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Kids Just Wanna … Turn Off?

a teenager holding a sledgehammer standing over a broken phone

We live in a culture immersed in social media. And even though that’s not always such a great thing, the smartphones clutched in every mitt or stashed in every back pocket around you would suggest that our collective social media fever probably isn’t cooling anytime soon.

However, we’re starting to see tiny indicators that there may be a shift coming. Perhaps not a seismic shift, but maybe something small and important.

Yes, we’ve been seeing reports lawmakers and schools and the like seem to be growing more concerned about potential social media harms. That pushback has resulted in everything from federal lawsuits to efforts to set distinct age limits for social media use. But I’m not talking about those sorts of things.

The little shift I’m eyeing are statements that young people are starting to make about the time they spend and the choices they’re making with social media. Those kinds of shifts could be far more important than court cases and legislation.

The Pew Research Center recently released new statistics from a surveyed group of 1,453 U.S. teenagers ages 13 to 17 and their parents. The study found that, yes, the majority of teens (51%) aren’t really worried about their technology and social media use. In fact, they stated that they thought the benefits of smartphones outweighed the harms.

You may have expected that. But about 40% of the surveyed teens were a bit more introspective. They worried that they should probably cut back on their social media time. Maybe, they mused, they could find other productive things to do. And an even larger 42% of those surveyed said they believed smartphones and those social media connections made it harder to learn good social skills in general.

When questioned about the feelings they experienced when actually setting down those phones for a stretch, some 72% of teen respondents said they “sometimes” or “often” felt good, maybe even happy about the disconnect. Hmm.

Now, you can call me a statistical cherry picker, but that kind of thinking among teens feels noteworthy. Add to that the response of 76% of parents who said that teen management of smartphone time was a major priority in their world, and you’ve got a whole lot of family members at least leaning in the same direction.

Let’s face it, those family conversations about our world, our screens and our social media use is where the rubber meets the road. Policymakers and big tech companies thinking about the health of kids and making rules is all great. Bravo. But it’s the common-sense discussions around the dinner table and arm-around-the-shoulder chats in the living room or on the back porch that hit, well, home.

Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.

2 Responses

  1. This is an excellent article for two reasons. First, it shows parents that there are actually kids who dislike smartphones just as much as their parents, if not more, showing that parenting does not always to be a multi-decade tug-of-war between their children and bad influences. You have not only given hope to current parents, but inspired more non-parents to become parents themselves. Second, it encourages kids that if they are not all that impressed by smartphones, that they can say so out loud in public without becoming a social pariah.