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Why I'm Skeptical That 'Smartphones Destroyed a Generation’

Why today’s amazing college students should give us all some confidence in the future.

August 8, 2017
 
 

What if Jean M. Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, is right?

What if smartphones have really destroyed a generation?

This is the claim that she makes in her well-researched and cogently argued piece in the Atlantic called, you guessed it, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?  

If Dr. Twenge is right, and we are indeed on the brink of a smartphone powered mental health crisis for those born between 1995 and 2012, then shouldn’t we do something?

Prohibition wouldn’t work - it never does.  Perhaps we should start an educational campaign.  A "Just say no to Android" and "This Is Your Brain on iPhone"  marketing blitz.

The only problem is that the only way our anti smartphone messaging will be seen by our target audience is on smartphones, through a social media app.  Awkward.

But maybe we don’t need to panic.

Could it be that this generation is just fine?

That they are going to navigate the world of the smartphone just as my generation had to navigate the birth of cable TV, the advent of the gaming console, and our parents being swept up in the divorce revolution?

Every big technological leap seems to engender a new set of worries about the impact of that technology on teens.   

Do you remember a few years back when everyone thought that violent video games, music piracy, and offensive music lyrics were certain to spell generational doom?

If the iGen (1995-2012) generation is so damaged by their smartphones, then how come they are so awesome?

Have you hung out with college students today?  Really spent time talking to them?

They are so much more interesting - smarter and brave - than my friends and I were when we were in college (1987-1991).

The best way that I can imagine to build one’s own confidence in the future is to spend time with today’s college students.  These are the people who are going to do such important work in their communities and in whatever work they take on.  They will go on to create these amazing families and to lead these big and fascinating lives.

How might we think differently about the impact of smartphones if we approached the question with a bit more confidence in today’s young people?

What if we understood today’s adolescents and college-age population as the incredible group of people that they are?

Technologies such as smartphones will play a part in their lives - and may even make some things harder (and some things better) - but overall this generation of current and future college students will be just fine.

Don’t believe me?  Come to my campus - or any campus - I have some students that you should meet.  (And yes, they all have smartphones).

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