By Jean M. Twenge
The title captures it all. Jean M. Twenge utilizes interviews, empirical evidence and research to unpack who is iGen? iGen are those born in 1995 and later who grew up with cell phones and do not recall a time before the Internet. Drawing from four large, nationally representative surveys of 11 million Americans since the 1960s, Twenge identified ten important trends shaping iGen’ers and, ultimately, all of us. Apropos, the following ten chapters define and assess the impact of these ten trends, so let’s dive right in.
Chapter 1 – In No Hurry: Growing Up Slowly
At first glance, it seems like the parents of iGen have shortened the leash on their kids, hovering and overprotecting like never before. But it is not a one-sided shortening because iGen willingly staying and wish they could stay children longer. This is evidenced by evidenced examples that iGen is “less likely to” (when compared to previous decades/generations):
- Go out without their parents
- Be at home without their parents
- Date…or have sex
- Underage drink
- Get a driver’s license by the time they graduate high school
- Want or get a job
The conglomeration of these facts leads to a childhood that extends well into adolescence. And if iGen is NOT doing any of the above, what are they doing? Look what is constantly in their hands…
Chapter 2 – Internet: Online Time—Oh, and Other Media, Too
This generation appropriately gained its title from the evident phenomena of more technology constantly in their hands. Even if they do not want it so much, they feel they need it. It is all about the convenience, cost and comfort of being to watch, talk to, interact with, and do basically anything via the smartphone. Such a seeming addiction has impacted time outside the home with friends (noting the trends from Chapter 1) and hastened the demise of print media.
Chapter 3 – In Person No More: I’m With You, But Only Virtually
Simply put, face-to-face in-person interactions have been replaced with social media gatherings. “Going out” with friends is in sharp decline compared to previous generations. Thus, alone time is on the rise being spent online on social media, streaming video and texting. Unfortunately, the lessened leisure time leaves teens feeling lonelier, depressed, bullied and even more suicidal than ever before.
Chapter 4 – Insecure: The New Mental Health Crisis
In lieu of the previous chapter, it is not surprising that diagnosed mental illness is a concomitant result stemming from the screen time epidemic. iGen is on the verge of the most severe mental health crisis for young people in decades. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) results in overwhelming anxiety, deepened depression, lowered self-confidence, heightened body image concerns and profound suicidality for our teens and young adults. This all starts with even something as rudimentary as poor sleep habits spiraling down into full mental health breakdowns. The worst part is that high schools and colleges are inadequately equipped to handle these rising mental health needs.
Chapter 5 – Irreligious: Losing My Religion (And Spirituality)
More iGen’ers are being raised in nonreligious households, and more iGen teens have decided not to belong to a religion anymore. “Moralistic therapeutic deism” is replacing traditional religions or denominations. This belief system believes in God but also includes “more uniquely modern ideas, such as the importance of happiness, feeling good about yourself, and the idea that ‘God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem’”. Additionally “moral individualism” accompanies this train of thought—“we are all different, and that’s good.” These shifts in systemic beliefs will inevitably alter the structure of America over time if not addressed.
Chapter 6 – Insulated but not Intrinsic: More Safety and Less Community
One’s physical safety has become of the utmost importance. With safety as king, teens just don’t want to take chances any more so they stay home, drive carefully, avoid violence/fighting and use substances only in “safe” amounts or not at all. Safety goes beyond the physical into the emotional realm. “Safe spaces” have emerged, especially on college campuses, in order to protect anyone from any viewpoint that might offend them. Sadly, with this “handling with oven mittens” mentality, iGen is being overprotected and hovered over. The result is learned helplessness in a generation unable to solve problems and overcome adversity due to lack of practical experience. Though altruistic dreams are present, taking active steps in the community to make a difference does not typically follow.
Chapter 7 – Income Insecurity: Working to Earn—But Not to Shop
Despite the flood of information, news and info are deemed futile. School, especially higher education, is a necessary means to an end for higher paying work. Otherwise, genuine interest and passion for education is waning. This is then accompanied by a demoralization about feeling they can succeed—no self-starter businesses, less employment, life controlled by outside forces. If and when money is acquired, it is used quickly as a means to stand out, not to fit in. Overall, iGen’ers are more focused on practical things, less attracted to fame, and more likely to favor logic over emotions than their Milennial predecessors.
Chapter 8 – Indefinite: Sex, Marriage, and Children
Based on the previous trends, it should not come as a surprise that iGen is having sex, getting married, and having children in lower and lower numbers. After all, their social relationships are lower in priority so hence no venue in which to engage in any of these areas. Not to mention the lack of healthy marriages as models to imitate. Cohabitation before marriage is deemed a good litmus test for longevity. Having children (and marriage) is delayed and decreased in number due to economic barriers and financial practicalities.
Chapter 9 – Inclusive: LGBT, Gender, and Race Issues in the New Age
Oversensitivity is the key. On the good side, tolerance and acceptance are at a high as iGen is overly sensitive to one another in sexual orientation, gender and race. For example, there is extreme flexibility in how one should be labeled in their sexual orientation or gender. It is up to them; it can be fluid. However, with the oversensitivity comes a tendency to jump to extreme conclusions at the slightest negative expression or communication. There is less support of free speech than ever before seeing the First Amendment as “outdated”. How dare you offend someone of color with unintentionally harsh words (defined as a “microaggression”) lest you feed the growing victimhood culture.
Chapter 10 – Independent: Politics
Many iGen’ers are so cynically distrustful of government they simply don’t see the point in being interested or involved. And for those who are invested, they would identify most greatly with the Libertarian Party—put the individual first and are opposed to government regulation. Equal rights for everyone!
A balance must be struck between solutions and acceptance of iGen and all that comes with its smartphone saturation. Simply put, a place of moderation must be found. Some practical ways to do so may be installing apps to limit usage, sleeping with phones outside of bedrooms, limit access to 1 or 2 social media channels and set limits on when/where phone can be used (i.e. not at the dinner table). With moderation there can then be room for more social interactions with friends, exercise and in-person communications. All of these healthy additions would only serve to positively impact the concerning trends as outlined in the 10 chapters of this book.
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