Gen Z Considers Reducing Screen Time a Higher Priority Than Exercising, Losing Weight
Updated: Nov 21
Gen Z is addicted to their phones – and they know it.
In a recently conducted survey, we asked people how important reducing their screen time is in the context of other health initiatives such as losing weight, eating better, and exercising more.
The results showed a clear generational divide.
For Gen Z (those born roughly around 1995 and afterward), reducing screen time was the most important health initiative, with 72% saying it was very important for them to reduce their screen time. Eating better also fared well with 72% saying it was important, while 61% said exercising was important and 55% that losing weight was important.
Millennials (~30-45 years old) on the other hand are less concerned about their phone habits. Only 40% said it was very important for them to reduce their screen time, but scored similarly as Gen Z on the other health initiatives.
While Millennials may have ushered in the social media era with Myspace and Facebook, Gen Z took it to another level due to the release of the iPhone during their early adolescence. They are by far the most connected generation, spending up to 8 hours per day on their phones.
But they’re also the most depressed and lonely generation, with rates of mental health disorders up to 3x higher than those of previous generations. And recent research has shown that social media is a primary contributor, if not the outright cause. See the chart below showing the increase in major depression coinciding with the rise of social media.
Source: NSDUH data, graphed by Jonathan Haidt on p. 12 of his Adolescent Mood Disorder Collaborative Review Document
Over the last several years, a growing awareness of social media’s negative impact on our lives - sparked by the viral Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” and most recently the Surgeon General’s advisory on social media and youth mental health - has led the most affected generation, Gen Z, to prioritize healthy phone use at the same level as other health goals.
In talking with the younger generation, it’s an open secret that almost everyone struggles with an addiction to their devices. They know it is harming their health and other aspects of their lives, but they also struggle to stop because of the intentionally addictive nature of our devices.
As a result, countless youth activists have emerged to push back against Big Tech’s addictive practices through regulatory lobbying (see: Design It For Us).
But while activism is great, and lobbying the government to protect children is a noble cause, government regulation is often slow and ineffective at solving the root cause.
Because of this, my prediction is that as Gen Z matures over the next several years a new category of health and wellness will emerge: Digital Wellness.
Today we spend the vast majority of our lives online, but it’s somewhat incredible that there is no real framework for ensuring we are engaging in behavior that supports our physical, mental, and emotional health. Most young people know that their addiction to their devices is harming their health and they want to improve their relationship, but they often feel helpless about solving the problem.
And this problem will get only worse with Gen Alpha (also known as the iPad baby generation) being exposed even earlier. Billions of people will grow up having been constantly attached to their devices without understanding how to develop a healthy relationship with technology, significantly impacting their emotional, cognitive, and psychological development. As these children grow up, the impacts will become clear, and there will be a massive demand for solutions.
We envision a world will this massive demand creates numerous new solutions, ranging from educational resources to entire new businesses, in the same way other health and wellness revolutions have emerged focused on physical activity and nutrition. At Present, we’re looking to lead this movement.
Present is a mobile app that makes it easy to develop a healthy, intentional relationship with your phone. Instead of frustrating app blockers, Present motivates you to stay off your phone with social competition, gamification, and real-life rewards, replacing the dopamine hit you got from scrolling with dopamine for staying off your phone.