Smartphones Have Destroyed More Than a Generation

It’s easy to joke about our digital addiction. It’s kinda funny how we’re all so obsessed that supposedly one in three Americans would rather give up sex than our smartphones.

But Jean M. Twenge’s new article in the September issue of The Atlantic: “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”, makes it clear that this issue is no laughing matter. What’s happening to our children in the age of the smartphone is scary and alarming.

Twenge argues very convincingly that the parallel rise of smartphones and social media has “destroyed” a generation of young Americans by holding them captive to their devices, day and night. She shows how internet-connected devices have transformed the lives of the generation born between 1995 and 2012, precisely when the saturation of smartphones reached 50% among Americans.

These effects on this group of youth, which she calls “iGen” are profound and eye opening. My three kids are a part of this iGen group, which makes me a very concerned parent.

It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones,” Twenge writes. “[The] twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives — and making them seriously unhappy.

The portrait of today’s teens that she illustrates is all-too-familiar to any modern-day parent: Kids who would rather spend time with their phones than their friends or their families, who sleep with their devices under their pillows, who sit alone in their rooms, eyes glued to their screens. Twenge traces the rise of the smartphone to declines in dating, going out, and driving among young Americans. It’s also linked to more teenagers feeling depressed or having sleep problems.

Twenge argues that these technology-driven effects go beyond the usual concerns about “screen time” — and that we don’t fully understand the extent of it. I could not agree more.

In fact, I would suggest that her observations don’t go far enough, that her observations don’t just apply to the iGen generation. They apply to all of us, we are all affected by our overuse of our smartphones and devices. I encourage you all to take my one week challenge and see for yourself. I’m doing the challenge now and will report in a week.

What Twenge describes in her article is exactly the reason we started unGlue. We firmly believe that something needs to be done to balance the ways in which technology permeates our daily lives. I believe unGlue is a good start.

By Alon Shwartz, 
CEO and Co-founder of unGlue and a father of three 
unGlue is the world’s first collaborative technology that empowers people to manage their digital distraction and screen “addiction”