In This Together

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

“Even when a seismic event - a war, a technological leap, a free concert in the mud - plays an outsize role in shaping a group of young people, no single factor ever defines a generation. Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But 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.”

I follow many educators on Twitter and there was a flurry of activity on the weekend with this particular article in the Atlantic doing the rounds. Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? - The Atlantic. It is written by Dr Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me and iGen, and Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University. It obviously had great resonance for many people, and I think it has great merit, both as a well-written piece and as a conversation starter in schools and homes.

Perhaps the particular appeal for teachers is that we have a wide perspective of societal and generational trends in behaviour and their effects, if any, over time. This article makes a challenging and mildly perturbing commentary on the impact that smartphones have had on young people. The data from our 2016 Wellbeing survey supports the claims that Dr Twenge makes about smartphones contributing directly to sleep disturbance. Already a topical area, we will undoubtedly learn more in coming years about the direct relationship between sleep and mental health. We hope this piece is a good stimulus for conversation – it has certainly given us more to think about and discuss at school.

Sophie Kearns
Director of Pastoral Care