Teens More Depressed and Isolated — Are Smartphones to Blame?

Jake Neher/WDET

Smart phones and small, interactive screens have become a part of how we operate in the world in a very short window of time. The first generation iPhone — a game-changer in the industry — was introduced just 10 years ago. And yet it’s hard to imagine a professional or personal world that doesn’t include smart phones and tablets across a broad swath of the population.

Even if you don’t own a smart phone, you’ve undoubtedly become familiar with seeing people walk down the street with their eyes trained to their screen, or sit in a world of their own off to the side in a very public place.

That sense of isolation is particularly acute for teenagers, according to researcher Jean Twenge, who authored a new book coming out August 22nd called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. The first few chapters of her book were published in an article for The Atlantic. Jean is also a professor of Psychology at San Diego State University. She joins Detroit Today to talk about her research.

The real key in trying to figure out how screens have affected people is to look at how teens, and for that matter adults, are spending their time and then how that affects their well-being and their mental health,” says Twenge. 

The teens who spend more time on screens and social media and less time with their friends in person are the least happy and the most depressed and the most lonely,” she says.

Although Twenge says this correlation does not prove it’s smartphone and social media use that is causing these trends, she points to other studies that do suggest that causation exists.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Image credit: AnnMarie Scaramuzzino/WDET

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Detroit Today

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