Think Millennials Have the Worst Phone Addiction? Wrong.


Have you heard that Millennials suffer from terrible phone addiction? Have you lampooned Millennials for not being able to look away from their screens?

Well, it turns out they’re not the worst when it comes to social media and using the phone.

Gen Xers and Baby Boomers spend more time on their phones than any generational cohort, according to a recent study by Nielsen.

In a column for Wired, Clive Thompson writes:

The data suggests that the ones most hooked on their devices are those graying Gen Xers. Research by Nielsen, for example, found that Americans aged 35 to 49 used social media 40 minutes more each week than those aged 18 to 34. Gen Xers were also more likely than millennials to pull their phones out at the dinner table. (Baby boomers were even worse!) The middle-­aged spend more time than millennials on every type of device—phone, computer, tablet—and, while they don’t peek at their phones while driving more than young people, they do it more than they should.

So why are middle-aged people checking their screens so frequently?

Because the midpoint of life is when your need to communicate peaks. The middle-aged are the central node in their nuclear families, the hub through which all messaging travels. Sure, people under 30 may juggle endless Snaps and Instagram Stories with their friends. But the middle-aged are fielding texts and FaceTimes from their teenage kids (hitting them up with questions about school or relationships) as well as emails, phone calls, and more texts from their parents, whose health care they’re often organizing.

That analysis is spot on, I think. We’re all using our phones quite often, some more frequently than others. We also have a tendency to underestimate our total use time.

Every generation needs wisdom with regard to technology. No one is immune from the addictive power of the smartphone. App developers count on it.

Constant connection via our smartphones brings with it numerous advantages: we chat more frequently with friends and family, receive instant updates on breaking news, and easily share opinions, images, or interesting articles via social media. But smartphone technology can also result in fragmentation, information overload, heightened fear and anxiety, and a failure to be fully present to those around us.

Rather than seeing technology use as a line of demarcation between generations, perhaps it is time for everyone to collectively face the power our devices have upon us, discern strategies for wise and measured use, and encourage one another to discipline ourselves so that we might be more present to God and one another.