Which Generation Have Smartphones Destroyed?

by Aaron Hovel and Jennifer Zacharis

An Atlantic article titled Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? recently received a lot of attention on social media. The piece states “More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.” The author, with the help of a large study, traces these problems back to smartphone and social media.  Interestingly, an article on JSTOR Daily came out in response to The Atlantic article titled “Yes, Smartphones Are Destroying A Generation, But Not Of Kids”. This article looks at the same data and draws some very different conclusions. The author states, “Fellow parents, it’s time for us to consider another possible explanation for why our kids are increasingly disengaged. It’s because we’ve disengaged ourselves; we’re too busy looking down at our screens to look up at our kids.”

Middle School students using iPads.

As always, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle of these two viewpoints. While I think it is important for children to spend less time on their devices and more time in non-screen activities, I don’t think this alone will lessen teen depression or anxiety.  It is also important for us as parents to take a good look at our smartphone and social media use. Adults need to model putting the phone down and engaging with our children and others around us in order to be good “digital mentors.”  We are living in an age where device moderation and boundaries are important for both generations.   

I encourage you to read both articles and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.  
Note: At Pike, we teach students Digital Citizenship in all grades where students learn to make safe, smart and ethical decisions online.  We also encourage students to be aware of what distracts them the most and provide a few strategy suggestions that can help with self-management.  If you have questions about parenting in the digital age former Upper School Head, Colleen Welsh and I gave a talk last year with suggestions and we have a resource page on our All Things Tech Blog.