How Teens Today Are Much Different from Past Generations

How Teens Today Are Much Different from Past Generations

teenagers spending time at skateboard park, teenagers having fun concept

No matter which generation we talk about, all teens are shaped by political economic and social events of the day. The funny thing is,  you generally find that today's teens are no different.

What affected teens of the past  pale into insignificance when we look at all the things that teenagers deal with these days such as mobile technology and social media. Never before in the history of a society has there been so much distraction  either at work or play. 

Now,  this isn't about making excuses, because every generation has their own issues. But, the issues that face are teenagers today are on a whole different level.

Psychologist Jean Twenge, has written a book that uses large-scale surveys that showcase a detailed portrait of ten qualities that make today’s teens unique and the cultural forces shaping them. 

Her findings are quite surprising, insightful and to some alarming. iGen:Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us.

Who are the iGens?

Mrs Twenge has named the generation born between 1995 and 2021 “iGens” since this is the generation that have more use of their iphones than any other generation or age group. 

The teens that regularly use their iphones are making a statement that they want to be unique and individual and that want everyone to know that they are privileged and have wealth. 

They don’t necessarily want to be seen as show-offs. However, it does reinforce their self image in a world that always questions that.

Twenge identified their unique qualities by analysing four distinct nationally representative surveys of 11 million teens since the 60s. This is actually a great way to compare and contrast since the time periods are so different in the history of time. Also, the surveys asked very similar questions (and some new ones) of teens year after year. 

Not only does this identify cross generational trends, but it also tests Twenge’s thoughts on her own follow-up surveys, interviews and findings.

Here’s a few of her conclusions:

In general, it seems as though iGens have much poorer emotional health. This is down to all of the new media they are being subjected to. She found a surprising fact that they are more depressed, anxious and lonely. This in turn affects their sleep.

iGens “grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet,” writes Twenge. Believe it or not, they spend on average 5 to 6 hours on their phone and are usually surfing, texting, gaming, sharing videos and streaming and hanging out online.

Twenge made it clear that if you spend more than two hours a day doing things that it raises the risk for serious mental health problems. 

Her conclusions came from looking at how much teen mental health problems had risen and it mirrors the rise in iPhone penetration where both saw a major upswing around 2012. It has even been proven that when teens gave up Facebook for a period of time and spent time in nature without their phones, they were much happier. 

It also seems as though the mental health problems were affecting the younger teens which would make sense. This is because when children go through puberty, there are several changes happening in their brain which makes them more emotional and sensitive to their social world.

Coupled with the fact that they are spending less and less physical time with their friends and the sheer amount of fake content on social media that creates such unrealistic expectations with reference to body image and general happiness.

What Twenge also acknowledged was the fact that girls had a much higher probability of being affected than their males counterparts. They also seemed to spend much longer on social media and report feeling left out more often than boys. They also report twice the level of bullying as boys too!

Social media is creating an “epidemic of anguish,” Twenge says.

What is a real revelation is the fact that iGens tend to grow up much slower. They tend to hand out with their parents more, decline to take their driving test and postpone sex. This could never have been said about any other generation in our history.

Twenge’s conclusion is that Life history theory argues that how fast teens grow up depends on their perceptions of their environment: When the environment is perceived as hostile and competitive, teens take a “fast life strategy,” growing up quickly, making larger families earlier, and focusing on survival. A “slow life strategy,” in contrast, occurs in safer environments and allows a greater investment in fewer children—more time for preschool soccer and kindergarten violin lessons.

Apparently teens seem to be much closer to their parents than previous generations, but their life is shaped by income inequality and demoralised hopes of their future. Igens believe they have much less control over their lives and instead feel as though the system is rigged against them.

iGens exhibit more care for others. They seem to be more inclusive of diversity and they reject offensive speech more than any other previous generation.

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