Friday, August 4, 2017

Have Smart Phones Destroyed a Generation?

A major concern for legal education has been the use of electronic devices in class.  Since attention is limited, how do these devices affect how much our law students learn?  (The answer is a lot.)

The use of electronic devices also has an effect on our students outside our classrooms.  The use of these devices have changed how our students interact with the world.  Now, a troubling new study shows that the problem is even worse than we had previously imagined.

Have Smart Phones a Generation? by Jean M. Twenge (The Atlantic).

Here are a few excerpts:

"I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so."

"Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it."

"The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time. The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them."

"But it was exactly the moment when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent."

"Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night."

"But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone."

"Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones."

"But the allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens, who are less likely to leave the house without their parents."

"Today’s teens are also less likely to date."

"Even driving, a symbol of adolescent freedom inscribed in American popular culture, from Rebel Without a Cause to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, has lost its appeal for today’s teens."

"Beginning with Millennials and continuing with iGen, adolescence is contracting again—but only because its onset is being delayed. Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school."

"So what are they doing with all that time? They are on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed."

"All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness."

"What’s the connection between smartphones and the apparent psychological distress this generation is experiencing? For all their power to link kids day and night, social media also exacerbate the age-old teen concern about being left out."

"Girls have also borne the brunt of the rise in depressive symptoms among today’s teens. Boys’ depressive symptoms increased by 21 percent from 2012 to 2015, while girls’ increased by 50 percent—more than twice as much."

"It may be a comfort, but the smartphone is cutting into teens’ sleep."

"The correlations between depression and smartphone use are strong enough to suggest that more parents should be telling their kids to put down their phone."

"The constant presence of smartphones is likely to affect them well into adulthood. "

The above excerpts just begin to show the problems revealed in the above article.  Every parent and educator needs to read it in detail.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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When I was a kid and my mother wanted me out of her hair, she gave me something to eat (usually a hot dog). Today mothers give their children a laptop or a cell phone to play with. I grew up with an eating disorder. Today’s students are, in my opinion, hopelessly addicted to technology. We tried banning laptops in class. But students can still message each other and surf the web on their cell phones. Ultimately we need to convince them that paying attention is better than multitasking with technology; and taking notes by hand is better than typing into a laptop. There are numerous research studies that show the benefits of not using a laptop or smart phone in class. I’ve tried showing them to my students but they were not convinced. Likely that because of the effect their cognitive biases about technology have on the way they think. Students have been told all their lives they can get everything they need from a laptop or cell phone. The want more technology not less. And if you suggest otherwise, you are behind the times. They will be polite and listen, but you won’t be convincing anyone of anything. Students are used to being on line while they are doing something else; and they are used to getting their information from the computer. They want to multi task in law school the way they multi task at home. When they do legal research, they want to ask the computer and have the answer pop up on the screen, the same way it does when they search for the clothes they want to buy. Sometimes it is better to use the index in a book, just like it is sometimes better to go to the store and try the clothes on. I think you just have to keep trying to persuade them until they see the light!

Posted by: Ben L. Fernandez, Lecturer, University of Florida Levin College of Law | Aug 5, 2017 12:19:30 PM

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