Despite their youth, the digitally sophisticated, socially conscious high achievers emerging from this group are causing some people to wonder: Is this the generation that will solve the world's problems? “I think our generation is really socially conscious, environmentally friendly, and they are really global thinkers,” says Linda Mandarin, the 14-year-old social entrepreneur and founder of Body Bijou and this year's Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Startup Canada Awards.
So far, the not-for-profit has funded school building, teacher training and 20 scholarships for girls in South Africa, Kenya and Jamaica. For the most part, Gen Z is made up of the offspring of Generation X, or the “baby bust” generation, the group born after the baby boomers, says David K. Foot, demographer and author of the seminal book on 20th century demographics, Boom Bust and Echo.
In 2008, Scott published Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, based on a $4-million study of the millennials, encompassing 11,000 young people in 10 countries aged 11 through 30. Though he notes that there hasn't yet been a major study on today's under-18s yet, Scott says many of the characteristics of this younger group are the similar to the millennials, only intensified.
A 2012 study by the U.S.-based marketing company JWT found that kids aged 13 through 17 valued their Internet connection more than going to the movies, getting an allowance from their parents, attending a sporting event or having cable TV. “The advent of digital technology is having an impact and creating a bunch of worries,” adds historian, economist and demographer Neil Howe.
“A lot of people say that this is creating an army of narcissists doing selfies and tweeting and so on, that they are Net-addicted, they are glued to the screen, they are losing their social skills, that they don't give a damn. Craig Kiel burger, co-founder of youth development charity Free the Children, works with socially conscious young people every day.
In the coming months, Free the Children plays host to “We Day” events all over North America and Britain, attended by tens of thousands of youth to kick start a “year of action” through their year-long “We Act” program, which encourages young people to support the causes that are important to them. Kiel burger says this generation's digital skills are partly responsible for their zeal for activism, because it's given them the ability to interact with the world and other activists like never before.
Her popular blog, Call Me Hannah, is a document of her environmental concerns and the people who inspire her, and she has been a Day speaker at rallies across the continent. “I did some research and found out there were so many problems in the world, littering, pollution, global warming, climate change, and we need to fix it.
Whether it's to further a cause, start a business or pursue a dream, Gen Z's technological know-how has improved their ability to get their message out. Budding pop star Shawn Mendes first gained an enthusiastic online following when he posted Vines (six-second videos) of himself performing cover songs.
The attention he got won him a record deal, and his song “Life of the Party” became a top-10 hit in Canada and the United States. Gen Z is learning a lot more about the world, more quickly than past generations, Shawn says, because it's become so easy to access information.
Sanjay Hanna, futurist and visiting scholar in strategic foresight at the University of Toronto's Massey College, has dubbed Generation “Unstressed.” Though he agrees that this generation's digital skills have many benefits, he also thinks Gen Z's knowledge of the world's problems could outstrip their ability to change things.
“Global economic uncertainty combined with climate change will make it tough for them to believe their quality of life will improve enough via their digital skills alone,” Hanna says. Not everyone will be able to shine in these precarious times, adds Hanna, so older generations will need to have greater sensitivity to Gen Z's emotional and psychological well-being because they are so aware, and they do want things to be better.
“But from everything we know about them, they have the smarts, the connectivity, the good values and the will to not only carve a reasonable life for themselves, but also to bring about change in society.” I spent 16 hours and 48 minutes on TikTok this week, according to my iPhone.
A girl on my FDP (‘For You Page’) claims she hit 96 hours once. We were born in the era of Columbine, the Dotcom bubble burst, 9/11, and the Iraq war.
We were too little to remember the world back then, but the wake of these events no doubt affected us. I cried as my teacher turned off the lights and pulled down the curtains.
My class huddled behind the bookshelf, frozen in fear, the occasional whisper silenced by a loud shush. The threat of a school shooting looms in the back of my mind, even today.
Later on, my generation endured more outbreaks, the 2008 market crash, and the rise of political tensions. We fell victim to the skyrocketing depression and anxiety rates.
Despite enduring these horrible events, we were also born with infinite knowledge at our fingertips. We’re fast learners and multitasks, always observing the world around us, eager to obtain more knowledge.
The limitless possibilities the internet has always offered us let us grow up with big aspirations for ourselves. The internet gave us access to anyone from anywhere, and we are the most globally connected generation.
Nobody made us believe a woman couldn’t be president, and we’ve grown up watching women take on prominent roles in politics. And growing up in an increasingly polarized political climate has made many of us wary of the two-party system in America.
In an interview with Teen Vogue, Carolyn DeWitt, president and executive director of Rock the Vote, says, “ is a particularly liberated generation … They reject labels and putting things in boxes and that tendency isn’t exclusive to politics… They’re rethinking and reimagining systems and institutions and terms and even ideas.” In addition, our top three voting concerns are mass shootings, racial inequalities, and immigration policies.
Compare this to the top three for Generation X and Baby Boomers, which are healthcare, terrorism / security, and national debt. We understand that though we are the most diverse generation, inequalities still exist, and we’re motivated to fight for justice.
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While Millennials came of age during the Great Recession, Generation was poised to inherit a solid economy with record-low unemployment. They were not likely to remember the Great Recession, although they may have grown up hearing their parents discuss money problems as a result of it.
Because many Gen Zero grew up in the wake of the Great Recession, they may have been more prepared for the economic fallout from COVID-19. As the economy struggles and their visions of the future are being rewritten, Generational be expected to open themselves to different opportunities they may not have considered.