Torrance Choates: Have smartphones destroyed a generation?

Published 3:52 pm Monday, November 6, 2017

In this week’s column, I will be raising the question, “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?” If you are reading this column please pay close attention. This is a deep concern of mine.
The smartphone generation, post millennial, or Generation X as some may call it, seems to be in grave danger. While there are some serious benefits to smartphones, there is also a crisis going on as we adults sit and helplessly watch it unfold. An average family ride to grandma’s house or to the store used to be filled with conversation. In the good ol’ days (about 30 years ago or more) we used to sit in the car and enjoy the trip and have candid discussions. While driving down the road it was easy to admire nature, scenic landscapes and yards, look at cars, and see many animals. At the same time, we were enjoying the beauty that God created, we were having great conversations about life and future plans and just enjoying the company of our parents. These were the days where life was really worth living. At a slower pace, the world was not so technologically advanced.
Fast forward to today. The entire world is at your fingertips. The smartphone generation knows and understands that better than any of us. One must keep in mind while reading this column that the smartphone generation does not know life without their smartphones. Also, most conversations and interactions with parents are non-existent while driving. While there are some benefits, we will examine some of the potential damage that it may be causing. Many experts believe that this generation is on the brink of a mental health crisis. You see children as young as nine years old on the smartphones without any adult supervision. They can join adult chat groups and pick up pornography that is easily and readily available.
Some researchers have found children dating less, being less social, and less athletic. This may be largely due to children having their entire world wrapped around the phone, again, social media (with all of the social networks they can become involved in). Studies have also found that today’s teens and young adults are living at home with their parents at a much later age. Independence and getting around on our own used to be an urgent matter for us; however, many of today’s teens are not that ambitious. This could also be partly due to the economy downturn that started back in 2007 and lasted to 2009.
Obesity is on the rise. The smartphone generation is helping to lead this trend due to being less involved in exercise and being sedentary and eating which causes them to take in more calories.
Back in the day, children ate anything they wanted to and were still in great shape because they played so hard from sunup to sundown. You rarely see children playing football in the yards or baseball in a baseball field. Most summer days, many children are in the house playing video games or of course on their smartphones. It is so addicting to some that they will waste a whole day away by being on their phones.
Parents, there are a lot of things we can do. It is hard for me to fathom a nine-year-old with a smartphone, but I know it is happening. Give cell phone privileges at certain times instead all day. Taking a supervisory role and monitoring cell phone activity may be very helpful. Encourage and make your children go outside without a cell phone to encourage some physical activities. I believe this is where we went wrong; we just gave the cell phones to our children without putting restrictions and limitations to them and this is the monster which we have created. One thing is for sure: the days of going to the skating rink and hanging out with our friends and looking to date a nice girl are no more. Most of this can be done on social media now.
Finally, I close by saying that sadly, some researchers are predicting many smartphone generation children will not live as long as our generation.

Torrance Choates, Ed.D., is superintendent of Sumter County Schools.