Your students grew up with smartphones. Here's how that affects their mental health.

Generation Z's heavy smartphone use may put their mental health at risk, Jean Twenge reports for The Conversation.

Several surveys suggest that Generation Z spends an average of six hours per day on a smartphone, and significantly less time on social activities like hanging out with friends, writes Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University.

Loneliness, depression, and anxiety have also increased among the Gen Z population since 2012, she adds. The rate of undergraduates reporting "overwhelming anxiety" increased from 50% in 2011 to 62% in 2016, according to a recent report.

One consistent stress is social media, as young people use these platforms to compare themselves with their peers—and constantly perceive themselves to be falling short, explains Stephanie Eken, a psychiatrist and regional medical director for Rogers Behavioral Health.

How to tackle the student stress dilemma

Pulling from recent studies, Twenge notes that social media use led to a lower sense of well-being. Similarly, a 2016 study found that adults who gave up Facebook for a week reported higher levels of happiness than their counterparts who continued using the social media platform.

The troubling impact of smartphone use may be affecting Generation Z's academic development as well, Twenge adds. The average SAT critical reading score has declined by 14 points since 2005, she writes. And interviews with college faculty suggest that today's students have trouble reading longer text passages, she notes.

But Generation Z does have their advantages. This cohort seems to have a stronger work ethic and more realistic expectations than their millennial predecessors, Twenge reports (Twenge, The Conversation, 11/7).

Also see: 5 things Gen Z craves from higher ed


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