A recent book entitled The Coddling of the American Mind provides a rather disturbing view of the emotional state of the generation now present on college campuses. Known as “iGen” (short for Internet Generation) or  “Generation Z,”  they differ significantly from previous generations. What accounts for this difference, and what are the effects?

 According to Jean Twenge, an American psychologist who researches generational differences, this group of young people is growing up more slowly than their predecessors, including the Millennials. They are  “The first generation that spent its formative teen years immersed in the giant social and commercial experiment of social. media.” They are “spending much more time alone, interacting on screens.”  Furthermore,  due to the safety concerns of their “helicopter parents,” they spend less unsupervised time with friends.  Unfortunately, they are exhibiting disturbing emotional symptoms like depression and anxiety.  They are extremely sensitive to “trigger statements” or anything they perceive opposing their “beliefs”  and view many such challenges as micro-aggressions.

Dr. Twenge attributes at least part of the emotional instability to the isolation caused by relating to an electronc device than to a person. She finds that “just two activities are correlated with depression and suicide  related outcomes: electron device use ad TV.”  

The reasoning? People are “ultra-social beings.” These young people aren’t engaged in meaningful relationships. Rather, they are spending an inordinate amount of waking time attending to social media sites, resulting in social isolation. And girls seem to suffer more than boys. They are very sensitive to being left out of the fantasy: the seemingly “fun” activities that their internet “friends” (not real friends) are showing on their sites.  

Those who spend less than two hours a day on their devices appear to fare better than their peers.  So, while it may not be practical to destroy these devices, limiting their use can be beneficial to mental health.