends about two and a half hours a day on electronic devices. Some mild boundary-setting could keep kids from falling into harmful habits."
"'What does that feel like, when you're trying to talk to somebody face-to-face and they're not looking at you?' I asked."
Get outside! August 4, Kenai River
PARENTS: Our world is filled with astonishing beauty, sweet air to breathe, and warm companionship to cherish. Our daily gratitude for and engagement with all this is a legacy we leave our children. -- Stuart