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Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015; the decline has been especially steep recently. It’s not only a matter of fewer kids partying; fewer kids are spending time simply hanging out. The roller rink, the basketball court, the town pool—they’ve all been replaced by virtual spaces accessed through apps and the web.

You might expect that teens spend so much time in these new spaces because it makes them happy, but most data suggest that it does not. A recent survey asked teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including non-screen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. There’s not a single exception. Those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy.


Jean M. Twenge, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?,” The Atlantic (9-17)

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