Loneliness among teenagers around the world is strongly increasing compared to a decade ago and one of the culprits of this situation is the increasing use of smartphones.
This was reported by the Washington Post , which in turn cites a report in the Journal of Adolescence which states that in 36 out of 37 countries the feeling of loneliness among teenagers has increased in the period under review, from 2012 to 2018, with the highest reports among girls.
The researchers processed data obtained from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international survey sponsored by the OECD created with the aim of assessing the educational attainment of adolescents in major industrialized countries every three years.
The survey in question involved over one million young people aged between 15 and 16. Among the various on which it is investigated: the ease with which they make friends at school, the sense of loneliness, the perception of liking or not liking others. Between 2012 and 2018, nearly twice as many students as before reported a high level of “loneliness at school,” a factor that has been pointed to as a possible source of depression and mental health problems. The study did not analyze the side effects of recent years with the coronavirus pandemic, but from many quarters there are reports in recent years of increasing cases of depression among young people and panic attacks, acts that oftentimes medicine calls “anti-conservative”.
What is surprising is the similar trend in different countries, explains Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and lead author of the study. “On the other hand, if this trend is due to the use of smartphones and electronic communications, a worldwide increase in these problems is exactly what you would expect.”
In the study, it highlights that most of the time loneliness in school is not due to factors such as income inequality, the total value of spending made by families on consumption or family size, but correlations with the increasing use of smartphones emerge clearlyand the internet. In 2012, it got to a point where in many nations half of the students had access to a smartphone, and it was from this point on that we started to see an increase in reports of loneliness. “Arriving at the saturation point, with social media almost mandatory and with everyone practically having a phone, everything changed,” explains Twenge again, highlighting that since 2010, with the increasing popularity of smartphones, adolescents spend less and less time interacting with people, and more and more time with digital media, elements that do not lead to “emotional closeness” in the interaction with each other and consequently, most likely, to the increase of loneliness.
Teachers and school leaders have long noticed the problem. The canteens and corridors, which have always been noisy places par excellence, have for some time now become quieter, with children busy staring at their smartphones. There are also those who have thought not to sit on their hands. In France, for example, as of 2018 elementary and middle school students cannot use their phones even during recess, at lunch or between classes.