“We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.” -Athena
Just when you thought you were figuring out the Millennial generation-their propensity for displaying confidence, need for frequent feedback, optimism, clarity of boundaries, and sense of entitlement. Guess what? Here come the iGens! A generation that has grown up with staying safe on their mind, where hanging out with parents is okay, where going out and socializing with others is not necessary with the myriad of Smartphone apps, text messages, and social media sites to keep them connected, who don’t care about getting a driver’s license, are delaying adulthood or as they call it “adulting,” don’t like to read, are having less sex, drinking less alcohol, have a lower homicide rate, but have a greater propensity for mental health issues such as depression, and suicidal thoughts and actions.
Jean M. Twenge, PhD, in her book, 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, paints a graphic picture of what this generation has encountered and how their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are vastly different than any other generation that has come before them.
The iGener’s birth years are from 1995 to 2012. There are about 74 million of them and they are the most ethnically diverse generation in our history. “They grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet,” states Twenge. The average teen checks their phone 80 times per day. Want to know how iGen YOU are? Check out the quiz here “How iGen Are You?”
Twenge coined the term iGen as this generation has been immersed in the use of the iPhone. As one 17 year old stated, “You have to have an iPhone. It’s like Apple has a monopoly on adolescence.” Twenge’s research shows that the use of Smartphones does not discriminate and teens from disadvantaged backgrounds spend just as much time online as their more well off peers. This generation is also known for their individualism. A focus on equality and what is best for the individual. They are less religious, believe in equality issues related to gender, are pro-choice, believe marijuana should be legalized, yet follow a more Libertarian bent about gun control and health care for all. Finally, income inequality, Twenge states is another main driver that has set the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of this generation. They are clearly focused on doing the right things to become financially secure and want to “become a “have” rather than a “have not.”
The compelling research that Twenge has collected in her book, delivers clear evidence that this iGen generation lacks social connectedness. The average 12th grader spends nearly 6 hours of their day on social media sites, texting, or other means of virtual connectedness. Athena states: “I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.” This connectedness according to all the research she has collected shows a generation very connected with their peers via social media, texting, Snap Chat, etc. but an isolated, sheltered group who unfortunately have a higher propensity to commit suicide and struggle with other mental health issues such as depression.
Some good things about this generation are a trend toward lower birth rates, less use of alcohol- these are identified by the fact that they don’t attend parties in general and if they do go out it is with their parents. This is a generation that has not experienced as much as prior generations and they present themselves as much younger than their ages indicate. They choose NOT to get a driver’s license and don’t care that mom or dad drive them around. They seem to be fine with their parents getting them to class on time in COLLEGE!
Twenge culled research that shows a clear link between media time and mental health. We thought that this generation was communicating more than any generation before it. What the research is showing though is that this type of communication is isolating and that the more screen time teens have, the less happy they are and the more time they spend with non-screen activities, the happier they are. One student Twenge interviewed said, “I feel like we don’t party as much. People stay in more often. My generation lost interest in socializing in person--they don’t have physical get-togethers, they just text together, and they can just stay at home.”
This has led the iGens to resist adulthood, or in their lingo “adulting,” They have taken up a slow life strategy where during leisure time they are alone, well at least physically unless you count the many interactions that occur with their phone. The rise in suicide rates, and depression are alarming and as this generation slowly moves to adulthood, they have no clue what having a job means and for education, reading scores are plummeting because iGens don’t like to read!
Twenge asks, How can we protect our kids from anxiety, depression, and loneliness in our digital age? What can parents and colleges do to ease the transition from high school to college when fewer students have experienced independence? How can managers get the most out of the newest generation in the workforce?
Twenge gives several suggestions for how to save this generation:
- Put down the phone! Parents need to assert more control over time spent with devices and total screen time. Twenge suggests resisting middle schooler calls for the need to have a Smartphone and instead provide an old flip type phone for emergencies. Think this is draconian? Consider an interview with Steve Jobs in 2010 by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton. He asked him if his kids loved the iPad. “They haven’t used it,” Jobs said. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
- Life Hacks for Smartphones- Twenge knows that kids will eventually get a Smartphone, but suggests that parents utilize apps that control the amount of time on sites and keep track of how much time they are using their phone. Teens always say they need their phone to wake them up. She suggests buying them a $7 alarm clock. The addiction and love of phone over real interaction is taking a toll on sleep patterns. YouTube videos abound of teens beds on fire because they sleep with their phone under their pillow and the phone overheats and starts their pillow on fire. The excessive addictive nature of apps to check back for likes have created a generation who see their self-worth through what others think and how many likes they receive. Believe it or not, but if a teen should have only one social media app, she suggests they get Snapchat. Because of its instantaneous and wiping the slate clean nature, it doesn’t carry the same addictive need for checking back for likes which can create depressive tendencies.
- No Noodz and Porn- This generation has grown up with seeing more violent porn than other generations. To them, sex is emotionless and something “done” to you. The term “fucking buddies” is used frequently by this generation. Although they are having less sex, because they are at home with their phone, their idea of love and how it relates to sex has been skewed because of their exposure to porn. More teaching of proper posting and an absolute NO NOODZ policy has to be put in place.
- Get kids involved in social activities! Although parents felt that being in social activities might be unsafe for children, “the isolation and the time spent communicating electronically is a poor substitute for the emotional connection and social skills gained in face to face communication --and it may be contributing to the alarming rise in teen depression and suicide,” states Twenge.
- Help Beat Anxiety and Depression-Researchers have discovered that mimicking the caveman lifestyle can help in counteracting depressive tendencies. The six parts of the program include: 1. Getting more sun exposure. 2.Exercise 3. Eating a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. 4. Avoiding rumination. 5. Getting enough sleep. 6. Engaging in in-person social interaction. Sounds like a great lifestyle that ALL of us need to adopt!
- Growing Up Slowly- The focus on safety has meant parents not allowing teens to go out together, drive in cars, and get a job because of their worries about what might happen to them. This has left a generation unprepared for work roles and responsibilities. Twenge suggests that parents provide more opportunities for independence by allowing teens to hold jobs, get a driver’s license(stop driving them around) and relaxing curfews and rules so they can hang out together more.
- iGener’s in the Classroom-Research has shown that this generation is less confident and don’t ask questions and participate in classroom discussions. They are in it for the grade and will do what is necessary to get it. They are used to finding out the information independently. They only read what has been assigned in class and skim for information. Long reading assignments are not part of their vocabulary. Engaging lessons and visually enhancing learning are a must for them and they need to learn the difference between “real news” and “fake news” so they can think critically. Relevance in learning is key as well.
I find it interesting that the most recent reading scores on the MSTEP statewide have shown a precipitous drop in reading scores. Hmmmm. I am trying to embrace the iGen culture, or at least understand it and keep my Boomer mentality to myself. As always, we will positively take a child where they are and move them forward to be academically ready for the future, loved and cared for, and prepared for being a good citizen of this world. WE have to adapt and adjust. iGener’s present a challenge that we are just beginning to figure out.