The Atlantic: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

Well this is probably as good a place to start as any. This is a great feature by The Atlantic that looks at mental health issues caused by increasing smartphone use.

Born in 1988, I’m a member of the millennial generation. My first smartphone was the iPhone 4, purchased in 2010. While I’ve been among the first to navigate the smartphone era at work, I didn’t grow up with one and can remember a time without one. My friends and I often discuss how difficult it would be growing up in the age of the smartphone.

Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

The article cites a number of studies that the more someone used social media or interacted with a screen, the more likely they were to report feelings of unhappiness.

There are a few ideas about why this is the case. Teens are more likely to feel left out and isolated when they can see other social activities documented, their peers catching up without them. They feel anxiety over the response to their social media activity too – how many likes do they get? Does anyone leave a nasty comment?

I was surprised to read that many people slept with their phones in bed and check them during the night. Unsurprisingly, this lead to negative impacts on quality of sleep. Anecdotally I’ve found this the case – when I use my phone heavily before going to bed I don’t sleep very well.

Key Takeaways:

  • There’s a correlation between heavy smartphone use and feeling of unhappiness, loneliness and isolation in teens.
  • Smartphones may also negatively impact sleep quality, with numerous knock-on effects.
  • It’s incredibly important to teach kids how to use phones responsibly and to teach them about the potential risks involved in heavy smartphone or social media use.

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