Before I get to the meat of this post, I need to tell you a little bit about myself as a child.
I have been an introvert my entire life. I am comfortable spending time by myself – I *need* to spend time by myself – and I often explain this predilection by saying, “Being alone is different than being lonely.”
When I was a child, not only was I naturally introverted, but I was shy. Not socially anxious (I don’t think), but just shy. I tended to be quieter than other children; I was uncomfortable interacting with strangers or anyone I didn’t know well; and I did not have cadres of friends.
My preferred activity was reading.
Recently, the Atlantic published an article titled, rather alarmingly, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” It posits that the generation after the Millennials – called by this author “iGen” for “iPhone generation” – is more depressed, and while it doesn’t explicitly blame smartphones, it notes the correlation between lots of teens having smartphones and the spike in rates of depression and anxiety in teens.
So, go, read it, think about it, see what you think.
Obviously, I am dealing with this right now to a certain extent, with tablets and the children, rather than phones, but same idea. And sooner or later, they will need phones; I reluctantly realize that.
Here’s my two-fold solution: 1. Talk to my children. 2. Limit the use of screens.
Flora and Kate have social accounts, although not on the major sites yet (Snap, Twitter, Facebook). They are able to video chat and text with friends. Kate is more outwardly social than Flora; she has a couple of friends in the neighborhood; and she asks about seeing her friends more often.
Flora is a very solitary girl. She reminds me a lot of me when I was her age. Although she participates in family activities, has friends, and plays soccer, the majority of her time is spent at home, usually in her room drawing. That’s what she likes to do.
Flora is a cheerful girl, although when she gets upset, her reaction is anger. She has a tendency to apologize too much, in my opinion, and it is something that we talk about. She has brought difficulties to us without hesitation (so far). She is thoughtful, sensitive, smart, and easily distracted. She has opinions that she isn’t afraid to share.
I check in with her often, in little ways. I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS listen to her. (I need to strengthen this skill with my other two children.) And when they do start participating in social media more, we will talk about their feelings, and how social media shows a carefully constructed reality – and how to manage around that.
I also check in with Flora from time to time about her posts on the social sites she is on. Flora belongs to a couple of different fan art sites, and people can “like” things and comment. I often ask her about her participation on those sites – and not just by saying, “Is everything cool on those sites?” I ask her to show me her stuff, and comments, and so on.
Limiting time on screens has gotten away from me again because I’m lazy about it – I ain’t going to lie. I am going to solve it in the laziest manner possible as well: We are investing in a Circle device, and the children’s tablets will be shutting off at 10 p.m. They go to bed at 8:30-9 p.m., so an hour or hour and a half is plenty of time to fall asleep. (I have advised the children that this is happening.) The biggest reason this needs to be managed is so they sleep at night. Flora is especially terrible about her sleep habits. (She comes by it honestly; I am a little better than Dan only by the virtue of the fact that I am a monster if I am not getting enough rest, and I totally recognize that.)
Do I think smartphones, or Facebook, or screens are destroying a generation? I do not. This is the familiar hand-wringing that all older generations do about the ones coming up behind them. Does that mean I should ignore my children’s interactions with smartphones and social media? No, of course not. But, like most parents, I am not in the habit of ignoring stuff in which my children are interested or participate.
Do you think smartphones are destroying a generation?