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Smartphones Are Making Today’s Teens Unhappy, Psychologist Says : Shots

Psychologist Jean Twenge says smartphones have brought about dramatic shifts in behavior among the generation of children who grew up with the devices.

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Psychologist Jean Twenge says smartphones have brought about dramatic shifts in behavior among the generation of children who grew up with the devices.

Image Source/Getty Images

For the first time, a generation of children is going through adolescence with smartphones ever-present. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, has a name for these young people born between 1995 and 2012: “iGen.”

She says members of this generation are physically safer than those who came before them. They drink less, they learn to drive later and they’re holding off on having sex. But psychologically, she argues, they are far more vulnerable.

“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades,” she writes in a story in The Atlantic, adapted from her forthcoming book. And she says it’s largely because of smartphones.

Twenge spoke to All Things Considered about her research and her conclusions. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How does teen behavior now differ from generations past?

Today’s teens are just not spending as much time with their friends in person, face-to-face, where they can really read each others’ emotions and get that social support. And we know from lots and lots of research that spending time with other people in person is one of the best…

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