Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to a conference of TAFE teachers who teach business to students across Queensland. They had asked for my view of the Gen Z’s – and what was different about them. Now I am not a social demographer (just an interested business observer), but here is a bit of what I shared.
The eldest are about 14 at the moment. This generation can best be described as technology on Ritalin. For these kids being connected 24/7 is the only way to live.
By Grade 4 or 5 they have built their first websites and projects are always done in something like Publisher or Movie Maker and handed in on USB. Forget the old-fashioned cardboard projects – these days it is all electronic and interactive. By Grade 7 they have built their first computer games.
From this age they are playing on social network sites such as Club Penguin or Habbo. By Grade 7 most have graduated to their own Facebook/MySpace and MSN accounts and pretty much 99% have their own mobile phones. At least 20% of Grade 5 and 6 kids have mobiles.
They value speed over accuracy (which explains their spelling!). Most don’t know of life without broadband or wireless internet. They bring I-pods to class and teachers allow students to listen to their iPods when they are studying, quietly reading their textbooks or when they are doing something like art.
On a demographic basis, the median age of first time mums to Gen Zs was 33. Families are smaller.
The challenge is that this group is also the smallest number in terms of the size of the generations due to the decreasing birth rate, so this will have implications for jobs, homes & schools. People will compete for their attention (and don’t they already know it).
They are opinionated, passionate environmentalists and have no boundaries in terms of privacy or distance. Teachers are expected to give their class their email address for contact and kids will regularly send through jokes and other fascinating trivia at all hours of the day.
The world is very small to them. If you don’t have at least 100 friends (most of whom you have never met) on Facebook, you are loser. They chat with people all around the world – as long as their interests are the same, they are deemed a friend.
This is also the Ritalin generation with significant numbers of kids taking some form of medication for ADHD. We are seeing increasing violence with younger kids, with regular reports of kids as young as Grade 1 wagging school.
Gen Z loves love interaction – while they are watching TV they are on MSN, texting or some other form of social media.
These kids are tech savvy, opinionated and have a worldview. This has impacts in terms of how we teach them, interact with them and hire them.
So, what will you be teaching Generation Z’s? Discretion (the net is forever), how to respond to online real time feedback, & managing international online businesses (with the odd bit of unravelling multi-tasking thrown in for good measure).
What do you think about Gen Zs? Are they really that different than Gen Y’s?
We put your business into words
Heart Harmony – Freelance Writer