Born between 1995 and 2012 there is a generation whose lives are being shaped with a smartphone and the rise of social media, they have an instagram and snapchat account before they join secondary school, and they do not remember a time before the internet. This generation is called iGen. Whilst I grew up asking my parents anything I didn’t know, the iGen ask google or Alexa. They know everything apparently. My kids (currently 8 and 10) learnt how to swipe an ipad before they could crawl. This morning one screen for my son was not enough. He was playing roblox with the ipad on his lap whilst streaming a BMX youtube star on the TV. And he wants his own channel. He wants to be a you tuber star. They can earn loads of money he says.

I was born in 1978 which means I am classified as Gen X. I had a flip phone when I was 18. It was the old motorola one, in-fact I have kept it for some reason! Then I moved onto the nokias, I loved the banana phone. The concept of texting was very different, pressing each number a few times to get the right letter. MSN messenger got me through my south east asia travels. When the 9/11 attack happened it was via MSN that I communicated I was safe, there was no free wifi. We had to go to an internet cafe.

Fast forward 20 years, the world has progressed. iGens oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and high schoolers when the iPad entered the scene in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of 4 owned an iPhone.

There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having a profound effect on their lives – and making them seriously unhappy. More comfortable online than out partying, post millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they are on the brink of a mental-health crisis. Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

Conversation face to face has drastically dropped and kids are meeting in virtual spaces accessed through apps and the web. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that being on a screen for more than 6 hours a week is linked to less happiness.

In the year 2000-01, children aged 8 to 18 spent two hours and 59 minutes a day in front of screens, according to data taken by the report from the national UK Time Use Survey.

But in just 15 years that has risen to almost five hours, as they now spend two hours and 16 minutes a day on electronic devices like phones and tablets. Time spent on computers has increased by 40 minutes a day, as Facebook, Instagram and other social media have taken over children’s lives. Now, with almost 70 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds owning a smartphone, the time spent on mobile devices has added 76 minutes of screen time to every day. Children are also spending an extra 40 minutes each day using computers. This means youngsters spend around a third of their waking lives glued to technology.

The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Social-networking sites promise to connect us to friends, but the portrait of iGen teens is one of a lonely, dislocated generation.

This is where I get curious, this is where I think I have found the current context for my CRP. What is the reality for these guys?

Are the lines between real and not real blurred? Is social media and the world of WiFi their reality or are they living in a fantasy world that is only about the parts in their life they want to share. By contrast, are the parts they don’t share building them up for a lifetime of comparisons with their peers and as a result, a life time of insecurities.

To be continued….

Joanna Gilbert