Teens and young adults are in the midst of a unique mental health crisis, suggests a new study out Thursday.It found that rates of depressive episodes and serious psychological distress have dramatically risen among these age groups in recent years, while hardly budging or even declining for older age groups.Lead author Jean Twenge, a 47-year-old professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has spent much of her career studying the attitudes and beliefs of younger generations.Most recently, in 2017, Twenge published a pop-science book laying out her central argument that teens and young adults coming of age are especially lonely and disconnected, thanks in part to the growing abundance of social media and devices like smartphones.Twenge’s book and work had has its detractors, who argue that her theory is supported by cherry-picked and weak evidence, or that other factors aside from smartphones could be the real culprit behind a legitimate rise in teen depression.Twenge and her team looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative survey of Americans’ lifestyle habits.
Earlier this month, Sheryl Sandberg talked compellingly at the Munich DLD conference about Facebook’s challenges and the company’s acceptance of greater responsibility around the big issues of data safety, misinformation, and transparency.But what was striking was the lack of acknowledgment of Facebook’s responsibility for the direct correlation between social media and the rapid rise of mental health issues, depression, and rates of suicide.Her father has put some of the blame on the disturbing posts she viewed on Instagram, and last Sunday health secretary Matt Hancock announced that he would consider banning social media platforms that failed to remove harmful content.It is hard to deny that the internet has created some unsettling byproducts, especially among young people.Young adults now drink and smoke less, have less sex (teenage pregnancies are dropping rapidly), and are physically safer than ever before.But the negatives are significant: they socialise and date less, and spend little unsupervised time together – ultimately, they are less independent than previous generations.
Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health.But is this actually the case?A recent study from the University of Oxford, which analyzed data from 350,000 subjects in the U.K and United States, suggests we may be overstating their significance.While the researchers don’t deny that digital technologies can have a negative impact on young users, they conclude that it contributes just 0.4 percent toward a young person’s negative well-being.According to the study, digital technologies are far, far outstripped by other influences — including binge-drinking, marijuana use, and even the importance of a good breakfast.“I started working on this project in about September 2017, when there was massive coverage in the press of social media and its effects on teenagers, because of Jean Twenge’s book iGen,” Amy Orban, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends.
This back-and-forth hasn’t stopped scaremongering comparisons between digital media and digital heroin, nor has it kept Silicon Valley parents from telling The New York Times that “the devil lives in our phones and is wreaking havoc on our children.”The actual research hasn’t come to one neat conclusion, and that may be because the field has relied on self-reports.It’s possible to measure how much time you spend on your phone; it’s just that most research — some 90 percent of it, estimates David Ellis, a lecturer in computational social science at Lancaster University — hasn’t.People are notoriously unreliable reporters of their own behavior: people misremember, forget, or fudge their responses to make themselves look better.The latest strike against self-reports was published last month on the preprint server PsyArXiv, first reported by New Scientist.The study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, but it adds to a growing body of evidence that the foundation for smartphone scaremongering is shaky.
Even after only one hour of screen time daily, children and teens may begin to have less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability and a greater inability to finish tasks, reports San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor W. Keith Campbell.Twenge and Campbell's results were published in an article, "Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study," which appeared this month in Preventative Medicine Reports.Twenge and Campbell were particularly interested in associations between screen time and diagnoses of anxiety and depression in youth, which has not yet been studied in great detail.Their findings provide broader insights at a time when youth have greater access to digital technologies and are spending more time using electronic technology purely for entertainment, and also as health officials are trying to identify best practices for managing technology addiction."Previous research on associations between screen time and psychological well-being among children and adolescents has been conflicting, leading some researchers to question the limits on screen time suggested by physician organizations," Twenge and Campbell wrote in their paper.Also, a growing body of research indicates that this amount of screen time has adverse effects on the overall health and well-being of youth.
In December, when Facebook launched Messenger Kids, an app for pre-teens and children as young as 6, the company stressed that it had worked closely with leading experts in order to safeguard younger users.Facebook, he says, is “trying to represent that they have so much more support for this than they actually do.” Academics Sherry Turkle and Jean Twenge, well-known researchers whose work on children and technology is often cited, didn’t know about the app until after it launched.“For example, we heard from parents and privacy advocates that they did not want ads in the app and we made the decision not to have ads.”Facebook’s approach to outside voices about Messenger Kids is echoed in its efforts to “fix” other controversial issues, such as fake news and election interference.Days after social-media analyst Jonathan Albright discovered that Russian propaganda may have been viewed hundreds of millions of times around the presidential election, Facebook called Albright, but then scrubbed the data from the internet.“It's too bad to see Facebook co-opt the term without taking its meaning seriously beyond asking what are ‘meaningful interactions,’” he tweeted Monday.
To hear Andrew Przybylski tell it, the American 2016 presidential election is what really inflamed the public's anxiety over the seductive power of screens.The second, iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us, by San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge, hit stores five months later.Tristan Harris, a former product manager at Google and founder of the nonprofit "Time Well Spent" spoke with this publication's editor in chief about how Apple, Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram—you know, everyone—design products to steal our time and attention.Anxieties over technology's impact on society are as old as society itself; video games, television, radio, the telegraph, even the written word—they were all, at one time, scapegoats or harbingers of humanity's cognitive, creative, emotional, and cultural dissolution.A better analogy is our modern love-hate relationship with food.We will not go ‘cold turkey’ or forbid cell phones to our children.
A coalition of 97 child health advocates sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday asking him to discontinue Messenger Kids, a new advertising-free Facebook app targeted at 6-to-12-year olds.Advocates say the app likely will undermine healthy childhood development for preschool and elementary-school-aged kids by increasing the amount of time they spend with digital devices.The letter to Zuckerberg was signed by individuals and 19 nonprofits including Common Sense Media, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Parents Across America, who say their concern stems from recent studies that link increased depression, poor sleeping habits, and unhealthy body image in children and teens with higher use of social media and digital devices.For instance, a study by Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of iGen, found that social media use by teens is tied to significantly higher rates of depression.Another recent study found that adolescents who spend an hour a day chatting on social media report less satisfaction with nearly every aspect of their lives and 8th graders who use social media for six to nine hours per week are 47 percent more likely to report they are unhappy than their peers who use social media less often.“Raising children in our new digital age is difficult enough,” the letter says.
Smartphones were the leading cause of a major fall in psychological well-being in American Adolescents after the year 2012 according to a new study.This study was conducted by researchers at The University of Michigan, and was published in the scientific journal Emotion this week.The study showed that adolescent self-esteem, life satisfaction, and happiness rose between 1990 and 2011, then fell dramatically starting in the year 2012, just as smartphones began to take hold of the planet.This study was lead by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University.“We found that teens who spent more time seeing their friends in person, exercising, playing sports, attending religious services, reading or even doing homework were happier,” said Twenge.“However, teens who spent more time on the internet, playing computer games, on social media, texting, using video chat or watching TV were less happy.”
A strange thing happened when New York Times tech writer Nick Bilton interviewed Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2010.The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”Teenagers who spend upwards of five hours a day are more likely to have a risk factor for suicide.After all, wasn’t Apple’s iconic co-founder famous for “thinking different?” But he’s not alone.Second, screen time interferes with sleep.While correlation is not necessarily causation, iGen nonetheless paints an unsettling picture of a generation whose ever-connected world, and the lack of real world socialization that comes with it, is having a significant negative effect.
Two of Apple’s institutional shareholders, hedge fund Jana Partners and California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), are calling on the company to study the impact of smartphone use on child development.In an open letter, the two investors said that after reviewing research, they believe that Apple needs to give parents more resources and software tools to make sure their kids are using their devices “in an optimal manner.”Together, Jana and CalSTRS hold a total of about $2 billion in Apple shares, which represents a tiny fraction of its current $898 billion market cap.The letter is noteworthy, however, because both investors are influential activist shareholders.Jana Partners managing director Barry Rosenstein pushed Whole Foods to put itself up for sale before the grocery chain’s acquisition by Amazon last year, while CalSTRS, which manages retirement benefits for public educators in California, is the second-largest public pension fund in the United States.In a letter signed by Rosenstein and CalSTRS director of corporate governance Anne Sheehan, the two shareholders said they worked with child development experts to review studies that found links between the use of electronic devices and negative effects on concentration, emotional health, sleep and empathy.
Increased time spent in front of a screen -- in the form of computers, cell phones and tablets -- might have contributed to an uptick in symptoms of depression and suicide-related behaviors and thoughts in American young people, especially girls, according to a new study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean Twenge.The findings point to the need for parents to monitor how much time their children are spending in front of media screens."These increases in mental health issues among teens are very alarming," Twenge said.Twenge, along with SDSU graduate student Gabrielle Martin and colleagues Thomas Joiner and Megan Rogers at Florida State University, looked at questionnaire data from more than 500,000 U.S. teens found in two anonymous, nationally representative surveys that have been conducted since 1991.They also looked at data suicide statistics kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.They found that the suicide rate for girls aged 13-18 increased by 65 percent between 2010 and 2015, and the number of girls experiencing so-called suicide-related outcomes--feeling hopeless, thinking about suicide, planning for suicide or attempting suicide -- rose by 12 percent.
According to recent research in the Archives of Sexual behavior, millennials are having less sex than previous generations.Researchers analyzed polled data in 2015 and 2016 studies of adult sexual habits from the General Social Survey and determined that — among other things — people born in the 80s and 90s aka millennials report having fewer sex partners on average than the two prior generations — generation x and baby boomers.Millennials born in the 90s were also twice as unlikely to be sexually inactive in their first years of adulthood.The trend toward sexual inactivity shows 15 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds have yet to engage in intercourse, a six percent bump from the same data set taken in the 90s.So, why are millennials getting laid less often?Researcher Jean Twenge, an expert on millennials and author of two studies, told the Washington Post that online dating could be the culprit.
Reuters – People may think of millennials as being one right swipe away from a quick hookup, but a new study suggests many 20-somethings are actually having less sex than their parents did back in the day.The misperception that millennials have a hook-up culture may be driven by the most promiscuous members of the generation, who are now able to advertise their exploits through social media, said lead study author Jean Twenge, a psychology researcher at San Diego State University in California.But the culture of dating apps leaves out a large segment of the population, Twenge added by email.In reality, millennials born in the 1990s are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive as young GenX ers born in the late 1960s, Twenge and colleagues report in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.Fifteen percent of young adults aged 20 to 24 reported having no sex since turning 18, compared with just 6 percent of the previous generation at that age, the study found.Previous research has also found that millennials – born from the 1980s to 2000 – have fewer sexual partners than Generation X ers or baby boomers, Twenge said.The only generation that showed a higher rate of sexual inactivity in the analysis was born in the 1920s.To look at generational shifts in sexual activity, researchers examined survey data from a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 adults.One limitation of the study is that the survey didn t ask about specific sexual activities, making it impossible to determine how respondents interpreted questions about whether they were sexually active, the authors note.Still, the findings suggest that millennials may be experiencing a unique set of circumstances that, combined, may make them less likely to have sex in their 20s, the authors conclude.For one thing, young adults are living longer with their parents and delaying marriage, which may delay sexual activity, the researchers note.Oddly, the rise of hookup culture may dissuade sexual activity as teens and young adults shy away from committed relationships.The mismatch between how adults perceive the millennial hookup culture and the reality of what 20-somethings are actually doing in bed speaks to a larger story about how older generations tend to view the kids that come after them, said Joshua Grubbs, a researcher at Bowling Green State University in Ohio who wasn t involved in the study.Middle-aged and younger adults have complained about how disrespectful younger generations were, how risque they were, how immoral they were, how lazy they were, or how unwise they were – this is sort of the natural order of things, Grubbs said by email.However, the millennial generation is the first real generation to face that criticism in the digital age, where hot takes and instant opinions are ubiquitous, Grubbs added.So, instead of having middle aged adults complaining about kids these days at lunch or at the water cooler, they are doing it on blogs and open-source news websites.
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