iGeneration: Teens more plugged in than ever

Check on your teens right now. Are they on their phones? A study suggests too much screen time is turning them into the most boring group of teenagers we’ve ever seen.

It all began when the iPhone came out.

“We see students who are just more comfortable in the world of their device, and again, that’s all. That’s what they know.” says teen counselor Randy Campbell.

They’re the iGeneration —always looking at a screen, always connected, but rarely in person.

“When they are forced to put their phone down, they don’t know how to act,” youth minister Payne Stockard says.

I witnessed it at an after-school teen center and at a church youth group. Their leaders tell me that by only communicating through texts or Snapchats, teens are not learning to go face-to-face, even with each other.

“They just don’t have those ‘soft skills’ to be able to deal one-on-one with people,” Stockard says.  And that has had an impact on every other social aspect in their lives.

Consider this data: The number of teenagers who get together with friends has dropped 40 percent since 2000. Only 58 percent of high school seniors say they go on dates, compared to 85 percent of their parents’ generation.

It bothers Stockard, who’s worried that teenagers today aren’t getting enough human contact.

On the positive side: they’re not drinking alcohol, because they’re not at parties very often. And the teen birth rate is down.

The teen homicide rate is an all time low, but the suicide rate has been going up steadily since 2007.

Stockard suggests parents take the first step. Not taking the phone away, necessarily, but encouraging their kids to go hang out at a friends house without their phone.

“So, they’re forced to be in a room together, so they’re not looking down. They’re looking at each other, and creating conversation,” Stockard says.

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