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We are all iGen

  April 07, 2019

Before you read this, look around. If you are around other people, do you notice if anyone is looking at their surroundings? Are they engaged with others or are they are looking at a screen? Most people will be occupied with some type of screen. Where is your phone right now?

The first iPhone was introduced in 2007. The generation, dubbed iGen, born between 1995 and 2012, is the first generation whose members are spending their entire adolescence with smartphones. They are not alone in their usage; preceding generations also use smartphones regularly.

While there are always pluses and minuses to innovation, the smartphone is changing iGen in especially remarkable and troubling ways. Generational studies are showing the approximately 11 million people who make up iGen are different from previous generations. Jean M. Twenge, Ph. D wrote the book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

She conducts and analyzes large surveys and is shocked by what she sees. “Growing up with a smartphone has affected nearly every aspect of their lives,” she writes about iGen, “They spend so much time on the internet, texting friends, and on social media — an average of about six hours per day — that they have less leisure time for everything else.”

What are today’s adolescents doing? They are going out with their parents and are spending less time with friends. While they are safer, they are less likely to engage in real connections. They spend time in their rooms on their phones using social media, but feeling left out and lonely. According to Janis Whitlock, a Cornell University, “If you wanted to create an environment to churn out really angsty people, we’ve done it. They are in a cauldron of stimulus they can’t get away from.”

Studies show the more time we spend on the phone the less happy we are. Dr. Twenge states, “there’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But, those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.

When we look at screen activities and the increase in depression, the research is frightening. “The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression,” according to Dr. Twenge. “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.”

The changes in teen depression are alarming. Between 2011 and 2015 there was a 50 percent increase in Major Depressive Disorder among teens. Suicide rates for those aged 12 to 14 years have doubled since 2007. One clear culprit for this change is that the threshold of those who have smartphones crossed 50 percent around 2012. The depression and suicide rates cut across all cultural and socioeconomic lines. Reports indicate depressive symptoms among boys increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls increased by 50. The rise in suicide, too, is more pronounced among girls.

There is a lot we can do to help out our vulnerable children, teens, and even ourselves. Most importantly, start to monitor the time that is spent on screens. I looked at my own phone usage and was surprised by how much I had underestimated it. Using a setting on my phone, I now limit my social media time to one hour a day. At the one-hour mark, my phone shuts off any new media. The first day was hard, but with increased awareness the next day I made better choices. After a couple days, I found that instead of being attached to my phone, I was more likely to make connections with my coworkers and family.

We need to limit our screen time, with both actions and words. It will be difficult at first, but the research shows we are doing more than limiting screens — we are saving lives.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please call the clinicians at Infinite Healing & Wellness for help.

The clinicians at Infinite Healing and Wellness are ready to assist. Infinite Healing and Wellness LLC, in Gilbert at 2563 S. Val Vista Drive #108, is a collaborative counseling practice designed to serve children, families, teens, adults, couples, first responders, and military veterans. For more information, call 480-448-1076 or email Check out our website, to learn about our incredible team, upcoming groups, and follow our positive and encouraging Instagram and Facebook pages. We are excited to announce the expansion to our second location to be open summer of 2019, in Phoenix off Missouri and the 51.

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April 07, 2019


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