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I'd Rather Lose My Ford or My Finger Than My Phone

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TEEN ON SMARTPHONE
Rob Lewine via Getty Images

In case you're wondering how kids today think, new research enables us to answer that question and see how absolutely different they are from their elders.

According to recent Pew Research, adolescents put technology in the same category as air and water. They feel they need it to live their lives. In fact, they would rather give up their pinky finger than their cell phone. I interpret this to mean they use their smartphone far more than they do their smallest finger. Incredible.

Furthermore, a study commissioned by a car-sharing company called Zipcar shows that nearly 40 percent of Millennials believe that losing their phone would be a bigger hardship than losing their automobile. They also believe it would be a greater tragedy (so to speak) than losing access to a desktop, laptop or a TV.

How does this compare to older generations? Only 16 percent of people ages 35 and up think that losing their phones would be more difficult than losing access to those other items. In fact, more than 40 percent of those 35 and up believe losing their cars would be the hardest aspect of their lives to give up. Only one in four Millennials surveyed agreed that their car comes first.

In fact, Millennials also say the use of phones and other mobile devices is allowing them to cut back on their driving. About 40 percent say they substitute texting, email and video chats for meeting up with friends in person, according to the study.

So what do we make of all this?

  1. Screens and virtual connections require less effort and allow us to be relationally lazy. Gen Y will need to work at interpersonal communication.
  2. Screens and virtual connections make life quick and convenient. Gen Y will need to learn patience and delay gratification through other means.
  3. Screens and virtual connections reduce our need to get out and see friends. Many become sedentary and even obese. The phone is mobile, but not the kid.
  4. Screens and virtual connections can diminish our empathy for people and distort our value of them. Gen Y will need to balance their time online with time offline.

What else would you say? How do you interpret this research and its meaning?