I was listening to Michael Smerconish‘s show on POTUS (Sirius 124) this morning on my way into work as I normally do and he brought up an interesting article written by Jean Twenge titled “Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation?”
Twenge is known for her research on the differences of generations and major impacts to them. She brilliantly uses data to prove theories that often are very factual and relative to the millennial generation. Some of the key take-aways from her article on smartphones are that kids are no longer hanging out. They aren’t spending time hanging out with each other in person as they are sitting in their bedrooms having multiple “live” conversations with their friends and calling it “talking”. When youth do step out of their bedrooms to get together they are broadcasting their events to the world, posting pictures and celebrating across every social media channel imaginable. Imagine what the kids who aren’t invited are thinking when they see these pictures posted. When we were kids, quite often parties would happen and if you weren’t invited you very rarely heard about it, and when you did it was crushing to the ego. Now the outsiders in school, or temporarily “outed” from their social groups have to sit and watch their friends and classmates celebrate life without them. I imagine it causes a lot of pain.
Pew Research Center reported in 2015 that 90% of teens go on the internet daily.
The US Government’s Office of Adolescent Health reports that 92% of teens who have a smart phone go on it daily and use multiple social media platforms.
According to Guard Child, 88% of teens have witnessed some kind of cruelty to someone on social media, 15% say they were the targets themselves, and 64% of all teens upload photos to multiple social media sites.
The NY Times reported that suicide rates are clearly going up.
How often do you drive down streets where you played street hockey as a child with your friends and see no kids outside? How many parks are completely or nearly-completely empty on the weekends? I feel a sudden disappointment as the memories of me running down the street with a hockey stick in my hand shift to my mind fixated on how there are literally no kids playing.
In no way am I saying that the digital era is a negative thing. As much as millennials like to complain about the lack of opportunity and salaries that the boomers had, I disagree I think that digital age has provided us with more opportunity than ever before. If you have work ethic and aspire to change or create change in the world, the platforms are readily available. It is also a time of entrepreneurship like never before.
I think that we, as parents should focus on a few things. We can’t control the ultimate outcome of our children and who they become as adults, but we can definitely guide them in a direction we feel is appropriate to helping create a balance.
At such young ages we are teaching our children that a mobile device of some sort is a go to for entertainment and time consumption.
So… all of that being said, I have some ideas.
Instead of plopping our toddlers down in front of an ipad, tv or cell phone why not provide them with toys instead. Something to stimulate their brain.
Go on play dates. These can be the least fun experiences as an adult (especially as a father) but the reality is kids need interaction and to form bonds.
Don’t use your phone in front of your kid unless its needed. You don’t need to check Facebook. If you take pictures and you want to share your adventures with your child set aside some time when you get home to post them.
As they get older create an environment where your child is happy to play and socialize. This could be at your home, or maybe its programs. The amount of social groups for kids out there is astounding, take advantage of the get togethers so that you can mingle and your child can too.
Set an example. Show your kid that there is a time for everything.
Show your kid that real life experiences are much better than digital ones. Explain that you use the pictures your friends share of their experiences to decide if you would like to experience something yourself. But point out that new adventures are important.
Overall I think that we should teach our children that smart phones and connectivity are just ONE piece of the puzzle.
that’s just my opinion of course.