Meet Generation "Z," aka "Kids"
NEXT EXIT: TOMORROW
Thursday, March 2, 2017
These days more and more people ask us about the generation coming after the Millennials, most often referred to as Generation "Z" as a placeholder name until a moniker emerges.
We're guessing Millennial fatigue has hit.
Nonetheless, being the helpful lot we are, here's what we know so far about Gen Z.
To start, they aren't officially a generation. That's because generational cohorts are typically 17-20 years long (according to sociologists and demographers). With a start date around 2002, we still have about three-to-five more years of births before we reach the end of the Gen Z cohort. So let's agree we're a bit early on this.
Another reason they aren't a generation is that too few of them have reached their "coming of age" period of life—those years between ages 10 and 20. You see, that's the life stage when the generational bonds are formed as that age group experiences events at the same time. Every generation goes through their puberty years at a different time and place in history. For Boomers, it was the late 1950s, '60s and early '70s. For Generation X it was the late '70s, ‘80s, and early '90s. Millennials came of age during the late '90s, 2000's and early '10's.
What happens in the world, in society, in culture, in politics, at those times in history are what imprint each generation. Each generation is imprinted at a different time, so each generation ends up with a different mindset about self, family, community, money, politics, and so on.
Generational cohort effects, though, do not define who you are you as an individual. These are developed from external factors that helped shape your world view. It's what imprinted you.
For Gen Zers, who are ages negative 4 (not yet born) to 15 this year, only the first 20 million or so members have even reached their early teen years. Little imprinting has happened yet. In fact, it's happening now through the early 2030's.
So there's that.
Yet, there are some early signals and some things happening in the U.S. and the world that we can predict with some certainty will shape this generation's world view.
For one, this generation will be shaped more by the current Trump presidency and what follows than they were shaped by what came before (yes, there's uncertainty in how they will be shaped, but not in who will be doing the shaping).
Also shaping this generation today are modern families—which are more diverse that ever before—will shape their views. Gender fluidity, multiculturalism, social unrest will be factors. The ability to self-learn using online tools like Khan Academy will impact them. So too will the terrorism and extreme violence happening somewhere in the world that they see in the news almost weekly. The result could be a generation more worried about personal safety in their daily lives.
Their medium will not be TV, computers, or even mobile devices, but virtual reality. Drones, driverless cars, and robo-everything will be their new normal.
Sure, it’s very early in their formation, but their generational values could center around safety and security, being inclusive, self-education, and pluralism. Of course, time will tell.
For now, though, let’s remember that they are simply “kids.”
Next Week: How Millennials Will “Fix” Education in America