Gen Z's Stare into the Phone

A few days ago, I was at the airport, waiting to board a plane.  As I looked around, I noticed something.  Out of the dozens of people around me, nearly all of them were staring into their cell phone.

Take a look around next time you're in a public place and you'll see the same thing.  We spend nearly every free, waking moment staring into our phones, don't we? 

Seems we just can't stop checking our social media posts, scrolling through apps, playing games, responding to text messages, shopping and surfing the web.  Our phone is the first thing we see when we wake up and the last thing we check before going to sleep.

Designers of these apps and programs are smart.  They know we're all wired to not want to miss out and so they use constant updates and interaction to keep us glued to our phones.  Unlimited information and social media is just a quick tap away.

We must consider how this will affect Gen Z.  While Millennials were mobile pioneers, Gen Zer's are mobile natives.  They are the first generation that will spend their entire adolescence with the smartphone.  98% say they own one.  Gen Z spends more time on their smartphones than all other technology devices combined.  Whereas previous generations considered a mobile phone a luxury, Gen Z consider mobile phones as indispensable.

Gen Z kids are getting phones at younger and younger ages.  Parents feel pressured to get their child a smartphone when they hear "all my friends have one."

As Gen Z spends the majority of their time interacting with their smartphones, they will spend less time interacting directly with friends and family.  Face-to-face discussions are being replaced with digital talk. 

This will have many effects on how they interact, think and engage with the world.
"Our generation is taking way too many selfies and staying up all night watching videos.  Some of my friends only sleep for three hours and still go to school the next day.  I kind of think it's normal because I do that too sometimes."  - Andrea, a Gen Z student
A study was done on how smartphones affects the social skills of pre-teens.  Those who spent more time away from their smartphones showed improved social skills. 

Studies also show that 50% more teens suffer from depression versus six years ago.  What's the difference?  Many point toward constant smartphone usage.  The pressure to keep up with notifications, updates and online "drama" can be overwhelming.  It has also made bullying much more prevalent.

And then there is pornography.  Smartphones have made accessing pornography very easy.  Hardcore images and videos available anytime.  A recent survey revealed that 73% of kids will view pornography before the age of 18.   The destructive effects of this will be seen now and later in life.

Add to that the danger of online predators that is opened through the gateway of mobile phones.  It is crucial that we protect kids.  

The stare into the phone is not going away.  As ministry leaders, the key is equipping parents to help their children navigate the world of technology they are immersed in.  Consider providing parents with tips and training for this.  There are also apps and programs that can be made available to monitor and control usage. 

Here are a few tips you can pass along to parents.
  • Remember a child having a smartphone is a privilege not a right. 
  • Place appropriate controls and filters on your child's smartphone. 
  • Have regular conversations with your child about social media use.
  • Turn off phones an hour before bed time. 
  • Place smartphone chargers outside your child's bedroom.
  • Have phone usage curfews.
Your turn.  What other tips or insight do you have regarding the stare into the phone?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.