For Jean Tvenge, a professor of psychology at the University of San Diego, USA, a combination of smartphones / social networks today deals with teenagers born after 1995. They call them "iGen", a homemade generation, more immature and more prone to mental health problems.
What is the iGen generation?
This is the first generation to live through adolescence in the age of smartphones, and this has many consequences in the lives of adolescents.
They spend leisure time in a fundamentally different way than previous generations. They spend much more time on the Internet, on social networks, playing video games, watching videos and spending much less time on performing activities than the screen, such as reading, sleeping or seeing your friends. They grow slower: in 18 they have less driving license, job, giving, drinking alcohol, leaving without parents …
This trend has already begun with the "millenniums" already in the late 1990s, although the technology does not explain everything, the smartphone seems to have accelerated some of the trends in recent years, probably because adolescents can communicate With their friends who stay at home, they do not feel need for a driver's license or exits themselves.
So, iGen is probably the safest generation in history, and teenagers love this idea. But they also feel that something is missing and that connecting to the phone at all times may not be the best way of life. They also hate talking to their friends, constantly looking at their phone.
You've explored the behavior and health of millions of teenagers. What did you notice?
When we study generic changes over long periods, we see that it takes a long time to be visible, for example, one or two decades. But starting from 2011/2012, I began to see sudden changes, such as a large increase in the number of adolescents who said they felt alone or excluded, or who believe that they can not do anything right, that their life is worthless, all the classic symptoms of depression .
Depressive symptoms increased by 60% in just five years, with rates of self-care, such as cutting, which have doubled or even tripled in girls, and a suicidal adolescent who has doubled in a few years …
Just when smartphones became commonplace, when the percentage of Americans who had more than 50%, these mental health problems began to manifest themselves. It could be said that this is just a coincidence, but at the time there were no other events to explain these changes and their acceleration.
And we know, after several decades of research, sleeping or watching a friend is essential for a mental balance, but spending hours and hours in front of the screen, no.
Today American teenagers spend six to eight hours a day on social networks. They are not the screens that are the problem, the fact is that they replaced other things, which led to these mental health problems.
What advice would you give your parents?
In short, this is good news because many of the things that happiness and mental health are based on are now under our control. We can not change the genes that we are born with or work out the poverty of blind fingers, but we can control how we spend our free time and we can help our children to do it.
The studies advocate limiting social networks to a maximum of two hours a day for teenagers. It's a good balance to take advantage of social networks and smartphones (communicate, inform, organize …) without discomfort, which is significant.
For small ones, if we believe that our son needs a phone, we can give him a phone without the Internet and, therefore, without all these temptations.