One of the weirdest feelings, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit, is to leave the house and to realize about five minutes later that I forgot my phone. It’s a feeling of nakedness. More than once I’ve turned the car around and returned home to get it. Whenever I experience that ‘naked’ feeling I’m reminded how tied I am to my digital device. And new research suggests that our teenage children experience many of these same feelings.
According to new research from the Pew Research Center, about 54% of teenagers (ages 13 to 17) say they spend too much time on their cellphone (compared to 36% of parents who they—the parent—spends too much time on their own cellphone). In addition, 41% of teenagers say they spend too much time with social media, and 26% say they spend too much time playing video games. In addition, about 56% of teenagers feel lonely, upset or anxious when they don’t have their phone with them. This is especially true for teenage girls.
One of the most interesting findings from the study shows that these same teenagers (51%) notice that their parents get distracted by their phone during parent-teenager conversations. Also, nearly ¾ of teenagers report that checking their phone is sometimes the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning.
The data in the study tells many stories, but here’s one that stands out to me. As I state in Media Maze, other research shows that the single greatest predictor of kids’ media use is parents’ media use. Coupled with the findings from the Pew study, it appears that kids are concerned about their cell phone use because their parents are concerned about their own cell phone use. In other words, perhaps teenagers are becoming more self-aware about their cell phone use because their parents are also becoming more self-aware.
Said a different way, if we’re concerned about our kids’ media use, maybe the first step for parents to take is to take a look at our own media use as objectively as possible to see if we should be concerned about ourselves first. Such concern may filter down to our kids and make them more self-aware about their own media use.
If you feel naked without your phone, chances are your teenager does too. From my own experiences I know that being okay without my phone is easier said than done, but knowing what this new research shows gives me a little extra motivation to make the effort.