Questions for ‘A growing share of teens feels lonely at school’

teen boy wearing headphones and holding an iPhone stares into distance

The number of teens reporting loneliness, depression and other mental-health issues has been rising in the United States since the 2010s — long before the pandemic. Technology use may have contributed, a new study suggests.

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To accompany A growing share of teens feels lonely at school


Before Reading:

  1. Take a guess, how many minutes (or hours!) do you think you spend looking at a smartphone on the average day? When using a smartphone, how do you spend your time? Think about the last few days and list three activities or apps you have spent the most time on. Do you wish you could change the amount of time you spend on a smartphone or are you content with your current pattern of use?
  2. Identify a time when using a smartphone made you feel connected to friends or family. Identify a time when using a smartphone made you feel lonely.

During Reading:

  1. According to Jean Twenge’s new study, has the percentage of lonely teens increased, decreased or remained about the same over recent years? Who seems to be most affected?
  2. What does “phubbing” mean? From what two words is “phubbing” derived?
  3. According to the study, what effect did family size have on loneliness? What effect did health of the economy have on loneliness? Of all the factors studied, which one correlated best with the trend in loneliness seen in teens?
  4. Over how many years was this study repeated? In one sentence, explain how this study was performed.
  5. Identify two limitations of the new study. How might the study or its analyses be changed in the future to avoid these limitations?
  6. Was the increasing loneliness observed everywhere that this study was performed? If not, where were the exceptions?

After Reading:

  1. What is one take-away message from the new study? If this study was completed again next year, what do you think the results would show? Do you think the loneliness trend will continue like it is or do you think the trend will change? What about five years from now?
  2. What other factors do you think may affect loneliness trends in teens? Imagine that you are a scientist that is developing follow-up studies, and you want to test even more factors to understand their effect on loneliness. Other than the factors studied here, what other things would you test or ask questions about?