Youth Day : who is Generation Z?

 On June 16 1976  a student uprising began in Soweto and spread countrywide.  In the Western world these kids are referred to as the Generation X kids, children of Baby Boomers. What made these kids unique from their parents was that they were latch key kids, were placed in day care as both parents worked, and got used to having  divorced parents .  In South Africa we refer to this group of kids as the youth who profoundly changed the socio-political landscape in South Africa.
42 years later we South Africans are privileged to be witnessing yet another youth driven socio political revolution . We call this group of youth GENERATION Z. Lets take a closer look at this generation who at a push of a few buttons on a smart phone, can rally thousands of “friends” via social media and begin  a revolution .
Im inviting Gen Z and their parents to shout out, to be part of this important conversation , as I focus on their intimate lives, and  their personal spaces. I want to know concerns that parents have about their kids born between 1995-2012.  Go through the list below and tick off areas that bother, confuse , worry- and delight – you. In other words, where do you get stuck in your parenting of Gen Z? What fears do you have for this new generation Z?

They’ve always been wired. They’ve never known a world without the internet or cell phones; younger Z’s have never known a world without smartphones.  They  expect information and entertainment on-demand, instantly, and in phone-sized bites. They prefer their information and entertainment short and more visual than text.

 They spend between six and nine hours a day absorbing media. Among teens, 92 percent go online daily, Pew Research reports.
They spend a lot more time communicating with friends electronically and  less time hanging out with friends in person .  Their preferred mode of communication, even  when they are sitting next to each other in person,  is digital, primarily through social media and texting.

Sexuality. About 54% of high-school students in 1991 reported having had sex, while only 41% did in the early 2010s. Dating sites are the  number one place to meet and hang out. Biggest fear cited in USA studies is accusation of sexual assault , sexual misconduct  or rape.

They’ve seen porn. And maybe lots of it. No other generation has had pornography so readily available, literally at their fingertips.“Sexting”—sending and receiving sexually explicit text messages—starts early for many Z’s. A survey of middle-school-aged students in Los Angeles found 25 percent said they’d received a sext.

A smaller study of college students by professors at Drexel University found more than half (54 percent) reported sending a sext before they turned 18, often as a form of flirting.

They’re more accepting of sexual fluidity. Gen Z supports gay marriage and transgender rights. For them, such things are part of everyday life. It would be rare for a Z to not have a friend from the LGBT community.

Additionally, a 2016 survey of gender and sexuality by J. Walter Thompson Company, a New York-based marketing firm, found only 48 percent of those 13 to 20 years old described themselves as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of those 21 to 34.

Fifty-six percent of respondents between the ages of 13 and 20 said they knew someone who went be gender-neutral pronouns, such as “they” and “them.”

They’re racially diverse . . . and multiracial

When Z’s get married, they’re more likely than their forebears to wed someone of another ethnic group. In the USA about 1 in 6 marriages today are of an interracial couple.

They’re pretty independent. Gen Xers, repeatedly warned about “helicopter parenting,” have reacted by giving their kids—Z’s—plenty of space. This hands-off parenting has yielded both pros and cons.

On the pro side, Z’s are pretty self-directed and confident. On the con side, they’re not necessarily equipped with much real-life wisdom or many boundaries. In an age of cyber-bullying, sexting, internet porn, and hooking up—not to mention hacking, scams, and identity theft—the consequences can be dangerous.

They’re aware of a troubled planet. Most Z’s have grown up since 9/11 and have only known a world where terrorist attacks are the norm. Additionally, they’ve lived through the Great Recession, and they’ve seen their parents, or many of their friends’ parents, struggle through job losses, foreclosures, and more.  This leaves them stressed out by a bleak future.  Know its tough to afford college, a house, and get a job.

 They’re justice-minded.  Z’s want to make a difference in the world. Like millennials before them, they’re keenly aware of justice issues concerning poverty, human trafficking, refugees, racism, and more.They want a job that impacts the world.

They’re post-Christian. Almost a quarter (23 percent) of America’s adults—and a third of millennials—are “nones,” claiming no religious identity at all, according to Pew Research. Many Z’s are growing up in homes where there’s no religion whatsoever, and they may have no experience of religion.

 Socialising. They have given up the idea of creating a  “balance ” between life and work – they blend work/life 24/7.
According to a new study from the psychologists Jean Twenge and Heejung Park, teenagers  prefer to sit at home, avoid drugs and alcohol, and scroll through a litany of social-media apps.

This  study, published in the journal Child Development, analyzed survey responses from 8.3 million teenagers between 1976 and 2016. Overwhelmingly, today’s teens were found to be less likely to drive, work for pay, go on dates, have sex, or go out with their parents and they try alcohol later.  They take longer to settle into careers, marry and have kids.

However, one of the most disturbing characteristics of Generation Z,  is a suicide rate that has surpassed the homicide rate in that age group. Twenge thinks smartphone use may play a crucial role in contributing to that.  Instead of working or playing outside, teens are more likely to feel isolated and tethered to their devices. This increases the risk of suicide.

Recommendations for parents :
1. Catch their attention by communicating with them online. Enter into their world by keeping in touch via WhatsApp. Remember to use GIF’s, emoticons and other visuals images  .
2. Place boundaries around online time.. but do not expect them to stay offline for long. For example, no devices during family meal times. This means you have to keep to the same boundary.
3. Talk to them about sexuality rather than trust Google or pornhub to educate them. Social media provides images – you are there to provide values.
4. Its incumbent on you to become “woke”about the fluidity of sexual orientation, gender diversity and polyamory.  No longer can you expect your child to be the mono heteronormative person you may be.
5. Confront your racism. Give your Gen Z child the opportunity to immerse themselves in being a change agent in South Africa.
6. Because of  their fierce independence,  they are at risk online. Be very present in their worlds. Create your own social media profiles on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp. Get your own experience of their world. It enables you to communicate with them in a more judicious way rather than an authoritarian fear based manner.
7. Encourage their independence in the Real World . Because they are more justice minded, involve them in community activities, healthy lifestyles , outdoor activities.
8. Be aware of their moods,  and developing values based on social media images .  Modify these to realistic and healthy ideals.
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