No, your teens aren’t growing up too fast — a new study suggests it’s quite the opposite.
According to a recent study by San Diego State University and Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, authors found teens in Generation Z — the generation after Millennials — are growing up “slower” compared to those of past decades.
Looking at how often teenagers participated in adult activities like driving, having sex, working or drinking alcohol, authors concluded this generation just wasn’t as interested as previous ones.
“As high school seniors, [these] teens are less likely than previous generations to have their drivers’ licence, to have a paid job, to go out without their parents, to date, to have sex, and to drink alcohol,” study co-author and author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood Dr. Jean Twenge tells Global News.
“As a result, they are safer and may go to university or into their first jobs with less experience with independence. This seems to have occurred because we live longer, have fewer children, and expect education to last longer. The entire developmental pathway has slowed down.”
Who is Generation Z?
Twenge says this generation is born after 1995, and can also be referred to as iGen — after iPhones and iPads.
According to her research published in the journal Child Development, this trend of not being interested in adulthood activities appeared across all demographic groups in the United States. Researchers believed instead, teens were spending most of their time online.
WATCH: Meet Generation Z
To conduct the research, Twenge and her team looked at seven large surveys of 8.3-million people between the ages of 13 to 19 over a 40-year period. Teens were asked what they did with their spare time, and this data was compared to teens of the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s and 1970s.
Mental health is a concern
But the study also found this generation also had high suicide rates, Business Insider reports. In a piece in The Atlantic, Twenge argues smartphones and being born in the era of the internet, means more teens are likely to feel isolated and glued to their phones.
But she says generally, the data didn’t show a direct link between social media use and mental health issues. But it doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t be concerned.
“The data shows that use of social media or phones up to about two hours a day is not linked to mental health issues, but beyond that, the teens who spend more time with screens are more likely to be unhappy and depressed. Thus, the key is to limit smartphone use, not to stop it entirely,” she says.
READ MORE: Who is Generation Z?
Dr. Jillian Roberts, child psychologist of Family Sparks, says she agrees spending more time online can result in a decline in these adult activities.
“With the onset of the technology revolution, teens are turning to their devices and video games for ‘virtual entertainment’ rather than seeking ‘real, in-person entertainment,” she tells Global News. “I worry about the resulting reduction in in-person, human connection.”
And when it comes to parenting in general, especially if you have teenagers addicted to their phones and not being social, Roberts adds, this could be connected to overprotective parenting.
“The world is certainly more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, which can lead parents to feel like they need to hold on and protect their children for as long as they can,” she says. “A downside of overprotection is that you are messaging to your children — albeit unintentionally — that they need protection, that they cannot manage on their own.”
She suggests allowing teens to face some of their own challenges, as well as opening them up to activities of adulthood.
“Children need to face the challenges of life head-on to foster a sense of agency, self-confidence, and self-determination, all attributes of resiliency. Kids will certainly need to be resilient in [this] world.”