i-Generation are loners & prone to suicide

18 September 2017 - 15:09 By Suthentira Govender
Image: iStock

Social media is turning teens into recluses‚ who prefer cyber relationships to real-life interactions and are at risk of suicide.

That’s according to new international research which also found that the i-Generation - those born between 1995 and 2012 - also showed less interest in romance than their millennial predecessors.

The research‚ conducted by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge‚ found that teenagers from the i-Generation are going out less than their millennial counterparts did as recently as 2009.

The study also showed that 56% of 14- to 18-year-olds went out on dates in 2015 compared to 85% of Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Twenge's research found that children of the i-Generation are safer but more mentally unstable than millennials because they tend to spend an average of three hours or more a day on electronic devices.

South African children are no different from their overseas peers when it comes to social media use‚ say local child experts.

“There are pros and cons to today’s heavy technology use by teenagers. On the positive side‚ teens feel safer today‚ have lower rates of pregnancy and have greater access to information than older generations‚” said Dr Lori Eddy‚ a Johannesburg counselling psychologist.

But she cautioned that research has shown a link between screen time and depression

“Teen depression and suicide have increased since 2011. One study showed that teens who spend a greater than average time on screen time are more likely to be unhappy whereas teens who spend a larger than average time on non screen activities‚ such as spending time with friends in person‚ are more likely to be happy.

“One theory is that teens’ use of social media is more likely to lead to them experiencing being left out due to seeing social media posts of other friends having a good time and them not being invited. Social media also allows constant comparison on many levels‚ including the number of ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ that a teen might have. Inclusion and popularity are now ratable through social media.”

Eddy said the problem of on-line bullying has reared its head amongst her teen patients‚ “who have convinced their parents to let them have plastic surgery due to extreme bullying based on their appearance. It is clear that screen time needs to be regulated and balanced with non-screen activities such as face-to-face socialising."

Dr Ingrid Artus‚ another psychologist‚ said: “It seems as if the obsession with electronic forms of communication in the digital age suggests a deep need for connection and belonging. I have noted however‚ that teenagers feel under immense pressure to constantly respond to messages. They are unable to set boundaries and disengage without feeling anxious about the unanswered message.

“It is the age where everyone has access to us at all times‚ so that our identities become embedded in a surreal world rather than in reality. The only way to truly develop real‚ meaningful‚ secure connections and identities are when we engage with other caring people in the flesh‚” said Artus.