Few days ago someone told me about the results of an US government-commissioned research, which, on a yearly basis, focuses on the lifestyle of American teenagers. The gathered data outlines a generation going through a time of change, with teens choosing, year after year, to follow an increasingly healthier lifestyle. One example? The number of teenagers smoking and drinking is constantly decreasing, as is the frequency of their involvement in risky sexual behaviour; there’s still a lot of room for improvement of course, nevertheless, these are good news overall.
According to researchers however, some negative data has emerged too: teenagers are spending more and more time in front of a screen. And it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s a smartphone, a computer or a tablet. An interactive device is always better than television, but still, young people shouldn’t be in front of a screen more than a couple of hours a day.
When I come across studies such as this one, I always try to look at the results from a different perspective, in order to get the whole picture of the situation. And so, I can’t avoid thinking that it’s probably part of the same good old generation clash, I wrote about it some time ago, wondering whether the Millennials were going to make it or not. People in their thirties or forties will surely remember the times when as kids, their parents used to tell them off, saying that they were turning into TV-addicts. There’s nothing new under the sun then: it’s just a different way for today’s kids to deal with the teenage years, just like it was different for our grandparents and will be different for our grandchildren.
A teenager constantly glued to his smartphone is actually doing a wide range of things with it: he’s reading, playing, chatting to his friends, working. In the future, this kind of behaviour is just going to be even more widespread. Smartphones are an epochal landmark: everyone – not just kids – is spending more time in front of that small screen, but maybe we can only see it when it happens to young people.