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Gen Z and the age of tech

25 January 20190 comments

Demographers have identified a new generation of humans in the western world born after 1997 who are more diverse in their views, more tolerant of difference, better educated and yoked to ‘always on’ technology.

Called “Generation Z’, these 7 to 22-year-olds follow the generation of ‘millenials’ born between 1981 and 1996.

Gen Z is the subject of an ongoing study by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

Pew Center President Michael Dimock says that while most Millennials were between the ages of 5 and 20 when the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook the west, and many were old enough to comprehend the significance of that moment,  most members of Gen Z have little or no memory of the event.

“Millennials also grew up in the shadow of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which sharpened broader views of the parties and contributed to the intense political polarization that shapes the current political environment,” Dr Dimock said

He said that most Millennials were between 12 and 27 during the 2008 US election, where the force of the youth vote became part of the political conversation and helped elect the first black president.

The Pew center says that Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse adult generation in the US’s history but Generation Z is even more diverse.

Late last year, a Pew Center study found that the “post-Millennial” generation was already the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, with just a slight majority of 6-to-21-year-olds (52 per cent) being non-Hispanic whites.

And while most are still pursuing their K-12 education, the oldest post-Millennials are enrolling in university at a significantly higher rate than Millennials were at a comparable age.

Dr Dimock says most Millennials came of age and entered the workforce facing the height of an economic recession and their life choices, earnings and entrance to adulthood have been shaped by that.

He says technology, in particular the rapid evolution of how people communicate and interact, is another generation-shaping consideration.

“Baby Boomers grew up as television expanded dramatically, changing their lifestyles and connection to the world in fundamental ways. Generation X grew up as the computer revolution was taking hold, and Millennials came of age during the internet explosion,” Dr Dimock said.

But what is unique for Gen Z is that all of the above have been part of their lives from the start,’ he said.

“The iPhone launched in 2007, when the oldest Gen Zers were ten. By the time they were in their teens, the primary means by which young Americans connected with the web was through mobile devices, WiFi and high-bandwidth cellular service,” Dr Dimock said.

“Social media, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment and communication are innovations Millennials adapted to as they came of age. For those born after 1996, these are largely assumed,” he said.

“The implications of growing up in an “always on” technological environment are only now coming into focus. Recent research has shown dramatic shifts in youth behaviors, attitudes and lifestyles – both positive and concerning – for those who came of age in this era.

“What we don’t know is whether these are lasting generational imprints or characteristics of adolescence that will become more muted over the course of their adulthood. Beginning to track this new generation over time will be of significant importance,” Dr Dimock said.


Laurie Nowell

AMES Australia Senior Journalist