It’s time we stopped blaming teens for being addicted to their phones. Simon Sinek explains who’s really responsible.
Simon Sinek is the New York Times bestselling author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. In a recent Heleo Conversation with Sarah Robb O’Hagan, hosted live at Soho House in Manhattan, Simon was asked about teenagers, selfies, and cellphones. His response should make us all think harder about technology addiction.
Audience: The number one company that teens are buying [from] is a makeup [brand], Sephora. High school girls will take a selfie for Instagram, filter it up, post it, and if in five minutes, they don’t get enough likes, they’ll be like, “I’m taking it down.”
I’m curious to get your opinion on the cellphone. We don’t know a world where we can’t FaceTime a friend, order pizza and call our mom all at the same time—how do you think that’s going to evolve?
Simon: Do you want to know which demographic has the highest increase of suicide? Girls 10 to 15 years old. It has tripled in the past 15 years. Girls also engage on social media 40% more than boys. There’s clearly a correlation, and it is unbelievably irresponsible for marketers to say, “If girls are taking pictures of themselves, how do we get in there and get them to take more pictures of themselves?”
The question is, how do we help children form relationships with other children, so that they grow up with a sense of self worth beyond how many followers they have? Marketers are the most irresponsible people on the planet, because when they sniff a dollar, they say, “The trend is that kids are using apps these days more, let’s make more apps.” No. If the trend is you needed to take cocaine to get through the workday in the 1980s, that doesn’t mean give them more cocaine.
What you’re talking about is addiction in children. So simply to say “They won’t,” is madness. I know a family who struggles with their 14 year old, the kid is addicted to his cell phone. They cannot get this kid to the dinner table, they can’t get this kid to have a conversation, the kid is afraid of answering the front door.
So what did the family do? They went on a vacation and no one was allowed to bring any phones. They brought one phone in case of emergencies. It was the worst vacation they ever had for the first three days. They were at each other’s throats, complaining, pissed off. Then something amazing happened: they bonded. It was the best family vacation they ever had.
So, take it away for 10 minutes, the kid is going to scream. Take away it for a day, the kid is going to complain, hate you, and suffer from withdrawal symptoms. There’s a program to beat addiction, and we are not implementing it because we don’t like the anger that comes from it.
This conversation has been edited and condensed. To read Simon and Sarah’s full conversation, click here.