Tuesday, October 23 , 2018, 5:08 pm | Fair 74º


Susan Salcido: Creating Space for Phone-free Conversations

The year 2017 marked 10 years since Steve Jobs and Apple first introduced the iPhone.

This one device has transformed how we obtain information, how we learn, and how we interact with others.

As many have noted, smartphone users have more computer-processing power in their pockets than NASA computers did during the Apollo mission to the moon.

While the upsides to smartphones are well known, some researchers are now beginning to count the societal costs of these devices, particularly as they pertain to children.

One such researcher, Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, wrote a book titled iGen, which compiles sobering statistics on changes to children’s habits and mental health over the last 10 years.

The book has generated important discussions among parents, educators and mental health professionals.

Twenge’s studies indicate more children today are feeling “sad, hopeless, useless ... that they can’t do anything right.”

Her studies indicate a 50 percent increase in a clinical level of depression from 2011-15, along with higher rates of feeling lonely or left out.

Twenge’s contention is that these marked increases in alarming warning signs coincide almost perfectly with smartphones’ 50 percent market saturation rate among adolescents in 2011-12.

She posits that we are experiencing the world’s worst mental health crisis in decades.

Twenge isn’t alone in noting these troubling trends. Occupational therapist and author Victoria Prooday’s findings confirm an alarming increase in rates of children’s mental health issues as well.

According to both researchers, however, parents can take solace in knowing that conscious efforts can combat these trends.

Twenge and Prooday offer suggestions to help children and adolescents improve their physical and mental well-being, and to help promote positive, healthy family dynamics.

Suggestions include having children spend plenty of time outdoors: biking, hiking, going to the beach, or simply playing. Fortunately, in beautiful Santa Barbara County, the outdoor options are many.

When families turn off their devices, everyone can become emotionally available to connect.

Families can prioritize having a daily, technology-free family dinner. Familial bonds can truly have life-changing impacts. These bonds are invariably strengthened at home, where everyone can be attentive and engaged.

Dinner is an opportune time because families often congregate together and can engage in phone-free conversations.

When we turn off our phones, we send powerful messages about how we value what is happening in each other’s lives, that we are concerned about anyone’s feelings of loneliness, and that we recognize the need for improved self-confidence.

Through those efforts, we build authentic relationships with one another, which are foundational to emotional health. In so doing, we benefit our children, and we help ourselves as parents — and as a society.

It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort for all involved to put down the phone and create the space for important connecting conversations.

— Susan Salcido is the Santa Barbara County superintendent of schools. The opinions expressed are her own.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.