A new generation, Generation Z or iGen, is coming of age and they are unlike any that have come before.
Born after 1995, this generation is considered to be more fearful, less social, and less happy than all those that came before.
This is also the generation that grew up with the iPhone and iPad.
This makes you wonder if this youngest generations dependency on cell phones is the cause of this tendency toward depression or is it possible that the depression is actually causing the increased use of cell phones?
Psychological Makeup of the iGen
- Those in the iGen are less social than previous generations.
- They prefer the safety of their homes rather than “hanging out” with peers.
- They are less likely to join school clubs or participate in after-school activities.
- More are forgoing traditional education for cyber-schooling from home.
- This generation is more concerned with everything being safe, physically and emotionally.
- They don’t participate in alcohol and drug abuse as often as many of the earlier generations.
- They also don’t participate in sexual activities as early as those from the past or as often.
- This generation is also much more accepting of humanity’s differences in regard to cultural, gender, and religious differences.
- You could say this generation is more about “keeping the peace” than bucking the system.
- They are also more fearful of taking chances or doing things alone.
- They feel isolated more often not by physical separation but by not having access to their most important world, that of the Internet.
Despite their disconnection with their immediate environment, this generation is very much aware of the world as a whole.
They’re Internet environment has them interacting regularly, and around-the-clock, with citizens’s from many countries and their knowledge of cultural differences is greater than that of previous generations.
In many ways, the cell phone has allowed this expansion.
Unfortunately, the very thing that connects this generation also isolates it.
With the exposure to the entire world from an early age, this generation is aware that the world is not a place where adults have control and provide a safe place.
Generations X and Y…
Previous generations were protected from the ugly parts of the world until they were old enough to first understand their own place in the world and family.
They were given the opportunity to learn about their emotions and how to handle them. The earlier generations were allowed to learn how to handle the less ideal aspects of life gradually, in a manner that took into account their emotional growth.
As they entered into their teenage years, they had the attitude “How can I learn to deal with bad things if you won’t allow me to experience them?” These early generations had confidence in their ability to handle adversity because they had gradually been exposed to increasing amounts, and met each challenge before being exposed to the next.
The iGen is exposed to the full horrors that exist from the earliest ages. They have lived through things like 9/11 and the ten deadliest school shootings in history. Having access to the world has made them fearful because they can readily see that these things aren’t some abstract concepts a world away. After all, their world is the entire world.
Having to deal with the knowledge of these things, which are difficult for mature adults to deal with, is beyond what the immature mind can handle. This fear is compounded by the fear they see in the adults they count on to keep them safe.
Parental Stress Adds Pressure
The events that have occurred since 1995 have parents afraid of the things that can happen to their children.
The one place parents once thought their kids could be safe is now a place where they may not be. The fear parents of the iGen feel has caused them to over-protect their children. They don’t allow kids to wander far from their sights and provide phones so kids can check in every hour or so.
They isolate their kids physically, but don’t consider what they are exposed to with availability of the Internet.
Their fear of major harm to a child has caused them to remove their children from the very situations that could help them build resilience that would help with adversity. The lack of in-person social interaction removes the opportunity of learning about emotions and how to deal with them.
In their wish to protect their children, the parents of this generation make them more vulnerable, more fearful, and less able to handle what the emotional upheaval of teen and young adult years. This, in turn, adds to depression.
Depression is most often a result of feeling helpless in the face of adversity. This latest generation is the first that has seen teenage suicide rates surpassing teenage homicide rates. What is happening is on one hand we have young minds that are unprepared to deal with emotional hardship, including the tumultuous early adulthood emotions and on the other these same individuals have access to the knowledge of the even greater ills that are out there to be faced when they leave the safety of their homes.
This is all made available through the Internet. You have an individual who doesn’t feel capable of dealing with their own emotions, let alone what they may face. They feel helpless. It becomes overwhelming. Not having the tools necessary to deal with these emotions nor the ability to gain in-person support from friends and family because of the social isolation, suicide seems to be the only solution available.
Is the cell phone the cause of the increase in iGen depression?
No, the cell phone isn’t the cause. It is, however, something that adds to other factors that are unique to this generation. It exposes an emotionally over-protected generation to events that even well adjusted adults can’t possibly understand.
The very thing that has been given to children to keep them connected and safe exposes them to things that make them emotionally vulnerable. It is possible that more thought needs to go into determining how early we allow kids access to the full range of cell phone activities.
It is also time to revisit how much protection from the “normal” stresses of life is too much.