Gen Z's Technology Addiction

Gen Z is growing up immersed in technology.  It's an integral part of their lives.  How integral?  Consider these stats.
  • 96% own a smartphone.
  • 68% own a tablet.
  • 85% use social media to learn about new products.
  • 50% will be connected online for 10 hours a day.
  • They interact with up to 5 screens a day. 
  • 1/3 watch at least one hour of online video a day.
You could go as far as to say Gen Z is addicted to technology because it impacts them emotionally.  80% feel distressed when kept away from their personal electronic devices.  Try asking Gen Z to pull away from their smartphone for an extended time and they will become anxious and upset.

Paradigm Malibu is a treatment facility on the Pacific Coast.  It started out treating people with classic drug and alcohol addictions.  Now it has developed a program specifically for Gen Z kids who have device-use disorders.  Kids are brought to the center because extreme use of technology has led to serious behavioral disorders.  In some cases, kids have even threatened to kill themselves when told their internet may be cut off.

Several of these type rehabs have been opened across the country to treat Gen Z kids whose lives have become unmanageable because of technology.

If you are a parent whose child has a smartphone, you understand the pull that technology has.  Gen Z feels the pressure to constantly be connected, fearing they will miss out on the latest post, like, comment, picture or video.  They check their smartphones hundreds of times a day.  This can lead to little time for anything else.

Technology has definitely changed the way kids grow up.  For many of Gen Z, they communicate more digitally than they do in person.  Their smartphone is an extension of their hand and their social media life is more important than their real life.

Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School said,  "You can go by any playground at recess and the kids are all staring at their smartphones."

Dr. Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says it’s very clear that overuse of digital media is linked to mental health issues and unhappiness.  Her research has found that Gen Z kids who spend three hours a day or more using electronic devices are 35% more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than an hour with them — while those who spend five or more hours are 71% more likely to have a suicide risk factor.

Gen Z's bent toward technology addiction is not something to take lightly.  

As children's and family ministry leaders, it's important that we provide parents with tools they can use to guide their Gen Z children in the digital world they are growing up in.

One tool that has just been released is a documentary produced by Kirk Cameron, entitled "Connect."  Kirk has 6 Gen Z kids of his own, so he fully understands the challenges of parenting in a digital world.  He created the film to help parents find hope, wisdom and strength in this area.

Kirk says, “God-fearing parents can find confidence and guidance when it comes to the challenges of parenting in our technology-driven world, knowing that God has fully equipped us for the sacred calling as a parent.  We have resources to prepare our children as they learn their purpose and identity, and responsibly use technology to understand family, friends, God and the world around them.”  

The film was recently in theaters and should be available for home viewing very soon.  Here is the trailer.

While technology, smartphones and social media can be great tools to share the Gospel, invite people to church, advance the Kingdom of God and connect with families, like anything else, when it begins to overtake and dominate our lives, it can be detrimental.  Especially in the lives of children and students who don't have the maturity yet to navigate this on their own. 

It is vital that we keep the conversation going and look for ways to help Gen Z find balance in their use of technology.  

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  What trends are you seeing with Gen Z and their use of technology?  What other tools can we make available for the parents of Gen Z kids to help them navigate this challenge?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, insights and comments below.