Are Today’s Gen-Z Kids Feeling Lonelier Than Before?

In a world where 8-inch phones have shrunk the world, today’s Gen-Z kids are feeling lonelier than before says research. We find out why.
teens gen z loneliness

Do you remember what you used to do when you came back home from school, back when we were kids?

I remember rushing home, gobbling a few things to eat, and meeting my friends right away till we were summoned back home after sunset! At the cost of sounding like a “boomer”, I must say that we used to spend a lot more time outside, than our children today. It’s not just me stating this. Recent studies point towards this worrying aspect if we are raising a generation of children who are feeling lonelier than before.

In a study by Cigna US Loneliness Index, it was observed that:

  • 73% of Gen Z reported sometimes or always feeling alone, up from 69% a year ago.
  • 7 out of 10 heavy social media users, 71%, reported feelings of loneliness, up from 53% a year ago. 

A recent study in The Atlantic by Derek Thompson points towards a worrying trend where the number of times today’s Gen Z teen steps out to meet their friends is shrinking rapidly.

According to the piece:

  • Boys and girls ages 15 to 19 reduced their weekly social hangouts by more than three hours a week.
  • How teenage depression, having a close circle of friends or sharing their thoughts with someone has taken a hit.

As a mom of two, these questions make me wonder. Are our kids comfortable texting their peers more versus hanging out with their real friends?

As a generation, we are slowly getting into the comfort zone of more digital interactions versus more in-person interactions. Without a doubt, it is time efficient but the eternal debate remains is it cutting down their social interactions in the early years?

An article by Ryan Jenkins on Psychology Today throws light on the possible causes of loneliness for Gen Z in an era of digital explosion and a fastly shrinking world. The 3 most common causes of a feeling of loneliness among today’s Gen ZZ can be attributed to:

  1. Overstimulation: “We’ve become a culture more focused on strengthening our Wi-Fi connections than strengthening our personal connections.”, the author of the piece says and I can’t agree more. In a bid to be more productive and hustle more, we are engaging ourselves in endless streams of content, that there is barely time to keep the voices inside and around us down. No wonder when teens today get all the info they want about their friends and circle from the world of social media, there isn’t much room left to “want to meet them”. Silence and time away from all the fuss is what they crave more over the years.
  2. Digital vs Real Friends: The author cites social media as one of the biggest contributors to loneliness and that is this generation’s biggest irony. The number of comments, shares, saves, hearts, friends and followers are all great on paper- but how many of these connections are real? How many of them are someone your teen will turn towards when they want to share something about their life- good or bad?
  3. Dependency Shift: This is something very interesting that the author points out. He explains how you no longer NEED to seek help or information from those around you- be it family or neighbours or colleagues etc. What you need is now at your fingertip. Remember how in our grandparents’ time, there was this one house in every neighbourhood that had the TV and every Sunday for the 4 pm movie time or Friday for Chitrahaar the entire area would assemble? We laughed when we heard our grandparents shared these but the diminishing of these “interactions” over the years has what probably resulted in Gen-Z’s loneliness.

Don’t wait till teens to “own” your children- it’s that simple.

The effort needed to bond better with your kids so they don’t experience these bouts of loneliness and depression when they hit their teens needs to start from your end, and NOW. They need to know that they have got your back and the communication channels between you and them are never shut, whatever be the reason.

Try and engage with them in small ways. Instead of yelling at them for spending time on social media, why not engage in some time co-consuming them? Laugh together at the funny reels. Teach them how to be safe on the platform, and how to tackle trolls and negative comments. The Parental Supervision Tools that we have spoken about earlier on Kidsstoppress would come in super handy for this.

Go ahead and participate in their lives. You don’t need to be a “friend” to them but you sure can do your bit to be a friendly parent. Talk to them about their favourite music, the movies they like, their friends, and simply their lives. And NO- not in an interrogative way, trying to sniff out more information, but in an organic way. Trust me, we need to give Gen-Z more credit for their ability to understand every move that we make as parents.

Thankfully in the Indian settings, with extended families, cousins and occasions to meet each other more often, these statistics might not hold good, but they are a sure reflection of what’s in store, if not to these alarming levels. But we sure don’t want this to happen with our kids, right?

What is your take on this? Do you agree with these stats and analysis about Gen-Z? Tell us in the comments below.

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