Welcome back to the March Mentor Minute!
This month, we’ve focused on the impact that screens and devices have on Gen Z, and how we as mentors can help teach/model a healthier approach to screen time. As we come to the end of this month, we’d like to highlight some of the key findings that we talked about and how they impact our role as mentors.
We started this month by sharing a number: 5.15.
That number represents the average number of hours per day that students (13-17) spend on their smartphones. Later, we highlighted the fact that more than half the students themselves (53%) think that they are spending too much time on their phones.
So, the question is…why? Why so much time if they know it’s too much time?
Some of the most common reasons why students spend so much time on their smartphones include:
- because they are bored or need an escape,
- because they are lonely (note the irony there),
- because they want to be informed or entertained, and
- because they want to be connected to the world around them.
The good news here is that as mentors we can help students learn a healthier approach to screen time!
As recent studies have shown, right now Gen Z trusts older generations more than any other social institution. And, that gives us an incredible opportunity to come alongside students to offer the support and guidance they need to navigate their unique circumstances in these challenging days we are living in. We can help those students who are looking to older generations for advice when it comes to the everyday decisions they are making and the habits they are forming (including their use of smartphones and screens).
In fact, we can actually leverage the power of screens in a positive way in our mentoring relationships!
A few weeks ago, we talked about using our own phones more as bridges and less as barriers. And, how we can also use our phones to build bridges with our students when we are together by learning to do some of the same things they like to do with each other.
In that one hour we are together, we can actually do things using our smartphones to build trust, rapport, and a level of influence with our students that will give us a voice in their lives, whether we’re talking with them about screen time or about challenges they are facing at home/school. It’s amazing how much of an impact doing things like learning to play a video game or sharing funny memes with your student can have in helping to create a relationship of trust.
We hope that this month’s focus on Gen Z and smartphones has been helpful for you as a mentor. If you have other Gen Z topics that you’d like us to focus on in the Mentor Minute in the future, we’d love to hear from you!
Jason Matthews is a youth pastor in Washington State, where he’s been serving students for over 20 years. When he doesn’t have to be in the office, he loves to be outside with his family, hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest. He also loves to network with other youth workers.