Believe it or not, iPads have only existed for seven years. They were first released in 2010. That’s the same year my daughter was born – my daughter, who wants to ask Santa for an iPad for Christmas this year.
I am not a fan of children having their own devices. I’ve seen the way my kids’ eyes glaze over when they have the opportunity to watch YouTube videos on my laptop of women in wigs unboxing toys, and that was enough to convince me their screen time should be limited.
Now, new research has confirmed my plans to delay my kids’ access to all manners of devices, for as long as humanly possible.
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In news that will likely surprise no one, researcher Jean Twenge has found that smartphone use is making teenagers “seriously unhappy”.
In news that might surprise some, however, Jean has described today’s teenagers as “being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”
“I call them iGen,” Jean reports. “Born between 1995 and 2012, 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 impact of young people having ongoing access to smart devices “has not been fully appreciated”, she says, and goes “far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans”.
Shockingly, her research, which plumbs data on teenagers dating back to the 1930s, found that rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011.
And the really shameful part is that the purveyors of this adolescent dysfunction are actively profiting from it. A recently leaked Facebook document, prepared by the social media juggernaut’s Australian executives, revealed that the company can monitor posts and photos in real time in order to determine when young people are feeling “stressed”, “defeated”, “overwhelmed”, “anxious”, “nervous”, “stupid”, “silly”, “useless” and a “failure”.
By pinpointing “moments when young people need a confidence boost”, their advertisers can therefore immediately target vulnerable teens.
ARE WE OUTRAGED YET?!
I know I am. My kids will not have social media accounts for as long as I am in charge of making decisions, nor will they have their own devices.
And unfortunately for my daughter, I’m predicting that Santa will be out of stock of Apple products by the time he reaches her home this year. She’ll have to make do with some Shopkins.