iGen: The 10 Trends Shaping Today's Young People--and the Nation by Jean M. Twenge
Igen Is Crying Out For Help, And We Need To Listen
In IGEN, Professor Jean M. Twenge summarizes the research on the next generation. There are lots of alarming findings. First off, the iGen teens do many important things less often. This includes going out with friends, working, reading—even going to parties.
Comparison to prior generations is alarming in many ways. For example, looking at teens who work, we see a drastic reduction: "The number of 8th graders who work for pay has been cut in half.”
It’s not just a matter of teens making a simple substitution of one media for another—there’s a lot more to it. Their development has been stunted. The doctor explains, “The entire developmental trajectory, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, has slowed.”
If teens are working less, spending less time on homework, going out less, and drinking less--what are they doing? Where is their time going? The answer is not hard to find—it’s screen time:
“Teens are hanging out with their friends less, but they are not replacing that time with homework, extracurricular, paid work, or housework; they are replacing it with screen time.”
The actual time spent on smartphones is startling:
“iGen high school seniors spent an average of 2 ¼ hours a day texting on their cell phones, about 2 hours a day on the Internet, 1 ½ hours a day on electronic gaming, and about a half hour on video chat in the most recent survey. That totals to six hours a day with new media.”
This diversion of time has come with a steep price. For example, SAT scores are sliding, and compare poorly to their millennial predecessors:
“SAT scores have slid since the mid-2000s, especially in writing (a 13-point decline since 2006) and critical reading.”
The key to phones is moderation— for both teens and adults. Even experts in technology are “cautious about their kids using it too much.” The last chapter has some practical suggestions:
- Find a place of moderation for how long that phone is in our hands.
- Don’t sleep within ten feet of your phone. (The author notes that many teens sleep next to their phone, and are interrupted by texts.)
- Put down the smartphone when studying or working.
The author makes one point in particular that I thought was especially astute: People cannot simultaneously do serious mental work and use a smartphone. Rather, one must concentrate on one thing at a time: “The human brain cannot multitask: we can focus our attention on only one cognitive task at a time.” The iGen generation has difficulty concentrating for more than a very short time.
With all the gloomy statistics, the author nevertheless offers some hope—but it will require a marked change in behavior:
“If they can shake themselves free of the constant clutch of their phones and shrug off the heavy cloak of their fear, they can still fly. And the rest of us will be there, cheering them on.”
So all in all, I found iGen to be a well-researched, well written book. Moreover, it is an important book. The author writes clearly, and the book is easy to read. I confess I was ignorant of much of this information. Perhaps the scariest part of the entire book concerns mental health: “iGen is on the verge of the most severe mental health crisis for young people in decades.” The professor cites numerous studies linking depression with extended use of social media.