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The End of the Generational Alphabet

teens

Generation Z possesses unprecedented attributes.

For Generation Z-ers, growing up in a post 9/11 world with social media at their fingertips has been the norm. And undoubtedly, they will inherit a world wrought with challenges, from increasing income inequality to the environment. But the group, defined loosely by those who are 18 and under (making up about a quarter of the population in North America), shows great promise. In a study undertaken by Sparks & Honey, an advertising group, they found that the lifestyle Generation Z is looking for differs from their predecessors in Generation Y. Not only do more of them want jobs that have a social impact, but they are also more tolerant of diversity and varying gender roles.

However the digital influence on the so-called “screenagers” or first generation “digital natives” is a hotly contested realm. Crowdsourcing and open access education have allowed them to create opportunities and be exposed to experiences not otherwise available. A number of teenagers have already made inroads in innovative technology and medicine. Take Ann Makosinki who invented a flashlight that obtains its power via heat from the human hand or Angela Zhang who came up with an MRI scanning protocol that detects tumors more accurately.

But researchers worry about the costs of connectivity. There’s been an uptick in kids with spatial skills problems purportedly due to dependence on digital devices—when Google maps gives directions on a screen, translating that to the real world can become a befuddling experience. Additionally technology presents a divide between adults and children which may change the way they communicate (and may cause disagreements between the generations). And while the top two-thirds of young adults may fare better than previous generations in terms of things like education, the bottom third may not be as lucky. Other issues include shrinking attention spans, online bullying, and obesity. However making generalizations about a generation that’s still growing up should be taken with a grain of salt. Robert Barnard, CEO of Decode, a company that collects data on youth, said at times, “You’re really looking at the way their parents are operating, not who they are.”

Photo courtesy of Joris Louwes, licensed under Creative Commons.