“Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”, The article sets us up to feel hopeless about the way mobile and social media has turned Kids These Days into lonely, depressed screen addicts who are failing to advance along the established path to adulthood.
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. kids who spend more time online are lonelier than kids who spend less time online. Teens who spend more time on social media also spend more time with their friends in person, on average—highly social teens are more social in both venues, and less social teens are less so.
So is depression. Once again, the effect of screen activities is unmistakable: The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Teens who spend three hours a day or more on electronic devices are 35 percent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, such as making a suicide plan.
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, Facebook.
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—either reading lulls them to sleep, or they can put the book down at bedtime.
People who don’t sleep enough are prone to depression and anxiety. Again, it’s difficult to trace the precise paths of causation. Smartphones could be causing lack of sleep, which leads to depression, or the phones could be causing depression, which leads to lack of sleep.
Parents are, indeed, influenced by competing for activity. They resort to a level of behavior that might be called “minimal parenting.” At this level of parenting, positive behaviors are regarded as expendable and are curtailed when parental load limits are reached. Although parents remain available to the children, they are slower to respond and interact with them for shorter periods, and their attention shifts rapidly among the two children and the task. They must continue to exert some control over the children, however, and negative behaviors may be increased in minimal parenting because they are seen as methods of obtaining rapid compliance.
someone has to teach the kid to drive, show them how to get to the mall, maybe prod them to make some friends and get outside. We may parody the work of parenting as a set of rules and consequences, but the work of encouraging positive behavior is just as (if not more important) than sanctioning the negative.
Mentoring your kids means letting go of a one-size-fits-all approach to kids’ tech use, and thinking instead about which specific online activities are enriching (or impoverishing) for your specific child. Mentoring means talking regularly with your kids about how they can use the Internet responsibly and joyfully, instead of slamming on the brakes. Mentor parents recognize that their kids need digital skills if they’re going to thrive in a digital world, so they invest in tech classes and coding camps.