The XX Factor

Wired Teens, Worried About Being Wired

The NYT ‘s Room for Debate blog offers four experts joining the conversation about the Kaiser Foundation’s “Wired Kids” findings -although it’s scarcely a debate, since every expert is united in calls to balance screen time and social media with real-world activity. What no one’s yet noted is that teenagers themselves share this concern. Teenagers love to analyze themselves, to compare themselves with their peers, and they get that this is what makes them different from their parents (even though you’re right, Emily,  we’re all plugged in ).

In December, I listened to our local NPR station conduct a “Socrates Exchange” on the topic ” Has technology helped or hurt us ?” at a New Hampshire high school. The kids were reasonably united (and filled with youthful idealism) in a sort of limited anti-tech camp. Constant texting “leaves you always alone and isolated while kind of being connected at the same time,” commented one . Another says he likes the entertainment and connection but remembers that these are “wants not needs.” And those are just the online commenters-kids speaking on the air were often vehement in their conviction that “all the other kids” were way too addicted to their gadgets. Of course, none of them offered to hand their smartphones over for a week. Still, I think there’s little risk that “Generation M2” will arrive at some constantly connected utopia (or dystopia) without the usual degree of American introspection on the subject. Not that parents shouldn’t set limits and get involved, but having a conversation about why limits and balance matter might get more teens talking about this among themselves. Maybe even face-to-face.