Study after study show that teenage girls are beyond addicted to social media, but, at the same time, aren't very social at all. They don't date; they have likes. They don't go shopping like their counterparts did just 12 years ago (before the smartphone exploded onto the scene). They're less likely to hang out with friends, go out to eat or go to the movies. Today's teenage girl is most likely to spend her Saturday nights alone in her room, on her phone and watching Netflix.
The findings of several studies are stunning. Among them:
• The highest suicide rate for girls was recorded in 1993. But then, from 1994-2007, the suicide rate showed a steady decline. Coinciding with the advent of the smartphone in 2007, suicide rates for girls have since shown explosive growth.
• A study by the Pew Research Center found that 36 percent of teenage girls say that they feel "extremely anxious" every day! Despite the ability to be constantly connected to everything and everybody, a national health survey by Cigna found the highest level of teenage loneliness ever recorded.
• And it doesn't get better as they get older. In 2011—less than a decade ago—the American College Health Association reported that 31 percent of all female college freshmen said that they had panic attacks and/or had experienced debilitating anxiety. In just five years, that number had doubled to 62 percent.
It's not just girls. Teenage boys have always been pigs, but in the age of social media, their porcine tendencies have grown exponentially. Rare is the young male who can negotiate the blind curve of adolescence without committing acts that are misogynistic, if not downright criminal. It's said that today's young girls are exposed to misogyny and pornography before they even hold a boy's hand for the first time.
Few teenage boys have ever had game to begin with. Now they don't even try. They don't flirt or try to show off the brains or athletic prowess. Instead, they send unsolicited pictures of their genitals. I asked one boy who was known for doing that if he was afraid of the possible consequences and he said, "Why should (I get) in trouble? Everybody does it."
My basketball team was at the state tournament and we went out for a team dinner. I told the girls that there would be no cellphones at the table during dinner. None. Zero. I didn't mumble and I didn't stutter. I told them that they could leave them in the team bus or put them in a purse if they had one. But I didn't want to see a phone while we were celebrating a great season with a team dinner. Having known most of them for years and recognizing the high potentiality for bullsh--, I told them to contact their parents before we sat down. (That's the Number One fake-ass excuse—I have to text my mom.)
Things were going OK, lots of actual spoken conversation, but I noticed that a couple of the girls were a bit jittery. One, in particular, appeared downright uncomfortable. I shrugged it off, but when I looked back in her direction, sure enough, she was looking under the table at her phone. Without saying a word, I got up, left the table and went and sat over in the corner to read a book. (I couldn't leave them un-chaperoned, but I wasn't going to stay at that table.)
The kid came over and tried to plead her case, but I just waved her away. The rest of the kids were not happy, not just because they had been deprived of my delightful company, but also because I would traditionally leave the tip for the entire team in such instances and now they would have to fork over extra money (The team captain saw to it that they did.)
The thing is, she's a great kid. Good athlete, very good student. She'll probably be no worse than salutatorian in this year's graduating class. But she's got problems, as well. She can't communicate face-to-face with her peers for crap. She's got the attention span of a hummingbird on crack. And her attachment to her phone is simply sad.
Her mom recently started taking the phone away at night and the kid told me that she had developed insomnia, claiming that she needed the phone in order to get to sleep. I told her, "Just let me hold onto your phone for a couple days. You'll fall asleep eventually."
The kid might get a kick out of a quote from a 16-year-old girl who said that she wished she "lived in the 'olden' days when kids hung out with friends and boys and girls went out on dates."
Yeah, like a million—or 12—years ago.