Either everyone knows this or no one is thinking it: heavy smartphone and tech use by teenagers play a role in school violence.

I don’t mean to minimize the issues of gun control and mental illness but we are missing another contributing factor in what might lead a teenager to walk into a school and start taking out classmates. It’s those smartphones teenagers are glued to every minute of every day.

Teenagers today are nothing like their parents. You know it, I know it and the research proves it. They’re not dating much, they’re not going out as much, they’re getting their drivers license later, they live in their parents home longer, they play an unbelievable amount of video games online from their bedroom or basement. Many of their relationships exist only in apps and online. As a whole, the i-Generation is unhappy and depressed. While cyber-bullying is certainly a concern the very idea that teenagers will cyber-bully themselves is shocking but it happens and teenagers are more likely to lose their lives to suicide than homicide.

Those statistics are disturbing and should certainly illuminate the problems smartphones and broadband and LTE networks cause but to me, the most shocking statistic in how today’s teenagers are different from their parents is how the devices have changed what we were always told were the ‘bad things’. Teen pregnancy is at its lowest level and kids aren’t drinking alcohol like their parents did at their age.

Why? Because they’re holed up in their rooms by themselves with thumbs flying across a smartphone keyboard.

“We see students who are just more comfortable in the world of their device,” said counselor Randy Campbell who works at an after-school program with who some consider “at risk” teenagers. “They don’t know how to act one-on-one,” he said. “So they’re always in their phone and when they’re forced to put their phone down they don’t know how to act.”

“They don’t even go out as groups of friends, like go to a movie,” said church youth minister Payne Stockard who follows some students on SnapChat. “Very rarely do you see SnapChats of them out together. It’s almost always just them in their room,” he told me.

They also run across photos on Instagram or Twitter or SnapChat of other teenagers out having fun. Everyone knows people love to post when they’re having fun and their online profiles show a perfect life and family.

Holly Park, a 4th-grade teacher told the story of a 3rd-grade girl who was left out of a birthday party. “They face-timed one of the students in my class who wasn’t invited, to show her how much fun they were having at the party,” she said. “The little girl was devastated.”

 

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