I just read an article about the affect smartphones have on our emotional intelligence and mental health from the Atlantic ( Article link). I highly recommend looking through the article. It’s a long read and won’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but I feel it’s a really important read for parents and teens alike.
The overarching theme of the article is that the use of smartphones is causing more loneliness in teens and less face-to-face interaction. While teens in theory are more connected now more than ever because of their phones, they report feeling more left out too. They are finding it hard to connect with peers in person after their on screen interactions. There is obviously a huge disconnect in this case. The article also notes that the biggest effect is shown in teenage girls.
The exorbitant use of cell phones by teens is also resulting in less independent teenagers. That does not necessarily mean teens are spending more time with their families, but rather spending more time in their rooms connecting with others through their phones. Results of this include a drop in dating rates, and also a drop in driver’s licenses obtained by of age teenagers. Teens are not being set up for success in their adulthood through their phones.
The challenges smart phones present to the generation the author dubs, “iGen” are only magnified for teens on the autism spectrum or with a learning difference. These teens already struggle to navigate in-person social situations inherently, and their phones are not necessarily helping them long term. Limiting screen time is an important thing to consider for anyone, and that can be especially true for teens with Asperger’s syndrome. While it may be a difficult task to remove a boy or girl addicted to their screen from that very thing, it is an important step to help them become happier and more independent people.
The Beyond Akeela teen summer transition program that works on post-secondary life skills places an emphasis on removing screens from the social experience of our teens. We tell our camp families and teens that it’s really hard to make a friend through a screen, and this article certainly does a good job of explaining why that is!