The Impact of Smartphone on Child and Youth Independence in the Age of Social Networking and Global News

The Impact of Smartphone on Child and Youth Independence in the Age of Social Networking and Global News

Dr. Dror Krikon


Today’s younger generation is less independent than previous generations. Today’s children and youth grow up with a smartphone in their hands, they are online and available at any given moment, they spend more of their leisure time on indoor activities and experience less independence and freedom in outdoor activities, they meet less in face-to-face interaction, and they find it difficult to make decisions on their own. This is a generation in an infantilizing society who grow up more slowly than before. These observations come from numerous social science articles and books that deal with generations, children, youth, and the characteristics and influences of the smartphone. The aim of this article is to review some topics and areas including globalization, media, online news, and the use of the smartphone, in order to present and point out a relationship and conceptual connection, the first of its kind, to the best of our knowledge, leading to conclusions about the increasing lack of independence of contemporary children and youth.

Keywords: Globalization, Online News, Social Networks, Anxiety, Stress, Smartphone.

  1. Introduction

The processes of globalization, news, social networking, and the smartphone have led the world to recognize and know what is happening everywhere in the world and at every moment. The news, and especially online news on websites and social networks, is an accessible, dominant, and popular source of information. News has a tendency to be negative, and in crisis events such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks, the reports become intense and may lead to rising levels of stress, anxiety, and mental distress in the population, including parents and their children. Combining these characteristics and traits leads to an increase in parenting and supervision by parents, with implications for the diminished independence of their children.

  1. Globalization and the speed of information in a postmodern world

Globalization is a tremendous process in which boundaries are disappearing, emerging markets are evolving and becoming more sophisticated, new wealth is created in free trade, the media is flowing in all directions unrestrained, and people are free to choose their identities and lifestyles from an expanding range of possibilities (Bauman, 1998). Thanks to globalization, people from all over the world are much more connected than before (Ursah, 2009). There is no single culture today that is not exposed to the penetration and influence of foreign cultures, other ways of life, other religions and technological achievements from other countries anywhere in the world (Stenger, 2010). Information is flowing fast, business, services, and sales are going from one end of the world to the other, tourism and international communication has intensified and become boundless. It is a phenomenon that characterizes the political, economic, and cultural atmosphere in the world (Ursah, 2009).

Until the end of the 1980s, the word globalization was hardly used, neither in academic journals nor in the popular press, and today it’s a common, well known and widely used concept. Mostly, globalization is seen in its economic context, but it is also significant in the great and profound changes it has brought about in terms of time and space in human life. People are influential and influenced by their near and far geographical world both directly and indirectly, more quickly than they were before. For example, in the global consumer world, living habits and norms affect a person’s consumption habits on one side of the world, and these in turn affect manufacturers and factory workers on the other side of the world. The communication revolution and information technology are also a major part of the globalization process, as in the economic sphere. For example, markets that operate 24 hours a day depend on satellite and computer technologies, which have a major impact on a wide range of fields in the company (Giddens, 1998). Furthermore, in the postmodern and global world, people do not have to move much physically; people move all the time without getting out of the chair, moving quickly between spaces, for example, switching between the TV channels or websites, and physical distance already has much less significance.

So, of all the factors and means of technical mobility such as trains, cars, and aircraft, a particularly important role is played by information. Information transfer is a form of communication that does not involve physical movement. Here too, technology has evolved, streamlined, and intensified. Ultimately, the evolution of technology and the advent of the Internet eliminated, at least with regard to information, the very concept of “transit,” i.e. the distance to be traversed, and made it available instantly anywhere in the world (Bauman, 1998). Today, there is almost no dependence on physical location, and distances are almost irrelevant. The speed of communication and interaction is reduced to minimal time and space, and its boundaries no longer have any effect. The world is becoming an entirely networked place on communication lines, giving the feeling of a “global village,” at least in terms of the speed of information and communication (Gusacov, 2016). If in the past the world was founded on space, territory, physical and human boundaries, in the postmodern era, on the same territorial, physical, architectural and engineered space, another human space has been composed: the cyberspace[1]. Although this space is devoid of spatial features, it nevertheless has a special material feature of instantaneous expansion, which obscures the difference between “here” and “there.” Eliminating space and time distances, thanks to technology, exacerbates the polarization of humanity; it frees some people from territorial constraints and transforms some of the community’s features into non-territorial ones (Bauman, 1998).

  1. Internet changing the news

If so, technological developments and the advent of the Internet in the general public in the early 1990s have made globalization a genuine reality for the common man. Since the beginning of the revolution in communications technology, especially since the launch of efficient search engines, the amount of information accessible to people is unprecedented. Every piece of social, historical, economic, technological, or medical information from any corner of the world is available and within reach (Stenger, 2010). Moreover, the proliferation and popularity of the Internet from the early 1990s, and over the decades the rise and dramatic increase in news sites on the Internet (Elangovan & Gupta, 2015; Fernandes, 2015) have made it a leading and significant source of information and news.

            The human need for information, in addition to the need for control of the information environment, leads to engagement and seeking behavior, which is partly provided by viewing and reading news, with online media consumption and online news providing rapid updates that are readily available and continuous satisfaction of this need. This is one of the benefits of online news over the press and the evening news on television and radio (Althaus & Tewksbury, 2010).

            The Internet has influenced and changed the news media in many ways. For example, there is a trend that fewer and fewer people are starting the day listening to the radio, watching TV, or reading a written press document, and more people are using the Internet for news purposes (Newman, 2019). The amount of newspapers and magazines has dropped dramatically, as has advertising revenue as a result of online competition. The Internet has led to the establishment of many news sites that have made changes and adjustments to online platforms and target audiences. For example, in adapting writing and information content, it was necessary to adapt to a more casual, small-size writing style, short posts, interacting with online readers, photos, videos, hyperlinks interwoven with text, and more (Uddin, Jamshed, Ahsan & Alam, 2016; Christin, 2015). The result is that more and more people prefer to read digital news and less written news (Liu, 2017), and accessing online news sites has become commonplace for many people in the world (Motamedi & Choe, 2015; Knobloch-Westerwick, 2005).

            Over the years, the popularity of news sites has only increased, and this has enabled an easy and fast way to transfer information worldwide (Fernandes, 2015). That is, news sites have also become global. For example, news channels are maintaining Internet news sites that can be viewed worldwide and are gaining even greater popularity and follow-up from news channels and local news sites. A great example is the BBC News site (the British Broadcasting Corporation), a global brand with the potential and ability to attract more readers in the US than American news sites and channels such as Fox News, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Times (Thurman, 2007).

  1. The social network as a news source

At the same time, the various social networks that emerged have also progressed and improved. Over time, social networks have become dominant, especially with the advent of Facebook in 2004 and later Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more, becoming tools and daily occupations. Social networking enables a fast and instant virtual conversation, as well as a conversation with multiple participants that met the whole world’s need for instant communication satisfaction (Almog & Almog, 2016; Newman, 2019). Accordingly, the news and press channels have made historical adjustments and altered their contexts in accordance with technological development (Goggin, Martin, & Dwyer, 2015), and news information has also become social information on social networks (Tatar & Antoniadis, 2014). In this way, news can be consumed not only on the websites, on television, from the press or on the radio, but also on social networks which are a news reporting platform, such as Facebook (Turcotte, York, Irving, Scholl & Pingree, 2015). As another example, Twitter, a social network for fast and compact communication, is used for sharing personal updates and spontaneous ideas, entertainment information, lifestyle, and celebrity coverage. But besides, Twitter allows for widespread dissemination of breaking news reports; it contains a lot of useful information at the news level and reviews news information in a manner similar to traditional media coverage (Zhao et al., 2011). This is how it has become not merely a social network, but also an important news media. Twitter hosts many news agencies, such as CNN and the BBC, that make sure to release and publish news in the form of tweets all the time and consistently. And this is one of the contemporary ways of spreading news very widely, intensely, and incessantly[2] (Wu & Shen, 2015).

            In 2019, a trend was observed in which social-media engagement around news had become more private. That is, there is a transition from open social media like Facebook to more private social media, through messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, and Telegram, and these show an increase in use for news purposes. WhatsApp, for example, an app designed primarily for private groups, most often with friends, family, or work colleagues, has become a premier social network, one of the most significant and popular in the world, for news discussion and sharing. While the news is not the main goal, it is the subject of discussions and increasingly shared in groups (Newman, 2019). Therefore, social networks allow viewing of many types of content, including entertainment content, information content, and news. With respect to the news reports, the importance of both interpersonal communication and the human element is of great importance. That is, there is great significance to the two-way relationships on social networks compared to the one-way relationships that traditional media such as television and the press have with their audience. The sharing and recommendations of opinion leaders, whether acquainted with or distant from the user, have an impact on content dissemination, media trust levels, and repeated use of the same media (Turcotte et al., 2015).

  1. Popularity and distribution in the online world

Over time, social media has become one of the most popular Internet services in the world. Social media helps users to search for information, get updated, and get involved in civil and political activities and in the community. It can make new connections and strengthen existing community connections by updating and reporting on what is happening among contacts (Gil de Zúñiga, H., Jung, N., & Valenzuela, S., 2012). Furthermore, following the development of powerful mobile devices, led by the smartphone, and in light of their popularity and expanding use around the world, there has been an increase in the use of social networking sites, which has accelerated the consumption of online news even more significantly (Tatar & Antoniadis, 2014; Uddin et al., 2016). Indeed, it has been found that the use of mobile devices for news search is only increasing worldwide (Goggin et al., 2015). Many prefer to check and track news using digital devices, taking advantage of mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets (Taylor et al., 2015). That is, people still use computers for news purposes, but the smartphone is better for most people because of its convenience and flexibility. In addition, more and more people go first to the social networks to search for news and only then to a direct news channel (Newman, 2019).

            Online information has huge and rapid distribution potential. That is, the information can catch the attention of a large number of Internet users in a short period of time (Uddin et al., 2016). Many articles and many companies have already conducted tests and research on users’ attention and the popularity of digital news, trying to understand the winning formula for a popular news article and to predict the popularity of digital content in general. Such information is important and worth a lot of money to journalists and advertisers (Liu, 2017). The popularity of the articles and content which are published on online and social networking sites is constantly evaluated by calculating and measuring the number of views, the number of comments and responses, reviews, the number of votes or other types of rating metrics, site access, time spent on the webpage with the article, and the number of shares and likes (Chopra, Dimri, & Rawat, 2019; Fernandes, 2015; Tatar, Leguay, Antoniadis, Limbourg, Amorim & Fdida, 2011). Webmasters can examine the cumulative database, using analytics software programs (Tatar et al., 2011), such as Google Analytics, Omniture, Chartbeat, Visual Revenue, etc. This provides detailed and often also real-time statistics on the behavior of online readers. Sometimes journalists and advertisers have access to some of the data. For example, some journalists claim that the articles that receive the most clicks are articles about sex, celebrities, crime, and practical advice. In comparison, news, politics, and international arts are less watched (Christin, 2015).

            Today, news consumers have a huge amount of information to choose from on various sites. There are several factors that can lead to exposure or selection of a particular site or article, among them, the sentimentality and emotion behind the story. Human emotions are a significant element that drives and guides human behavior, especially on news sites and social networks (Chopra et al., 2019). Another factor is the number of views of a given article. An increased number of views has significance for the article’s exposure, leading to further increases later. And one of the top factors is the explicit recommendations the viewer receives for information to be exposed to online, allowing a window of opportunity for exposure to other articles and content on the same site (Knobloch-Westerwick, 2005; Tatar et al., 2011). When individuals forward and share information about local or global events, through apps and websites, this helps spread important news to a wider audience worldwide. And these behaviors are actively used to help spread news about important events in the world (Zhao et al., 2011). The amount of news article sharing indicates its popularity, and it seems that in the current information world, more and more people are enjoying reading and sharing online news articles, which become part of users’ entertainment (Ren & Yang, 2017).

  1. The smartphone increases and empowers everything

As mentioned, some of the parameters for measuring the popularity of information on the web in general and online news in particular are determined by the amount of sharing, likes, and responses to the content or the article (Uddin et al., 2016). Now, thanks to smartphones, when the news content on the online network is relatively easy to produce, with features of small, concise, and low-cost information, the information is consumed and has the potential to be widely shared across the world wide web (Tatar & Antoniadis, 2014). At the same time, applications that allow direct content exchange between users are emerging, and online news platforms have become an important and attractive source of information. Thanks to this, there can be convenient and quick access to the latest news, combined with social media that allows online users to interact by writing comments, voting, and sharing online social links quickly and easily (Tatar et al., 2011).

No doubt, the smartphone has changed its purpose from its initial role. If initially, the mobile phone was for the purpose of making a call from anywhere while enjoying mobility, over the years, the cell phone has evolved to become a technology with many different functions: from the alarm clock and phone book to advanced music playing, a means for fast internet browsing, digital camera, video games, and more (Groening, 2010). The mobile phone that has become a smartphone has slowly become an important part of daily life (Weiss, 2003). Today, it is involved in and influencing almost every field of life, for example, in the area of interpersonal communication, through conversations and messages; in the social field, through social networks; in the use of information and knowledge search; in leisure time for entertainment and relaxation, and so on (Elhai, 2017). Thanks to the various applications, it’s possible to access, read, create, and participate in almost anything: from cooking to listening to music, games, shopping, learning, working, photography, orientation in space, and more. In the field of news, news apps provide instant and up-to-the-minute information (Elangovan & Gupta, 2015). In addition, there may be overlap and sharing between the different usage characteristics. For example, relaxation can be achieved through playing games, while the need for socializing can also be satisfied with multiplayer play. And the search for information and updates on the news can be obtained and provided, not only through search engines and sites intended for this but also as stated through the various social networks (Elhai, 2017).

            The smartphone has changed many ways of communicating, consuming, and using the Internet, which has become much more accessible, available, and faster than before. Furthermore, the use of smartphones has become habitual for many people, a habit of quick and repeated examination of the device, looking at lightning-fast information, and this is a repetitive action. The habit can become automatic in some users. The length of smartphone use in test subjects is short but happens during the day. This use is usually limited to several apps, and usually the same apps will be in flash use all the time. During use and search, when new information is revealed, it is reinforcing for the users’ behavior, and by clicking refresh, they check for new updates that they have not yet seen. Testing habits may lead to the increasing use of the smartphone in general (Oulasvirta, Rattenbury, Ma & Raita, 2012). And in some cases, these searches and wanderings can cause biological changes in the brain (increased secretion of the neurotransmitter dopamine) that can lead to smartphone addiction (Weinschenk, 2012).

  1. The problematic side of technology and news

If so, every technology is both a burden and a blessing; it is not either-or but this and that. When technology enters a particular company, it will make a change and be taken as far as it can. The role of people in society is to understand what the purpose of the technology is and what it is designed to do. New technology creates new definitions for old concepts, even if unconsciously, and technology also adds new terms and concepts (Postman, 1992). The spread of information technology is closely related to the processes of globalization and media revolution described so far (Giddens, 1998). The media is very influential and exerts great power on the popular, collective, and individual imaginations. The photos, stories, and images presented seem stronger and more real than reality. Life on the screen diminishes life in reality and pulls the user out of it; life on screen seems to be desirable and tends to be considered reality. A lot of this is thanks to the spectacular and curated images shown, because these professional images entice users, and reality cannot compete with them (Bauman, 2000).

            People’s knowledge of their environment and much of their worldview relies upon and is drawn from various sources of communication (McNaughton-Cassill & Smith, 2002). Thanks to global communication, viewers and consumers of information can witness big events in distant places. This testimony, of course, has cognitive effects on the minds of viewers, and sometimes the images become engraved in the minds of many people throughout the world and can serve as shared memories. Widespread reporting on foreign events at the global level depends on the dramatic nature of these events and the images they produce. These raise the potential and likelihood of being covered by global media channels and replace the local time and space of local news. There are many stories that are not just local and can be true of many cultures worldwide, and if the story does not exactly match a particular culture, its essence can be taken and linked to the values or virtues that can be connected to anywhere in the world. For example, helping animals on the other side of the world can demonstrate humaneness or can be associated with the value of caring for innocents in distress (Gurevitch, 1991). Or, a violent or terrorist event that affects a particular place raises concern elsewhere in the world, and a demonstration against a local regime can influence and lead to ideological resurgence elsewhere in the world (Guzansky & Heller, 2012).

            In the news, people pay more attention to negative information than positive information. In addition, the reactions to negative news are stronger, more lasting, and more affecting than positive information and news. Accordingly, the news tends to be more negative (Soroka & Adams, 2015). Death, for example, is important to the media and news, because it is interesting, intriguing, and appealing to viewers (Walter, 1995). In addition, people tend to emphasize the negative and dangerous aspects of their lives, and the media influences their attitudes and views about problems that occur in their immediate and distant environments. At the same time, people tend to believe that negative social issues such as crimes, drug use, education problems, racism, and life-threatening issues are far more problematic in the country at large than in their specific communities. The media plays a significant role in this discrepancy and incongruity, as exposure to global media influences the increased perception of problems in the wider world. Another influencing factor is the manner in which people gather information and knowledge. That is, in the immediate community, knowledge is gained from their experience and close sources, whereas in distant places, knowledge relies on the media as previously said to be negative, and it has a greater impact on the attitudes and views of distant people and less on close and familiar situations (McNaughton-Cassill & Smith, 2002).

            The media is aware of the impact of negative news and the attraction of viewers and audiences to such content. And once there is a big and shocking crisis event, like terrorism and disasters, they come in droves, flooding the scene, and their pressure and hunger to get interviews and photos is palpable (Suomalainen, 2011). The media intensely report on various global crises, which can shape global processes and feelings and help mold the attitude of the global public sphere. These events of crisis are covered and constantly monitored by worldwide news, from international terrorism and the war against it (Cottle, 2011), such as the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 that stunned the entire world and forced the realization that terrorism could reach anywhere (Pfefferbaum, Newman, Nelson, Nitiéma, Pfefferbaum, & Rahman, 2014), to a financial collapse, like the subprime in the United States. From global epidemics such as swine flu, avian flu (* This article was written during the Coronavirus pandemic) to poverty and humanitarian disasters, human rights denial, environmental damage, global warming, and climate change (Cottle, 2011). This includes natural disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which left hundreds of thousands of dead, injured, or homeless. Less than a year later, Hurricane Katrina hit the US Gulf Coast, leading to great destruction and enormous damage. Also, in 2011, the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people, swept millions of tons of offshore debris and released radioactivity of unknown levels of danger. Again, these unknown exposures highlighted the vulnerability of people around the world (Pfefferbaum et al., 2014). These are just some of the global crises that the global public has been exposed to in recent world news media. Of course, global-effect crises and catastrophes are nothing new. Consider the collapse of Wall Street in 1929, the Spanish influenza in 1918, and of course, World War I and World War II, the nuclear bombs, and the pursuit of nuclear weapons, which remains a global threat to this day. The recent global crises are recognized as global and reported in this way thanks to the media. Global crises are characterized by results that are beyond their national boundaries, are not limited to a local area, and have the potential for a global, postmodern, capitalist connection, a world without territorial and physical boundaries that is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent (Cottle, 2011).

  1. A stressful period with crisis events

Postmodernism, or as Zygmunt Bauman called it, fluid modernity, is characterized by many areas of mass instability, insecurity, uncertainty, threat, and danger (for body, mind, and property). Everything changes very quickly, what is considered modern today, tomorrow will be considered outdated; a lifestyle that is considered fashionable today will be ridiculed tomorrow. The changes and flow that lead to solidity or instability enable humans to perceive the world as a place where everything is biodegradable and unmanageable, even man himself; the ‘now’ is the keyword in the life strategy. There is no spatial solidity, that is, no power for space but only for time, mobility controls rather than stasis (Bauman, 2000). In addition, the speed of the accelerated information movement requires cleverness, guile, elusiveness, and even courage (Bauman, 1998).

            Thus, the 20th century is marked by advances in communication technology as well as increasing mental distress. Changes and technological advances, along with global economic changes in the second half of the 20th century, have increased the prevalence and availability of news sources as well as their negative nature, in addition to their visual presentation. The television, for example, can act as a social agent that can cause fear, alienation, and distrust among heavy viewers (McNaughton-Cassill, 2007).

            Mass media is the main source of information for citizens, since it has the ability to be constantly available, instant, and up to date. The intense use and search for information can lead to media dependence, and the more dependent on the media, the more important the media becomes to the user, thus fulfilling their human need for information (Lachlan, Spence & Seeger, 2009).

            Accordingly, the media in general and news coverage in particular have a great variety of power and influence. The news coverage can affect emotional reactions and emotional states, the memory of the content, the viewers’ knowledge, different approaches and behaviors. However, media news, as mentioned, tends to be negative and can sometimes be overly negative. And then exposure to the different media can affect people’s way of looking at their world, their existing threats, their health and personal safety, and as a result, they can develop anxiety, stress, and emotional distress (McNaughton-Cassill, 2007). Therefore, if media events are not properly surveyed and conducted, this could have negative consequences and impacts on large populations (Jobes, Berman, Carroll, Eastgard & Knickmeyer, 1996). The main way to know and learn about crisis events like tragedies, natural disasters, terrorism, etc. is through the media and news (Busso, McLaughlin & Sheridan, 2014). Therefore, the role of the media as managing and responsible for the coverage and reporting becomes especially central and felt in these events. On the one hand, correct and reliable information is necessary to reduce uncertainty, inform the public of appropriate actions, and perhaps lower stress and anxiety levels. But on the other hand, information after a terrorist event or major natural disaster may not help reduce anxiety and stress (Lachlan et al., 2009). And with intense reportage, plus the rumors that arise and spread in the context of such events, you can expect an increase in unpleasant psychological sensations (McNaughton-Cassill, 2007; Ben-Zur, Gil & Shamshins, 2012; Jones, 2017). Many studies have found an association between emotional distress symptoms, stress, anxiety, and even symptoms reminiscent of post-traumatic disorder, and contact and watching of the media, especially during coverage and reporting of crisis events (McNaughton-Cassill, 2007; Bodas, Siman-Tov, Peleg & Solomon, 2015; Ben-Zur et al., 2012; Pfefferbaum et al., 2014). Many of the crisis events contain characteristics of confusion, uncertainty, threat and anxiety, short reaction time, and surprise. Also, they are likely to involve injuries such as loss of life and property (Lachlan et al., 2009). These characteristics also affect the viewer and increase the need for information (Gadarian & Albertson, 2014). It is important to note that news consumption is usually done actively and proactively by the media consumer, when he decides to watch TV or search for information on the Internet (Ben-Zur et al., 2012). Nevertheless, the anxiety that the viewer can feel affects his or her assessment of the reported details; that is, people in a calm state do not immediately and automatically accept and agree with the information to which they are exposed. In contrast, anxious people are less likely to argue with and question threatening information and will agree to it and remember it more (Gadarian & Albertson, 2014).

            A person’s presence, physically, at crisis events can lead to a variety of emotional distress and psychological disorders. These consequences are especially heightened among children and youth, who are considered to be a more vulnerable population. At the same time, exposure to the media covering such events can also increase the likelihood or be a danger as a trigger for the development and emergence of emotional distress symptoms, which can be similar to post-traumatic stress. Here, too, children and youth are more vulnerable, especially given that they are a population that is more exposed to consuming the media (Busso et al., 2014; Otto, Henin, Hirshfeld-Becker, Pollack, Biederman & Rosenbaum, 2007; Suomalainen, 2011). Sometimes just watching a report on a tragic event is enough to produce post-traumatic symptoms. In particular, children whose parents have a history of anxiety or depression are more likely to experience anxiety themselves (Otto et al., 2007).

  1. The smartphone as a supervisor for protective parents

Therefore, children and youth respond with a sense of threat to the media content and news coverage of crisis events. The sense of threat can be personal or social, and can lead to anxiety. Parents have a significant role in guarding and protecting their children; through communication and verbal discourse they must explain and make the connection and mediation between what the child sees and the sense of threat he experiences, in order to help him contain and cope with the unpleasant sensations. In this way, parents can also help themselves with perceptions and the sense of threat they experience (Comer, 2008). In addition, it is the responsibility of parents to take care of their children’s exposure to news coverage, which exposure can be burdensome and problematic. They should reduce their children’s viewing, even if they are already teenagers, and limit them in the dose and content to which they are exposed (Busso et al., 2014). The more accessibility and access to news and media, the higher its rate of viewing and consumption (Suomalainen, 2011). Therefore, performing this task today is not easy, as the younger generation is a generation for which the Internet is constantly available and easy to access and use, and is within immediate reach thanks to the smartphone (Twenge, 2017).

            Paradoxically, given the review so far, in a global world where crisis events are in the palm of the hand, thanks to the smartphone, and anxiety and stress levels are rising, at the same time, for parents and their children, the smartphone gets the opposite role – a device that gives a sense of security and calm. The ability to be available and in extreme cases the ability to call for help at any given moment provide a sense of security and peace of mind. Therefore, many parents give their children smartphones from an early age, so that they can know where they are and can feel safe in the knowledge that their children have the possibility to contact them in a distressing situation. Now, in fact, the smartphone has been given another role, the role of a mobile security supervisor. At the same time, this new role has its problems because of the messages unintentionally conveyed to the children by the parents of feeling insecure in society and the world outside (Rosen, 2004). The need to supervise is that of the parents; they feel the need to be informed about their children’s locations, friends, and activities, and the smartphone is a perfect and convenient tool with which to do so (Weisskirch, 2009). Parents’ supervision and monitoring of their children constitute a form of parental control, entry into the children’s private space, and influencing that space by their presence (Williams & Williams, 2005). The presence of parents, of protective and supervisory parenting, has effects and consequences, and therefore has a significant part in the decline of their children’s independence and their slower maturation compared to previous generations (Twenge, 2017). These characteristics and components are associated with and reinforce the process of infantilization that has taken place in Western capitalist society, where there is a kind of age denial as people do not act according to their true age (Barber, 2007).

            Children and youth today are part of a generation where technological advancement is the fastest it has ever been, with an emphasis on smartphones and social networks, and these directly impact their lives (Kang, 2018). The children and youth who grow up with the smartphone in their hands, online and available all the time, meet less face to face, spend less time outdoors (Twenge, 2019), and accordingly, experience less independence and freedom in extracurricular activities, without the parents, spend more of their spare time on indoor activities, hang out less, and are less willing to work if it is possible, although the salary has the capability of leveraging independence and outgrowing parental dependency (Twenge, 2017). The smartphone allows them to consult at any given moment; they can share and ask and not have to make decisions alone. For the younger generation, this situation lowers independence and increases insecurity over decision making, and on the part of parents, consultation, closeness, and availability serve to protect and soothe anxiety and worry about their children’s condition.

So, if in the past, when technology and communication were slower and less global, the person was less exposed to information about crisis events such as disasters, terrorist incidents, and tragedies, today, in the age of information and the Internet, when everything is readily available, as presented in the current review, global communication exposes the world to a huge amount of negative information that increases the sense of anxiety and fear that affects many populations such as parents, children, and youth (Almog & Almog, 2016). As part of the news’s impact and its power, as has been shown, there is now a growing sense that the big world is uncertain, a sense of polarization, a wariness of misinformation and information that is questionable (fake news). It is still difficult to know the reason for these feelings, perhaps because the world has become a more depressing place or because media coverage tends to be uncompromisingly negative – or perhaps a combination of the two. There seems to be a flood of news, some of which is contradictory. The viewer has the feeling that he does not have the ability to influence and change reality, which conflicts with the human need for control. It has been found that more and more people are stopping watching the news, and right now this seems to be the trend (Newman, 2019).

  1. Conclusions

This article has demonstrated that the increasing use of smartphones leads to a decline in the independence of children and youth. Global events, with a predominantly negative cast, are constantly and immediately available on news channels and social media via the smartphone, and young people, who use the smartphone intensively, have an especially high level of exposure. With the human need to search for information constantly, the levels of symptoms and feelings of stress, anxiety, and emotional distress rise, especially among children and youth, who are more vulnerable and more exposed to the media in general and social networks in particular.

As a result, parents may develop a sense of insecurity, which leads them to show increasingly protective behaviors toward their children. Therefore, many parents give their children smartphones that then take on a new role as a supervisor, a guarding and monitoring tool.

Although this way of using smartphones may calms parents, on the other hand, it can lead to their penetration into the children’s private space and also can send an unintended message to the children of a sense of insecurity in society and the outside world.

Accordingly, smartphones and parental involvement through them have implications and some causality regarding the lack of independence of the younger generation and a general process of infantilization in society.

  1. Recommendations for Continuing Research

The present article is a review article designed to present a new idea and point of view. In order to deepen the idea and establish it empirically, it is recommended to do quantitative follow-up research to measure and quantify data such as anxiety and stress levels, the amount of smartphone use, and parents’ and children’s news viewing time.


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