They’re part of another group we could call “hyperconnected young people.” Jean Twenge, doctor of psychology and professor at San Diego State University, just published a study about it.
She surveyed 11 million young people in the US and also conducted some in-depth interviews. She concluded that they’re more tolerant and less rebellious. But they’re also unhappier and less prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with adult life.
Could the fact that smartphones exist really have such a big impact on their way of thinking and behaving? Well, the data says yes. The “smartphone generation” has diverged from a lot of the traditional ways of communicating with the world.
They don’t move around as much. They have this idea that they can maneuver through reality from their phone. But the truth is that they have some scary qualities. Here are five of them.
1. The “smartphone generation” grows up more slowly
Members of the “smartphone generation” spend a lot of time at home. Unlike the generations before them, they don’t go outside much and they’re not as interested in independence. They’re in no rush to have their first sexual experiences. And they’re also not very drawn by the idea of working, learning to drive, or drinking alcohol.
So they basically grow up in the safe environment of their home. They’re almost always surrounded by adults. Thus they’re more careful and don’t put themselves in risky situations as often. But that has its positive side, even though they still seem less independent. In addition, they have trouble making decisions, and change is harder for them.
2. Technology comes first in their lives
On average, members of the “smartphone generation” spend 6 hours a day connected to the internet. Most of the time what they’re doing is sending messages and playing games. That means they spend much less time face-to-face with their friends.
In essence, technology is a central part of their lives. One of the punishments they’re most afraid of is their parents taking away their phone or not letting them get on the computer. Being connected is where they find meaning in their lives.
3. Fewer social skills and cognitive abilities
The “smartphone generation” spending less time around their peers has a few side effects. First, they don’t fully develop their social skills. It’s one thing to be communicating through the phone and another to do it in person. They’re a bit skeptical of the latter.
According to Dr. Twenge’s research, it seems like they aren’t as good at reading and writing. That might have something to do with the type of language and range of messages they use to communicate. On top of that, most of the time they don’t use complete sentences.
4. They’re more anxious and depressed
This same researcher wants to bring our attention to one worrying fact. The smartphone generation seems to have higher levels of anxiety and depression. She says that suicide has tripled in this age group over the last 10 years, and that might have something to do with their lack of social contact and their lower rates of physical activity.
But the truth is that anxiety and depression don’t come just because they’re connected for so long. It probably has more to do with what they stop doing when they’re connected. What we mean is that if they had a better balance between both things, they’d definitely be in a more stable place.
5. The smartphone generation values security and they’re more aware
Unlike “millenials,” the people in the “smartphone generation” are more realistic. They don’t have huge expectations, and they value security most of all. They’re more willing to work hard. And they don’t take much interest in risky activities.
It’s also worth noting that these young people are more aware of their situation. They know that too much time on their phone isn’t very good for them. But they also say that they don’t know how to live any other way.
The “smartphone generation” is a product of the cultural changes that newer technologies ushered in. Maybe they need more than just their parents to help guide them towards other ways of living. Like they themselves say, they don’t know any other way.
They don’t know any alternatives and maybe that’s why they don’t try. In the end it might be true that these young people don’t cause big problems like the generations before them, but it also seems like they’ve lost some of their energy and desire to try things or change the world. They’re sad and they can’t see any better way than to just passively adapt to the reality that’s been handed to them.