Behold Generation Z

What was once taken as amazing and inspiring inventions are now taken as a given for teens

Kamal Siddiqi March 05, 2018
The writer, a former editor of The Express Tribune, is director of the Centre for Excellence in Journalism at IBA, Karachi. He tweets @tribunian

After the millennials, I am told comes Generation Zee. At a workshop organised by IBA for staff recently, trainer Asim Rashid informed us of not only the millennials but Generation Z. One has to be ahead of the game - I strongly believe in this as a parent and as a teacher. So I listened closely to what Rashid told us.

To begin with, Generation Z, as they have been named, are those born in 1995 or later. In comparison, a millennial is a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. A closer look suggests that my children are in Generation Z while my current batch of students comprises largely of millennials.

Generation Z (also known as Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, or the Homeland Generation) is the demographic cohort following the Millennials.

The difference between the two is important to know in order to prepare to stay relevant for the future. By the way, in case you are wondering, I am Generation X. The years 1965 to 1984 define Gen X so that Boomers, Xers, and Millennials “cover equal 20-year age spans”. In many cases, we are now parents and grandparents. And in almost all, we are struggling in our interactions with the succeeding generations.

The question of course is: why do we need to know all this? To begin with, we need to understand the habits and expectations that we can hold from this generation and vice versa. In case you haven’t noticed already, Generation Z is less focused and yet more familiar with technology. It lives in a world of continuous updates and processes information faster than other generations thanks to apps like Snapchat and Vine. When you are speaking to them and they are twiddling on their phone at the same time, chances are they are indeed listening.

They will create a document on their school computer, do research on their phone or tablet, while taking notes on a notepad, then finish in front of the TV with a laptop, while face-timing a friend. These traits, however, irritate us as parents as well as teachers. My advice? Hold our peace. Generation Z can quickly and efficiently shift between work and play, with multiple distractions going on in the background. This is how they are: we have to live with it.

Given how Generation X grew up on Jet Sport lollies and litre-pack Polka ice-cream shared with the family, our comparatively restricted childhood has affected our children. Millennials are mindful of money and prices. They will do their research before buying online. But Generation Z will simply buy. We, in comparison, don’t even trust online sales.

Not only play, work will also change. In the West, employers are predicting that more teens, between the ages of 16 and 18 will go straight into the workforce, opting out of the traditional route of higher education, and instead finishing school online. Both blended and online learning are also catching on in Pakistan. This trend would mean lower class enrollments possibly ten years from now.

Gen Z also has higher expectations than millennials. Millennials remember playing solitaire, coming home to dial-up internet and using CyberNet. Generation Z was born into a world overrun with technology. What was once taken as amazing and inspiring inventions are now taken as a given for teens.

Finally, Gen Z is big on individuality and are global in outlook. A vast majority have a digital footprint. Arguably as a result of the celebrities and media they follow, Gen Z seeks uniqueness in all walks of life. Hence the success of services like Netflix which allow the new generation to choose for itself.

But what does all of this have to do with us? To begin with, both family structures and businesses have to change to keep up. Gone are the dinners over 9 o’clock Khabarnama. Cooking at home has become burdensome for those who prefer ordering from outside. The new generation does not like to be told things. They prefer being given options if at all.

While we are at it, let us also admit that they are smarter than us. And much clearer about what they want – an attitude which makes some elders lament that they are selfish in their approach. Possibly, they are more outspoken and honest in expressing their needs. It’s a sea-change for all of us. Let us enjoy the ride.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2018.

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