What do happy teenagers do? Perhaps the easiest way to answer that question is to ID what they don't do!
Jean M. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of more than 140 scientific publications. She's also written a 2017 book with a title that's a mouthful and a half: "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood."
If you're a parent, and even if you're not, that's a title that will make you sit up and pay attention.
We've quoted Dr. Twenge many times here on BreakPoint—on teen suicide and depression and related topics. (Come to BreakPoint.org for the links.) But today we're going to learn from her about what is making so many of our teenagers unhappy.
In a new article in Psychology Today, Twenge notes, "Teens are less happy and less satisfied with their lives than they were just 5 years ago. The question is: Why?"
Here's what she found out. First, teenagers' reported happiness dropped between 2011 and 2012. She notes that this is when smartphones became available—perhaps we should call them sad phones!
Second, Twenge discovered a correlation between teens' happiness and their participation in activities that involved other people—activities such as sports, going to church or other religious services, volunteer work, and even homework. The more social they were, the happier they were.
By contrast, those young people who engaged in solitary activities such as reading internet news, talking on their phones, texting, social media, computer games, and listening to music—often a solitary activity these days—reported being less happy. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Twenge noted: "The pattern is again clear: Nearly all phone activities are linked to less happiness, and nearly all non-phone activities are linked to more happiness." So, put down the phone?