By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin
Kelsey Laughner, a student at New Technology High School, with her cell phone - a given.
They'd rather text than talk. They prefer to communicate online — often with friends they have never met. They don’t spend much time outdoors unless adults organize activities for them. They can’t imagine life without cell phones. They have never known a world without technology or terrorism or Columbine. They prefer computers to books and want instant results. They are growing up in an economic depression and are under tremendous pressure to succeed. Mostly they are growing up fast, and exhibiting behavior far beyond their years.
Sound familiar? They are Generation Z — the students at your school.
While they may be named for the last letter of the alphabet, they’ll soon be at the forefront of solving the worst environmental, social and economic problems in history. They haven’t received much attention yet — the media have mostly focused on the preceding generation, the Millennials (sometimes referred to as Generation Y), known for their widespread civic involvement and lack of independence compared to previous generations.
Larry Rosen, a professor at CSU Dominguez Hills who teaches a class called Global Impact of Technology, says of Gen Z students, “They are very collaborative and creative. They will change the workplace dramatically in terms of work style and expectations.”
So far, researchers and others who have written about Gen Z have found it difficult to classify the generation precisely. Some generational experts say that they were born as early as 1991, which makes the oldest now 18; others argue the new generation began as late as 2001, making the oldest 8. The discrepancy is based on differing assumptions about start and end points for the preceding generations Y and X and the baby boomers. To avoid confusion, we’ll assume that Gen Z includes young people up to high school seniors.
While there won’t be any consensus soon about where Gen Z begins and ends, most educators agree that today’s kids are extremely different from youngsters of previous generations — and they present new challenges. They are children of Gen X parents, who came of age during the greatest technological leap in history, and they are headed for an even greater leap forward as they come of age this decade. Meet Generation Z.
The most technologically advanced generation yet