iPhone Study
Today's teenagers, dubbed the i-Generation, are dating less and pursuing sexual activity less than their Millennial and Baby Boomer predecessors. CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / Getty Images

Teenagers and those born after the mid-90s are dating far less and engaging in sexual activity at a dramatically lower rate than their Millennial counterparts, according to a new book on technology’s generational effects.

Author Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, conducted in-depth analysis and research into the social impact of smartphones on young people and the differences with the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations before them. Although her book posits that today’s “i-Gen” youth are physically safer than their predecessors, their mental and social health has reached crisis-level in part due to today’s barrage of technology.

Her analysis of the first “5G-Generation” shows high schoolers and teenagers today are not hanging out with friends and avoiding dates with their peers – something that rapidly picked up pace following the release of the iPhone in 2007.

While Baby Boomers and Millennials saw gradual individualistic trends between them, a massive generational rift formed around 2012 when the proportion of Americans who owned a smartphone surpassed 50 percent. Tenth and 12th graders show massive spikes in feelings of loneliness, with double digit percentage increases occurring between 2007 and 2015.

Dating, time spent with friends and the pursuit of sexual activity all took a backseat to social media and smartphones after 2007.

“The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of ‘screen time,’ Twenge wrote in The Atlantic. “But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans.”

Based on Twenge’s surveys and interviews with 11 million young people, she found that sexual activity among 14 and 15-year-olds has dropped nearly 40 percent since 1991. Her research notes that just over half of teenagers in 2015 went on dates, while 85 percent of their Generation X and Baby Boomer counterparts reporting dating at the same age.

Twenge’s book analyzing children born between 1995 and 2012, labeled the i-Generation, makes the argument that today’s youth are far less interested and engaged in romantic partnerships than those in the so-called millennial generation, those born between the early 1980s and 2004.

"Teens are spending less time interacting with their friends in person, hanging out with their friends," Twenge said.

Twenge notes that iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when Steve Jobs’ world-changing device was introduced in 2007. She cites a 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens that saw three out of four of them owning an iPhone.

Her in-depth personal interviews with U.S. teenagers and analysis of mental and social health data suggests that the technological blast today’s young people receive has caused steep rises in anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, loneliness and a myriad of other emotional crises.

“There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy,” she writes.

Twenge's book, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us, was released on Aug. 22. She is also the author of Generation Me.