As someone who researches generational differences, I find one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is “What generation am I in?”
If you were born before 1980, that’s a relatively easy question to answer: the Silent Generation was born between 1925 and 1945; baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964; Gen X followed (born between 1965 and 1979).
Next come millennials, born after 1980. But where do millennials end, and when does the next generation begin? Until recently, I (and many others) thought the last millennial birth year would be 1999 – today’s 18-year-olds.
However, that changed a few years ago, when I started to notice big shifts in teens’ behavior and attitudes in the yearly surveys of 11 million young people that I analyze for my research. Around 2010, teens started to spend their time much differently from the generations that preceded them. Then, around 2012, sudden shifts in their psychological well-being began to appear. Together, these changes pointed to a generational cutoff around 1995, which meant that the kids of this new, post-millennial generation were already in college.
These teens and young adults all have one thing in common: Their childhood or adolescence coincided with the rise of the smartphone.
I wondered if changes in how teens were spending their free time and their deteriorating mental health – might be connected. Sure enough, I found that teens who spend more time on screens are less happy and more depressed, and those who spend more time with friends in person are happier and less depressed.
– Olga Tropinina