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The experiences they have every day are radically different from those of the generation that came of age just a few years before them.What happened in 2012 to cause such dramatic shifts in behavior?I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys. Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states.
Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum.In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.At first I presumed these might be blips, but the trends persisted, across several years and a series of national surveys. The biggest difference between the Millennials and their predecessors was in how they viewed the world; teens today differ from the Millennials not just in their views but in how they spend their time.I pored over yearly surveys of teen attitudes and behaviors, and the more I talked with young people like Athena, the clearer it became that theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. Born between 19, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet.The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night.