When was the last time you had to call your child to come in from playing outside? Chances are that you probably don’t remember. It seems the days when children would play outside until the sky grew dark have passed. In place of playground games, Generation Z (born 1996-present) have video games, social media, and the internet. Generation Z children are surrounded by iPads, iPhones, and iWatches, so it’s only fitting that they’ve been deemed the iGeneration.
iGen was the first generation to grow up completely exposed to digital technology and as such, there is little research as to the long-term side effects of this exposure. Some research suggests that overexposure to technology can cause anxiety and be harmful to mental wellbeing. It’s not necessarily the technology itself that is causing the harm, but the types of activities carried out while using it.
A 2010 UK study coined the condition known as ‘nomophobia’, or ‘no mobile phone phobia’ – the fear of losing sight of your phone, losing signal, or running out of battery. The study found that 54 percent of mobile phone users admitted to having this condition. Interestingly, it was discovered that heavy cellphone use was associated with anxiety regardless of whether or not users had their phones on hand. When users were without their phone they felt anxious about being disconnected, but when they had their smartphones in hand, they felt a compulsive desire to use it. While this certainly seems like the ultimate Catch 22, there are ways to prevent this smartphone induced anxiety.
Turn Off Notifications
A recent survey found that 60 percent of teens and college students felt that they were addicted to their smartphone and felt a compulsive need to view and respond to notifications. This compulsion stems from the inconsistent gratification users receive from smartphones. At times you may check your phone and find three new notifications, which your brain views as a reward. However, the next time you check your phone and have no notifications, no reward.
This inconsistency psychologically conditions you to come back for more in hopes of obtaining your reward. It’s easy to see how this repetitive behavior could become addictive, so turn off smartphone notifications and encourage children to do the same. Gratification does not need to be instant.
Regulate Smartphone Use
While you may feel the impulse to drop smartphone use altogether, that has actually been shown to cause more anxiety, especially in teens. Instead, identify which activities or apps cause you stress, or cause you to waste time. Do you incessantly scroll through Facebook or Instagram? Try only using your phone for these types of apps in your downtime. The constant comparing might be more of the trigger than the actual smartphone. It’s when the apps you choose to use cause stress that smartphone use becomes harmful.
Seek Face-to-Face Interaction
Texting, FaceTime, and social media have made it easy to be constantly connected to other people. However, all of this interaction cannot be substituted for physical face-to-face interaction.
While it’s likely that your child is incessantly communicating with friends via social media, in-person interactions are more beneficial to their wellbeing. Face-to-face interaction promotes real, authentic relationships that can actually counteract negative side effects of social media. One study found that meeting a friend in person after a negative social media interaction instantly uplifted users moods and emotional well-being.
So, encourage your child to invite their friends over instead of Face-timing while watching their favorite television program. Not only is getting together good for their relationships, it’s good for their mental health as well.
There’s no denying that your iGeneration child will grow up surrounded by technology and there really isn’t any way around it. School, work, and social interactions all require a digital connection, so it’s important to find the balance rather than outlawing it altogether. As long as technology is utilized in a positive way, it’s possible to maintain a healthy balance between the real and digital world.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.