We need to talk about Generation Z

Have you heard of Fortnite, Forza, Logan Paul, Snapchat streaks, Twitch or teenage Instagram influencers? Probably not unless you are (a) aged between 10 and 18 or (b) if you have children that age.

Thanks to technology we are entering a very murky world in which kids as young as 2 years old are becoming more comfortable in the online world than they are the real one.

Go to the nearest shopping centre and you’ll see toddlers in their prams glued to their parents’ iPad while pre-teens huddle round their smartphones frantically messaging their friends without actually looking up from their screens.

Meanwhile children give up their toys and hobbies, preferring to binge on YouTube videos and immerse themselves in the world of gaming.

Unsurprisingly a report has come out which shows that children in the UK are weaker and less fit than they were 16 years ago. Even more worrying, the study also found that the loss of strength and fitness was accelerating. Hardly surprising that the Health Secretary Matt Hancock wants to set time limits for use of social media for kids.

Welcome to the world of Generation Z. The first generation to have smartphones at primary school, to have almost ubiquitous access to the internet, to have video screens in their parents’ cars and to massively affected by ‘influencers’ who could be as young as 13 or 14 (see this Business Insider piece).

Many don’t enjoy reading or even watching television (see this article from Forbes), representing a worrying shift in media consumption for the nation’s youth.

The oldest of these youngsters are already 18 and entering the labour market. Many of them also are already savvy consumers eager to snap up the latest smartphone or upgrade to the latest version of their favourite online game.

This poses challenges, not only for parents who don’t want to lose their children online, but also for businesses who are either going to be employing this age group or trying to sell to them.

The answer has to be effective and empathetic communication as well as a willingness to try and look at the world through the eyes of a digital native. Technology is not going to go away - indeed it may even become more invasive - so we just need to learn to adapt to this changing world.

At the same time, we may also see a rejection of technology by the generation reared on it, in favour of tangibility and the analogue world. Indeed, we are starting to see such a movement (Logged off: meet the teens who refuse to use social media).

However, doing nothing is NOT an option! As a race, human beings have always excelled at communicating. We just need to adapt how we do it.

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