A couple of weeks ago I read an article that has been rolling around in my head. I read a few more studies and articles in the past week and it has be hard to read, truly. All of the articles and studies have to do with smartphone usage in kids, specifically 10-17 year-olds, and it has be eye opening. All of the articles usually start with the story of a teenager or soon to be teenager that was bright, funny, smart, and outgoing but attempted suicide or became severely depressed.
One article talked about about between 2010 and 2016 (where nearly every American owned a smart phone) major depression, suicide, anxiety, and an overall feeling on hopelessness has jumped at an alarming rate. Teenagers especially have be affected and another article which dubbed this generation (1995-2015) iGen is not completely unfounded. Instead of teenagers getting together to hang out (which back in my day was to talk and talk and talk, eat something, maybe play some games and watch a movie) has turned into teenagers shutting themselves in their rooms with their phones and mindlessly browsing, posting pictures on social media, googling whatever comes to mind, and texting. There is little need for human connect it seems like.
But the interesting thing that I pulled out of each of these articles is that the teenagers are actually looking for acceptance, someone to talk to, and need social interact but do not know how to get it. Many times in the stories that started out the articles, the teenagers telling their stories, decided to try and commit suicide because they knew they needed help but didn’t know how to get it and/or ask for help. Instead of our next generation learning social skills and ways to interact with people, build a network, have people around that like them for them, relax, and be fine with just reading a book, there is a new norm. They are expected to look perfect all the time, never relax because there is always someone watching, fear social interactions because they might say something wrong, have a network of “friends” on social media, they are never sure is someone really likes them or is just being nice because there is rare face to face interaction. Now, I am not saying that every kid is like this but man, all these articles and studies I have read was so sad to me.
Now, I am totally an introvert, and would much rather text someone if I am just asking a question really fast or want to set up a play day, but I also value talking to real people. I love having my husband home and the talks that we have at the dinner table, or what we call “couch talks”, it is valuable time and time that I love. I have a friend that just makes me feel happy every time we get together (and every time we get together we always talk about how we need to get together more than once a month:)). The value of interaction and face to face contact is so incredibly important but when people are looking to screens for friendship and acceptance, it is not always truth.
I guess this stuff all hit me hard because of another reason. My phone randomly died a few months ago and through fighting with the company and shipping and yada,yada…I was without a smartphone for like 3 weeks. It was great for like the first 3 days, and then it was just rough. I am sad to admit that I felt disconnected from outside life. I just had my little life here, in my house and it was hard. I didn’t realize the effect technology had on me. When I got my phone back, I didn’t do it on purpose, but I was ALWAYS on my phone. It was like my brain was addicted and I had to make up that time lost. This past week, as I have been reading these articles I have felt a lot of guilt about being more present with my screen than my kids at times (lots of time on my phone this week trying to find clothes for a wedding). I have already made new goals and have moved forward with them.
Truthfully I am sad that this is happening, that not just kids but adults as well, are relying so much on what social media has to say and how it is hurting all of us. So, I am not telling you to throw away every smartphone but set limits (for kids and yourself), stick to the limits, be parents to your kids, pray about how to help those around you, and most of all make memories with those you love and tell them that they are worth it and just how much you love them!