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last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas.She answered her phone—she’s had an i Phone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. ,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month.More comfortable in their bedrooms than in a car or at a party, today’s teens are physically safer than teens have ever been.They’re markedly less likely to get into a car accident and, having less of a taste for alcohol than their predecessors, are less susceptible to drinking’s attendant ills.The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans.The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.i Gen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the i Phone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the i Pad entered the scene, in 2010.A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an i Phone.
Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum.
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.
I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. Born between 19, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.
The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night.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.1970s, the photographer Bill Yates shot a series of portraits at the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink in Tampa, Florida.