Smartphones

smartphone

 

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6

 In researching my last post, I came across an intriguing article by a psychologist writing in Atlantic Magazine entitled “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”.  The article by Jean Twenge, a PhD in Psychology, covers several topics I have already written about including the impact of the digital world on the next generation. See my posts entitled Digital Darkside (March 6, 2017) and Loneliness (July 4, 2017).

This article, however, takes it even further, and suggests that the current Generation Z is headed down a one-way street when it comes to smartphone usage.  The article interviews several from Generation Z (those who are just now getting out of high school, and who have always known a world with Smartphones).

The iPhone was introduced on June 29, 2007, just 10 years ago.  It is so pervasive now, that it is hard to imagine life before this technology. As a footnote, even Steven Jobs limited his children’s use of his own invention.

I find it interesting that these issues are now getting national attention. I saw a news story on television recently, and am glad this is getting more broad coverage than niche magazines like Psychology Today.

The subtitle of the Article is riveting: “More comfortable online than out partying, post-millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But, they’re on the verge of a mental health crises.

Trips to the Mall, once a staple of adolescents, is being replaced with spending time together with friends on the internet, using platforms like Snapchat, unchaperoned. They keep up with “Snapstreaks” which keeps track of how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with others.

One girl aged 11 put it this way: “That’s just the way her generation is, she said. ‘We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people’.”

The author has studied generational trends for 25 years, and notes that most trends are slow in developing. Until now.

“Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.”

Twenge was trying to identify the reason for the sudden shift. She believes it occurred in 2012, in the middle of a poor economy from the last recession. 2012 was the year that the number of smartphones owned by Americans exceeded 50 percent. In 2017, three out of four American teens owned a smartphone. She calls these adolescents who have only known smartphones “iGen” which is like “Gen iY” coined by Tim Elmore.

The advent of the smartphone goes far beyond concerns of reduced attention spans. She notes that the impact of these devises “has not been fully appreciated.” “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.”

These changes are pervasive – in every corner of the nation. It is not limited by boundaries of standing – it affects poor and rich alike in small towns, suburbs and cities.  “Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

To generations who grew up in the analog world, it is difficult to wrap our brains around this trend. In prior generations, one key pursuit was independence. That was usually associated with getting a driver’s license so one could get out of the house and away from parents. The allure of independence does not have the same “sway” over teens today.  They are less likely to leave their house without their parents.

The results are predictable.  Dating has become less frequent, and it doesn’t start with “friending” of Generation X. It starts with “talking”.  Odd choice of words for a generation that prefers texting to actual conversation. The incidence of dating has dropped from 85% to 56% in the past several decades.

One positive trend:  teens are having less sex than prior generations – the statistics show teenage pregnancy is down 67 percent in 2016 from its high in 1991.

Even getting a license to drive has been affected, often a result of the “nagging” of their parents. In prior generations, it was more important. Being independent takes money, but teen employment hasn’t rebounded from the poor economy even as availability of jobs has.

Across a range of behaviors—drinking, dating, spending time unsupervised— 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.”

While other things in high school haven’t change – participation in activities, for example, iGen are spending less time studying than prior generations, which means they actually have more leisure time.  What are they doing?  Well, “they’re on their phones, in their rooms, alone and often distressed.”

I recently observed this first hand. My daughter and her husband kept his niece who lived in Germany as an exchange student for a year. She was a sophomore in high school, and initially spent most of her time in her room at their home with the door closed on her iPhone. She had rare interaction with the family. She spent most of her phone time on Facetime with her friends in Germany, and in the U.S.

Some behavioral issues changed that, and she was limited to time on her phone and was forced to try out for soccer which occupied some of her free time. The result was remarkable. She quickly joined in family events and played games with the younger children. She became involved in their family life.

After she returned to Germany, she wrote a thank you letter for all that she had learned in her exchange student environment.  She was grateful for her experience, although there were some awkward moments. What I observed was a young woman who quickly learned to enjoy those around her. I give a kudo to my daughter and her husband for drawing the line on overuse of a smartphone.

One might assume that by spending so much time at home, there would be increased interaction with parents.  That is not the case. “Teens who spend more time than average on-screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on non-screen activities are more likely to be happy.”

Depression is a common ailment tied to smartphone usage.  “Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.”

Even worse, teens who spend at least 3 hours a day on their smartphones have a 35% greater risk factor of suicide, or even formulating a suicide plan. That’s astonishing and terribly sad. Sleep deprivation is another by-product, and a high percentage of this generation sleeps with their phone within arms -reach, or even in their bed.

The increase in sleep-deprivation increased with the release of the smartphone in 2007. Sleep deprivation leads to several issues, among them, “compromised thinking and reasoning, susceptibility to illness, weight gain, and high blood pressure.”

As mentors and parents, we have choices when interacting with this generation.  One of them involves teaching them reasonable smartphone habits.  Our parents had to deal with over-watching television, which, by comparison is mild when it comes to mental health outcomes compared to the smartphone.

While this article has a focus on the American scene, I have found that in many parts of the world (Africa and Asia), the use of cell phones and smartphones parallels what we are seeing in the west. I suspect the issues are similar.

Twenge has one recommendation to iGEns: “Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.”  Good advice!  Another suggestion, defer giving your young children smartphones at an early age. It may be hard to do this given we have a generation of kids accustomed to a 24/7 digital world.

Our challenge is to recognize the potential damage that excessive smartphones can do the lives of the next generation. It’s the old story:  unless you see something as a problem, there isn’t likely to be any change.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You are in a good position to speak into the lives of your mentees about being wired all the time.  Moderation is a reasonable goal to establish.

 FURTHER STUDY:  The article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” in the Atlantic Monthly can be found at:   https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch is available from Amazon. Here’s a blurb on it from Barna Research:

https://www.barna.com/techwise/

WORSHIP:  Listen to Tommy Walker give encourage us with his song “I Have a Hope”:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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Entitlement

cool

 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”  Phillipians 2:3

 A recent psychological study shows that large numbers of millennials have developed an entitlement complex.  “The psychological trend comes from the belief that you are superior to others and are more deserving of certain things.”  Wow.

Examples of how this plays out ranges from disregarding rules, freeloading or being the cause of inconvenience.  It is also tied to a likelihood to assume the role of leader while working with others. It is described as a “toxic narcissistic trait.”  It can lead to frustration, unhappiness and disappointment with life.

It’s really where the rubber meets the road.  A person with a worldview of self-superiority will have an inevitable collision with the real world. A millennial with this trait is almost doomed to failure because their self-centered desires doesn’t mesh with the fact that the world doesn’t work that way.

Many millennials approach their first job with an expectation that they will start at the top rung, rather than at the bottom and work their way up.  From my own experience mentoring young lawyers, I can safely say that this is almost a reckless view.

I always told young associates working under me that it would take at least 3 years of daily involvement with my legal specialty to be proficient. There is no substitute for actual hands-on experience, or what I referred to as “OJT” [On the Job Training].

Julie Exline, who was involved in the study, says this: “The entire mindset [of entitlement] pits someone against other people.  When people think they should have everything they want, often for nothing – it comes at the cost of relationships of others and, ultimately their own happiness.”

Interestingly, the study goes on to suggest a very biblical value to break out from this mentality: humility. If a person is more grateful and accepts their own limitations, they are less likely to be trapped by this trend.

Other practical solutions for the millennials dealing with this outlook include an introspective bent: Reflection on incidents from someone else’s perspective, promotion of others, and ceasing to rationalize things when you have been wrong.

I would submit that there is yet another practical solution:  having a mentor. A mentor can guide a millennial through this minefield.  An older person who has experience with relationships and expectations, combined with a strong hand of reality of how things really work, is invaluable.

Alicia Boyes, PhD. in Psychology Today,  has written a good primer entitled “9 Types of Entitlement Tendencies and How to Overcome Them.” It’s a good read and helpful.

One of the reasons for this trend is that current parenting styles set into motion in our children’s minds that they are special.  One simple illustration: instead of a birthday party, we have an over-the-top extravaganza.  What message does this leave with the child?  They know they can expect to get anything they want.

We have catered to the “Me, Me, Me” mentality by satisfying our children’s every need or want.  Gratitude goes out the window. We have, in many cases, over-indulged our children to their detriment because they haven’t developed a sense of balance as to what is or is not appropriate to expect. They lose their sense of gratitude and replace it with an attitude of entitlement.

When my three kids were growing up (they are all Generation X), I was concerned about over indulging them financially.  I could have easily done that. But I adopted my father’s philosophy which was that I would pay for their education as far as they wanted to go, and after that it was up to them.

As a reward for completion of college, I gave each of them a car. It was not an entitlement;  it was a reward for a job well done, and I didn’t want them to start their careers with a car payment.

Granted, not every millennial has an entitlement mentality, but it is pervasive enough to be a problem for the next generation. When the entitled millennial goes into the business world, their view of self-importance collides with the reality that they aren’t “special” and they don’t have the training or skills to handle what they think they should be doing.

One anecdote of this last point.  A young entrepreneur, a millennial herself, was interviewing to hire some additional staff. She went through 20 interviews with millennials.

None of them were willing to start as an assistant – their sense of entitlement made them feel they were above starting at the ground floor. She finally hired one, but had to fire her after some behavior issues after only 2 days.

The entitlement epidemic usually begins with over-parenting—over-indulging, over-protecting, over-pampering, over-praising, and jumping through hoops to meets kids’ endless demands,” says Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions. “Today’s generation of parents are overly invested in their child’s happiness, comfort and success.

As Simon Sinek in his video Millennials in the Workplace (link is below and it’s worth watching) – many millennials are the product of poor parenting styles, so they’ve been dealt a “bad hand.”  Business is having to adopt and adjust to them, not the other way around.

For parents, it’s time to rethink the results of our parenting which leads to behavioral issues later in life. This phenomenon is not new:  Tony Compolo, a Christian sociologist,  wrote about this in the early 1990’s in a book entitled “Who Changed the Price Tags.”

Our challenge is to reach out to the floundering millennial who might have unreasonable expectations of entitlement. Sadly, someone who is narcissistic is a tough case to handle, so this is no easy fix. As mentors, we are in a good position to be the sounding board of reality and speak into their lives.  They need outside help to develop a sense of gratitude and humility.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Your relationship with the next generation can be instrumental in correcting any “vision” issues they have as to what they are or are not entitled to. In many cases, they cannot “see” that their attitude is a problem.

FURTHER STUDY:  The Alicia Boyes article in Psychology Today is found at:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201303/9-types-entitlement-tendencies-and-how-overcome-them

The article on the Entitlement trend is found at: https://www.indy100.com/article/young-people-entitlement-disappointed-narcissism-psychology-research-7867961

Another helpful article:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/singletons/201511/9-signs-child-has-entitlement-issues

An article on entitlement leading to chronic disappointment: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160913134442.htm

Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplacehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hER0Qp6QJNU

WORSHIP: Listen to Christ Tomlin sing “We Fall Down” which reminds us we all have shortcomings that are forgiven at the foot of the Cross:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

Vacations

 

Puffins

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:15, 16.

Having just returned from an almost month-long holiday with my family in Europe, I was reflecting on what I accomplished. First, I honored my wife’s request to make the vacation a real vacation, and not be distracted by doing “work” – in my case, blogging, and interacting with the many men that I have been mentoring recently.

I covered this theme in an earlier post entitled “Free Days” which is a concept we used in a life coaching class I took over 20 years ago.  The idea behind “free days” is that you should plan your schedule to include a reasonable number of free days – days that are devoid of work where you are truly off duty.  Staying in touch via text or email or phone is frowned on.  And you can’t cheat by playing golf with a client or customer.

The idea is that we all need a breather from our occupations (in my case, my avocations). It is a biblical concept, because Jesus took time to withdraw from the crowds. It is a time of refreshment. A time to pause and smell the roses. A time to spend valuable time with your family. It is a time for replenishment of your emotional tank.

For most of us (including me), we often ignore our emotional tank, and the stress of work and life can take its toll.  For men, it is often hard, because we are taught to tough it out and “don’t let anyone see you sweat”.  If you are really drowning emotionally or are depressed, it is countercultural to let others know you are barely making it and are just hanging on.

This is particularly true of the millennials who have exhibited to isolation leading to loneliness and clinical depression.  The suicide rates are alarming in this age group. Recent studies have shown this, and it is something that needs to be addressed by parents and mentors. Many of them don’t realize their plight, to their detriment.

One other accomplishment of our trip is that we got to spend quality time with Sarah, our 11-year-old granddaughter.  The idea of the trip was initiated when my youngest son’s twins played in a soccer tournament outside of Barcelona for a week. We decided to  come along and take another of our other grandkids with us and make it into a tour of Europe – seven countries in all.

The trip accomplished several things. For Sarah, she got to see things she always wanted to see – the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tower of Big Ben in London, Mad Ludwig’s castle in Bavaria (the one that ended up being the model for Disneyland).  Better yet, we spent valuable time together having fun.

It was a rare opportunity to have those one on one (or in our case, one on two) moments for almost a month. To walk together, laugh together, rush to a plane together, and sometimes sleep in hotels with cramped quarters.

She will remember it the rest of her life. Not just memories of the places she visited, but the time she spent with us.  You see, we were mentoring her in a very natural way. She learned to adjust to new currencies and exchange rates, and to navigate in places where the language was foreign. She learned to choose her food on menus that weren’t in English.

She learned to take care of her stuff and pack sensibly. My rule of travel when it comes to packing is that if you can’t wear it, or can’t carry it, don’t bring it. We rarely checked bags on 11 airplane flights.  Having been a travel warrior in my career, I know what a mess it becomes if your bag gets misplaced. It is even more troublesome if you are on the move and not going to stay in one place for more than a day or two.

She learned that her grandparents were not perfect, and that we all had our moments, but that we always managed to resolve them quickly. She learned to do Sudoku with Sis, she read a lot and was very engaged on what we were doing or considering options of things that we could do. We literally watched her grow up by the time the trip was through.

So now we have a template of our role as grandparents.  Taking one or two of our grandchildren on an adventure that is geared to their interests. Sarah loves travel, so that was easy. Our other grandkids all want to know where we are taking them, now that we have set this precedent. As long as our health holds out, we will continue this tradition with the others.

I did similar things with my children and my own father. I went on an Outward Bound expedition with my eldest son when he was in high school.  With my daughter (Sarah’s mom), I took her on a weekend trip to San Francisco.

It was also something I did with my own father about a year before he died. He was living in San Francisco when he met and married my mother. I remember sitting at a restaurant in San Franciso with my father and recounting details of trips we had taken together years before. He was amazed that I remembered the details, many of which he had forgotten.

I never really knew my own grandparents. My mother’s parents all died early, and my father’s grandparents lived 3000 miles away and didn’t have the resources to visit frequently. I feel like I missed some deep connection with my past. Most of what I know about my grandparents came from conversations about them with my parents, rather than personal interaction.

I have frequently said that our legacy is to leave our fingerprints on our grandchildren – all over them, for that matter. We want them to know us and what we are like (the good, the bad, and hopefully not the ugly). We want them to know our Christian values and how that plays out in everyday life.  We want to plant memories that will last a lifetime.

Our challenge is to take time away from the stresses of life and encourage others to do the same.  Make sure you spend it with family because, at the end of the day, that’s our legacy.  You may not be able to do what we just did, but you can figure out ways to do something special.  As the saying goes, you only live once, and you may not have opportunities later. It’s time to live for the moment, not the future.

MENTORING TIP: The next generation that you interact with may be struggling with depression. If possible, spend time with them doing something together so you can get a sense of their emotional well-being. Emphasize that taking time off is important.

FURTHER STUDY:  Studies by Barna and Pew Research have all consistently shown a high level of depression and suicide in the millennial generation. See my post entitled “Loneliness” which was posted on July 4, 2017.

WORSHIP: Listen to Tommy Walker sing “Taste and See

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.