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New study: As teens are spending less time with each other, they experience a rise in feelings of loneliness

A lone teenage girl sitting in a corner
A lone teenage girl sitting in a corner
Amy Messere (Flickr Creative Commons)

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We know that smartphones and other connected mobile devices play a big part in the lives of teens today. But what is screen time impact on an adolescent’s social life, and his or her sense of social engagement?

A new study published today in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships seeks to provide an answer. Researchers behind the new paper used data from nationally representative surveys of 8.2 million U.S. adolescents between 1976 and 2017 to compare social interactions among teens of today and those from earlier generators. They find that today’s adolescents are less likely to hang out with friends in person, or date. The reason, they say, has little to do with increased school workload. Apparently, teens spend the same amount of time on homework and extracurricular activities as they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

In addition to finding a drop in the amount of time teens spend on socializing, the paper finds that a noted uptick in feelings of loneliness experienced by adolescents after 2010.

Jean Twenge, lead author of the study and a professor of psychology in San Diego State University, joins Larry to discuss the new work.


Jean Twenge, lead author of the study, “Less in-person social interaction with peers among U.S. adolescents in the 21st century and links to loneliness,” published today in the “Journal of Social and Personal Relationships”; author of “iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood”; professor of psychology at San Diego State University