Generation Z: Your Guide to the Youth You Serve

Recently I attended a session lead by Kyle R. Hawkey, krhawkey@umn.edu, from the University of Minnesota at the National After School Association Annual Convention on Generation Z. He stated that today’s young people, Generation Z, are different than any other generation. These 9-21 year-olds are just starting to define themselves. It’s the most diverse generation the world has ever seen; comfortable within the global context and the challenges of working across boundaries. They are “digital natives” who have grown up deeply immersed in the web of technology and inter-connectivity (i.e. they have never been without Google). Research has shown that not only do their brains look different than ours, but they function differently too. Some of the characteristics of Generation Z are: since 2000, there has been a 50% increase in identifying themselves as multiracial, born between 1995-2015, “do gooders” these youth want to make a difference in the world; have 5 screens, communicate with images, create things, future-focused, realists, and want to work for success. More than a quarter of the US population belongs to Generation Z. Of these youth: 30% watch lessons online; 20% read textbooks on tablets; 30% work with classmates online; and 50% use YouTube/Social Media for research assignments.

So how do we as professionals work with Generation Z? When we communicate with Generation Z it should be visual and aimed towards diverse audiences. Communication should be kept short (i.e. think stackable content). We should feed their curiosity and provide them control over choices of preference and settings. Generation Z needs to be inspired; reacting best when given social causes to rally behind. Generation Z wants to build their expertise. And finally, connect Generation Z to technology of various types.

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2 Responses to Generation Z: Your Guide to the Youth You Serve

  1. Dave Varner says:

    Great post! We need to be in position to lead our evolving clientele.

  2. Dr. Jeff G Hart says:

    Great information that deserves some serious thought(s). So, here are some of my thoughts based on Personality Type Development, Stages of Life, and experiences watching and working with my 8 yr old grandson and his classmates.
    Leanne, I would agree with most of what you mentioned.

    First, we need to be careful not to think that all Generation Z are alike. This important thing is research done with diverse audiences, more than 50 years of personality type research with many populations throughout the world. This research shows that there is just as much diversity of type within a culture than there are among different cultures. However, a culture, population, or generation – can appear to have some overall similar Type characteristics. (L. Kirby, E. Kendall, N Barger. 2077. Type and Culture. CPP Inc., Mountain View, CA.)

    – Comfortable with global context and working across boundaries: The “older” generations perhaps need to learn from this, which could maybe help much of the world conflict.

    – Never been without Google: my 8 year old grandson uses Google on his iPad and Wii U to find Batman and other super hero games and information, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Nicktoons live TV, etc.

    – Not only do their brains work differently than ours, but they function differently: I’m not so sure about the “differently” since most people’s brains have similar amounts of potential, but I would agree with the “function differently”, since they are being stimulated differently, Some of this has to do with the “Growth mindset versus the Fixed Mindset” (C. Dweck. 2012. Mindset: the new psychology of success. Random House, New York, NY.). Another aspect has to do with how the brain is stimulated, or more specifically which sections of the brain are stimulated and to what degree or intensity. Dario Nardi has done research at UCLA for at least the past 5 years regarding low-threshold, high-threshold and in-flow brain activity when individuals are given a variety of activities to find out what areas of the neocortex pf the brain are stimulated and to what intensity. He identified 16 areas with 50 different subareas, and using a simple EEG was able to see how these different areas of the brain “function” (light up or not) when given different stimuli. (Nardi, D. 2010. Euro science of personality: brain savvy insights for all types of people. Radiance House, http://www.radiancehouse.com.) Generation Z individuals are certainly being exposed to new stimuli that was not available for past generations. It is not that their brains are different, but that the Generation Z brains have different stimuli and seem different because some areas are “glowing” brighter and functioning at a great level than previous generations.

    – Finally, regarding the various characteristics described (. . . create things, future-focused, realists, and want to work for success . . .) – these may be some overall descriptors of the Z Generation, but there are still a variety of [Psychological] Type within this generation, just as there have been in previous generations. It’s most likely the “tools” and forms of communication and information gathering that is allowing individuals to become more independent in gathering information, almost “on demand”. We must not forget that there are pros and cons to all of this. Difference social skills are needed for different situations, and there is probably no substitution for human interaction, i.e. face-to-face conversations and interactions. We need to be sure that equal time is given for our newest generation, so that their innate Type preferences as well as their learned skills and behaviours are allowed to grow to their fullest potential.

    Thanks for “stimulating” my brain.
    Dr. Jeff Hart

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