Smartphones: Negative, Positive, Neutral, Delayed

Submitted By:
Michael Arjona, The Walker School, Marietta, GA

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? by Jean Twenge
The Atlantic, September 1, 2017

Despite the hyperbole of her article’s title, psychologist Jean Twenge documents both the positive and negative changes that have appeared in national surveys and studies of teen behavior as smartphones have become ubiquitous. She offers warnings about how increased smartphone use is highly correlated with increasing depression and loneliness in teenagers. However, the author also notes how the increasing use of smartphones has had other neutral or even positive impacts on the current generation of teenagers (e.g., greater physical safety and a decrease in a number of risky behaviors, such as underage drinking and sexual activity). Overall, the lack of independence and increased time spent online seems to have had the effect of delaying adolescence. As Dr. Twenge notes, “Across a range of behaviors – drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised – 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.” As school leaders, instead of reveling in nostalgia for the pre-smartphone days, we should be thoughtful about how our schools can provide meaningful offline social interactions and scaffold the transition to independence and adolescence that teens are increasingly delaying.

Student Wellness & Safety