How Do We Help Gen Z?
Professor and generational researcher, Jean Twenge released her book, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us. Packed with powerful research and statistics, it presents a profound glimpse of the challenges and opportunities facing iGen, or Generation Z, those born 1995-2012. Here are some of the findings of Twenge’s research:
The oldest members of iGen were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced in 2007 and high school students when the iPad entered the scene in 2010. This makes them the first generation to enter adolescence with smartphones already in their hands.
In Twenge’s research, people answering the questions were representative of the US population in terms of gender, race, location and socioeconomic status. With only a few exceptions, the generational trends appear across all of these demographic groups. This points to the power of technology to transmit culture and norms. iGen includes 74 million Americans, about 24% of the population.
Despite feeling pressured and busy, iGen teens are spending less time on homework, paid work, volunteering, and extracurriculars combined than older generations did at their age, not more. iGen teens are less likely to go out without their parents, date, have sex, drive, work or drink alcohol. The number of teens who get together with their friends every day has been cut in half in just fifteen years. This is due in large part to concerns about safety and young people being able to connect via devices and not needing to go out to talk with friends.
However, research shows that teens who spend more time on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy….all screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Depression has skyrocketed in just a few years, a trend that appears among blacks, whites and Hispanics, in all regions of the United States, across socioeconomic classes, and in small towns, suburbs, and big cities. In 2016, for the first time, the majority of entering college students described their mental health as below average.
With iGen’ers less likely to work, manage their own money, and drive in high school, perhaps they are not developing the resilience that may come from doing things on your own.
So, what do we do to help Gen Z maximize the opportunities around them and minimize behaviors that can be detrimental to their mental and emotional health?
Generation Z is a cohort with amazing information and tools at their disposal. As mentors, leaders, parents, and teachers, we have a responsibility to help them access that information and leverage those tools in ways that can help them be successful and healthy.
Take advantage of opportunities this summer to help Gen Z with these Twelve Ideas for Student Activities This Summer.
Dr. Jolene Erlacher is a wife, mommy, author, speaker, college instructor and coffee drinker who is passionate about empowering the next generation of leaders for effective service!