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On the Radar: Screen Time Dangers, Gen Z Identities, and Meta’s Inappropriate Content

More Than 4 Hours of Daily Smartphone Use Associated with Adolescent Health Risks

What? Smartphone use among adolescents continues to be a huge issue. Common Sense Media’s “Constant Companion” study showed that among American teenagers, median smartphone usage is about four-and-a-half hours a day (with some averaging 16 hours). Pew Research Center’s 2023 “Teens, Social Media and Technology” study found that 46% of teens use the internet “almost constantly.”

So What? Ongoing research continues to reinforce the correlation between smartphone use and negative health outcomes. A new study of 50,000 Korean adolescents found that those who used a smartphone for more than four hours a day had higher rates of stress, suicidal ideation and substance abuse.

Now What? Limiting or reducing screentime is one of parents’ biggest concerns today. Relationship and conversation are key. Concrete tools play a role, too. Parental controls on phones can help monitor and regulate this issue, but try providing non-screen activities to occupy kids’ time as well. Create screen-free zones in your house—especially bedrooms. Consider a family-wide screen detox. And parents, you can model healthy smartphone use by putting your own phone down, too.

Nearly 1 in 5 Gen Zers Identify as LGBT

What? Multiple studies have shown an uptick in people who identify somewhere on the LGBT spectrum. A study by Pew Research Center recorded 17% of surveyed adults between the ages of 18 and 29 identifying as such. And Gallup News reported 20.8% of Gen Zers who have reached adulthood identify as LGBT (nearly double the rate for Millennial adults).

So What? New gender identities, such as abrosexual, continue to be “discovered” and popularized, largely thanks to social media. Because of the culture’s focus on normalizing homosexuality and transgenderism, your children may feel peer pressure, combined with societal pressure, to choose a sexual identity that veers from a biblical understanding. They might even feel odd if they don’t identify as LGBT.

Now What? It’s important to know what your child is experiencing and to help them embrace the truth that their identity comes from God, not from their peers. For more information, check out these other Focus on the Family resources:

Meta Removing “Age-Inappropriate” Content from Teen Feeds

What? Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) has already restricted topics such as self-harm, eating disorders and mental illnesses from being recommended on teenagers’ accounts. However, a new update will now also restrict the content from appearing even if it was posted by people the user follows. Additionally, teen-owned accounts will also have the most restrictive content-control settings by default.

So What? This change comes only after a series of court battles and scandals. In 2021, the leak of the “Facebook Papers” revealed that Meta was aware of Instagram’s harmful effects on teen girls. In 2022, the company was sued by one family for recommending content to their teenage daughter that “glorified anorexia and self-harm.” And in October 2023, 33 state attorneys general filed a lawsuit against Meta for creating addictive features aimed at young people.

Now What? These content restriction features are a helpful step in the right direction. But they can’t replace healthy relationships between parents and children. Be sure to talk to your kids about what they’re seeing on social media. Ask them how it makes them feel. Ask if they’ve ever purchased a product because of an ad or influencer, or if they’ve adopted a particular behavior or belief after hearing about it online. And make sure they understand the risks of social media both socially (since they could be cyberbullied) and mentally (since they could become addicted).

Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.