For Teens in the US, Smartphones Are the Modern Security Blanket
While other generations got their start in life before the internet or smartphones, today’s teens have been online since they could walk and talk. They are the first generation of teenagers to experience the world through their smartphones.
How does their relationship to technology affect their lives? Here are some results of a recent US survey carried out with our Awesomeness brand in mind:
Teens are the real digital natives. Originally, Millennials were deemed “digital natives,” creating Facebook, Snapchat, and so many of the apps on our phones. But one is truly a native if the behavior starts at birth, and thus the title rightly goes to teens. The top three things American teens think will impact their generation most are all digital – social media (53%), technology (42%), and cyber-bullying (28%).
They perceive themselves as having a different relationship to technology than older generations. Compared to older generations, American teens say people their age are more addicted to technology (69%), more comfortable connecting online than in person (55%), and more willing to share information about themselves online (50%).
Smartphones are the modern security blanket. For teens, smartphones serve as security blankets, particularly in social situations. Compared to the anxiety of impromptu face-to-face interactions, mobile interactions likely are less stressful to teens because they have so much more power over the situation. Comfortably hidden behind a screen, they have ultimate control over their reaction as well as time to formulate the perfect response. Even when out in social situations, their phone in hand is a constant shield against isolation as well as in-person interaction. In fact, 62% of American teens feel more comfortable expressing themselves digitally than in person and 55% don’t have to see someone in person in order to feel connected with them.
Teenage vices aren’t what they used to be. Afraid of true emotional vulnerability, many teens are forgoing romantic relationships. This survey found that nearly half of teens think it’s acceptable to date someone you’ve never met in real life, and half believe that they are more sexually experimental than other generations. However, much research has found that the percentage of high schoolers who have had sex is actually declining. According to a 2017 study by the Center for Disease Control, 40% of American teens have had sex – down from 48% a decade earlier. So while teens perceive themselves as more experimental, that might not be the reality. In an effort to avoid lung and liver cancer, teens are turning to weed over alcohol and tobacco. The majority think underage drinking (77%) and smoking cigarettes/e-cigarettes (62%) is unacceptable, but consider marijuana to be perfectly fine (54%). This digital generation satisfies so much of their novelty-seeking impulses through their phones, they hardly have the time or interest to pursue some of the old vices altogether.