Some people wonder if kids these days are going to grow up with a permanent hunch in their neck from craning down to look at their smartphones all day. But according to a psychology professor, there is a far greater mental danger to these devices when they consume your kids’ lives.
San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean Twenge noticed a disturbing trend in in 2012 — the number of Americans experience loneliness took a significant jump. She also noticed something else that year — the majority of Americans now had smartphones, according to NPR.
Twenge says the correlation between the two doesn’t prove the smartphones cause loneliness, but she points out that numerous studies do link heavy social media usage to feelings of loneliness. Plus, whereas social media was something people engaged in on their personal computers in the 1990s and 2000s, by the 2010s smartphones became so ubiquitous that most people had the ability to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media behemoths all the time, anywhere.
But what exactly would make increased social media usage trigger loneliness among young people, especially since social media is centered around one big concept: being social? Twenge says it has to do with a significant drop in face-to-face, eye-to-eye contact between kids and teens and their friends.
For one, communicating with someone in person allows young people to read each other’s emotions vastly better than even the wide selection of emojis can accomplish. Simply put, even a thousand icons cannot truly represent the huge array of facial expressions, voice inflections, and body movements that the human body can make while interacting. Plus, kids are still learning how to write well, and their messages can be easily misinterpreted.
Secondly, Twenge says when kids spend time together in person, it generally helps build them up and prevent psychological issues in the long run. In other words, social interaction is good for mental health.
To Twenge, the age group being most negatively affected by the rise in smartphones and constant access to social media is young people born between 1995 and 2012. She suggests giving kids non-smartphones instead and using apps that limit the amount of time — or time of day — that teens can use their smartphones.
Do you think increased smartphone use is bad for kids’ health? Do you see it as the primary cause for the rise in loneliness, or do you think spiritual factors are a bigger player here? Let us know what you think! In related news, a Colorado father wants smartphones restricted the same way cigarettes and alcohol are.