Having recently spent a lot of time with different groups of young adults, I was struck by just how different they are to how kids were when I was growing up. They are just worlds apart. That may sound obvious, and I know every generation says that but what really hit home for me was the lack of communication, socialization and, in some instances, respect.
I think I know what’s to blame. The common denominator with the young adults I’ve interacted with is a near-constant attachment to technology; their mobile phones. These young people seem to be glued to these phones every minute of every day. When my generation would have been out playing sport, going for walks, getting active – they’re staring at screens, Tweeting, Instagramming, endless sedentary scrolling.
And it isn’t only their physical health that’s suffering. Psychologists and psychiatrists have clearly witnessed a sharp increase in hospitalisation of young adults because of mental illness; depression, anxiety, anorexia to name a few of the conditions that are steadily becoming more prevalent. And a lot of anecdotal evidence seems to tie this illness to technology, internet access and social media. Whether it’s cyber-bullying, self-esteem issues or something else, there are enough studies to suggest that constant exposure to technology is doing some damage.
One psychiatrist calls smartphones; “pocket rockets”. She goes on to state; “It’s a simplistic view, but I think it is the ubiquity of broadband and smartphones that has changed the pace and power and the drama of mental illness in young people”. I would have to agree, especially with the difficult chat rooms, self-harming websites, anorexic websites, pornography and a whole invisible world of dark places.
In 2014 Japanese officials banned children from using smartphones after 9 pm. I think that’s a bit extreme – but perhaps the sentiment is right. I do believe that parenting is at the heart of correcting this behaviour. I think it is very important for parents to teach their kids to put their mobile phones down and to engage, learn how to conversate, maybe just go out and become a little bit more active. Every generation has its challenges, but this is becoming a very drastic and important issue – and one I believe we can counteract with simple behaviour changes.