A new study has revealed something we all already know – the Gen Zs (those born after 2000) are addicted to social media. However, a more interesting finding of the study is they’re apparently delaying adult behaviours such as drugs, sex, alcohol and getting their driver’s licence.
According to the study, by US psychologists Jean Twenge and Heejung Park, young teens are far less likely to indulge in behaviours than their parents or older siblings did at the same age.
But far from being boring, the study said kids just wanted to be kids longer these days, avoiding the pressures of adulthood, namely because of increasing life expectancy.
Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, explained: “The developmental trajectory of adolescence has slowed, with teens growing up more slowly than they used to, In terms of adult activities, 18-year-olds now look like 15-year-olds once did.”
Park, an assistant professor of psychology at Bryn Mawr College, added: “Our study suggests that teens today are taking longer to embrace both adult responsibilities (such as driving and working) and adult pleasures (such as sex and alcohol). These trends are neither good nor bad, but reflect the current US. cultural climate.”
Twenge and Park examined how often teenagers engaged in activities that adults do and that children don’t, including dating, working for pay, going out without parents, driving, and having sex.
They analysed seven large surveys of 8.3 million 13-to-19-year-olds between 1976 and 2016. The surveys were nationally representative, reflecting the population of US. teens in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic region.
In the surveys, teens were asked how they used their time, including their engagement in one or more adult activities, allowing researchers to compare teens in the 2010s to teens in the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, and 1970s. The researchers also examined how changes in family size, life expectancy, education, and the economy may have influenced the speed at which teens take on adult activities.
The study found that the Zs i are less likely to work for pay, drive, date, drink alcohol, go out without their parents, and have sex than adolescents in previous decades. The trend appeared across demographic groups (including gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, region of the country, and urban/rural location), suggesting a broad-based cultural shift. The bottom line, the researchers concluded: Today’s teens are growing up more slowly than their counterparts from previous decades.
The trend toward engaging in fewer adult activities cannot be explained by time spent on homework or extracurricular activities, the researchers say, because time doing those activities decreased among eighth and tenth graders and was steady among twelfth graders and college students. Twenge and Park note that the decline may be linked to the time teens spend online, which increased markedly.
The context also mattered, with teens less likely to engage in adult activities during time periods in which milestones in life occurred later, including when people had longer life expectancies, women gave birth at later ages, and people completed education later. Adult activities were also less common during time periods when families had fewer children and higher median income, and when fewer people died of communicable diseases.