Gen Z: Child of Our Times

Posted 30 May 2018 10:37am

Source: NZ Herald Image: Thinkstock

A small survey of Kiwi kids aged 15 to 18, conducted by market research company TNS New Zealand for this story, shows that the cellphone is central: the average age they were given their first one was 12, and nearly 80 per cent now have a smartphone. More than 90 per cent use the internet at home and 75 per cent at school.If we were looking for a sign the new generation of kids might be relating to the world in a completely different way than previous generations, then this clip seems useful evidence. This is the child our time: raised in a world increasingly saturated by interactive screens, wireless technology and digitised everything. Dubbed by alphabetical necessity "Generation Z", they have been raised in a world of instant information and instant gratification -

"Generation Z are well and truly digital natives, having been born into a world with the technology already so advanced and ingrained in daily life," says Dr Philippa Smith, executive director of the World Internet Project New Zealand (WIPNZ), the Kiwi end of a biannual global survey done here through AUT's Institute of Culture, Discourse and Communication. "They are unlikely to have experienced a life without some form of new media technology around them. If they don't have it at home, they are certainly surrounded by it everywhere else. It's difficult to escape - and perhaps to live without."

Every generation is stereotyped. Those who stopped the Germans and the Japanese are called the "Greatest Generation". Their kids, the Baby Boomers born between 1945 and the mid-60s, are the "Me Generation", while their kids, Generation X, the oldest of whom are now pushing 50, were labelled "slackers".

Generation Y - or the Millennials, as those now aged from around 20 to mid-30s are often described - have been called all sorts of things: lazy, entitled and selfish, the "Me Now Generation". However, Y kids, who must (so far) be the most-scrutinised generation in history, are also said by researchers to be entrepreneurial, democratic and more accepting of difference than those of previous generations. The arrival of the web, social networking and increasingly sophisticated digital devices during their childhood and teenage years means they are the first to be christened "digital natives". A problematic term and a disputed concept, a digital native is said to be like an indigenous language speaker, while its opposite the "digital immigrant" is someone who has, say, English as a second language.

There is, however, a tension between what academic and marketing researchers think about all this generation stuff. The former are typically distrustful of the stereotyping, while the latter (with an eye to selling their research to businesses desperate to know how to market products to a new generation) tend to embrace it.

However, even those who believe generational trends are a crock do acknowledge Gen Z may have a new kind of relationship with the new technology.

Continuing reading this article on NZ Herald

Image: Thinkstock