Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me and the newly released iGen will be one of the plenary speakers at the 2018 School of Congregational Development which will be in San Diego on August 15th to the 18th, 2018.
Twenge’s article on ‘Has the Smartphone Destroyed a Generation?’ has been listed as one of the most popular articles on The Atlantic Magazine’s online site. As a researcher and professor of psychology at San Diego State University, her keen insights on the life of teenagers and college students will give participants at SCD the newest research on our youngest generation.
In her article she expresses her concerns about the impact of the use of smartphones on the iGen, those born between 1995 and 2012. She says, “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health.” She points out that while teenagers are physically more safe than previous generations, this doesn’t mean their mental health is any better.
“Psychologically, however, they are more vulnerable than Millennials were: Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed sine 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Most of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”
For pastors, youth workers, parents, and church leaders, her message is well worth hearing. While teenagers may seem to be more connected through the techgear, the reality is a smartphone is a poor substitute to real life experiences and relationships.
In her book, iGen she explores another aspect of teenage life in her chapter on ‘Irreligious: Losing My Religion (and Spirituality).’ Whereas earlier generations may have said, “Spiritual but not religious.” Today’s young people are saying, “Not spiritual and not religious.” (iGen, p. 130)
As going to church is no longer the norm for teenagers and their Millennial parents, those under the age of 24 have less and less an affinity to Christianity. Rather than embracing faith, many see religion as being judgmental and hypocritical - not open to the diversity of the younger generation. Twenge notes, “They want their religion to be more positive and less negative, to focus on what to do rather than what not to do, and to accept everyone.” (iGen, p. 140)
As local churches look to the future, they will need to focus on building relationships, affirming young people’s quest for identity, and learn to interact through technology in radical new ways if they hope to be part of the lives of young people.