Smartphones are changing the cultural influences on children’s development. In part three of her six-part series, Dr Stephanie Thornton considers what we know about the influence of smartphones on social and emotional development

Smartphones have transformed our teenagers’ lives in a few short years. The norm of face-to face contacts with peers, family, school, neighbourhood, where socialising existed in definite slots (not in lessons, not on a bus with strangers, not in the middle of the night) have been extended through the smartphone, to social contact anywhere, anytime, through devices that are unique to each teen, and used in privacy. No previous generation has ever been so socially connected.

Seventy per cent of our young use social networking sites through their phones every day. The average teenager sends 60 texts a day, though “high users” send far more than that (George & Odgers, 2015). They connect everywhere: in lessons, on buses, and almost all continue to socialise on their phones through the night (Vernon et al, 2018).

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