Generation Z is certainly shaking things up! When compared to Millennials and their Gen X counterparts, Gen Zers are driving less, taking on fewer part-time gigs, and staying home instead of hanging out with their buddies, according to a study in the journal "Child Development". Not surprisingly, parents are confused by their children's tendencies, and some worry about the implications for their futures.
But parents needn’t pick up any undue stress for themselves or place any on their children. This generational “rebellion” has the potential to open doors for these budding pre-professionals rather than put them at a deficit when they explore the real world.
Gen Z: They're not who you think
Many of Gen Zers' choices are quite grown-up and thoughtful. The same study in "Child Development" found that today's teenagers are experimenting less with alcohol, sexual activity and drugs. Consequently, middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students may seem like they’re on a slower track to “grow up,” but they are actually far more pragmatic and intentional with their extracurricular lifestyles and decisions.
Take driving, for example. Does a child really need a driver’s license to spend time with friends in a contemporary world? His or her friends are only a tap or swipe away. Although their seemingly endless screen time can appear alienating, it’s an opportunity for teens to stay in tune with their social groups. Besides, in a world that promises autonomous cars and has a Lyft ready for them around the corner, is knowing how to drive at 16 or 17 a necessity after all? Only 71.5 percent of teenagers think so, a drop of more than 13 percent in just 20 years.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this type of conservative, individualistic, resistant attitude. Members of the Silent Generation, whose population came of age during the 1930s, acted similarly. They, too, saved money and resisted the temptation to become adults before their time. Those same people thrived, and so will Gen Z — with moderate encouragement, consistent support and a generous dose of understanding from parents.
Nurturing your pre-professionals
Bite-sized opportunities that provide relatively instant gratification can be a saving grace for young people who may not seek out collaborative, enriching activities on their own. Parents who want their children to more easily transition from their teen years to their 20s can smooth the path by staying engaged and relevant in the Gen Z ecosystem.
Encourage real-world activities and interactions.
Gen Z is being stereotyped as a generation of loners. While this isn’t entirely the case — Gen Zers are merely using their devices to provide face time — it does hold true on some level. Teenagers need the benefits of having to do even mundane tasks such as calling a restaurant for a takeout order, negotiating prices at a farmers market or scheduling out a week’s worth of assignments and tasks.
Take advantage of "bring your child to work day." Trust teens with valuable tasks that don't require too much instruction. Not only does this validate them as important contributors to a team for a few hours, but it also opens their eyes to what career life might be like. These might seem like little things, but they add up over time and allow children to get in-person interactions.
Focus on short-term family activities.
Teenagers don’t want to make a big deal out of family time, but that doesn’t mean that they don't want it or that you can’t sneak it in. Taking a walk with your children is a low-key way to stay in touch and provide exposure away from devices without formality.
Don’t be afraid to try online gaming or learn more about the activities they enjoy. Be willing to change your attitudes and try what they like — you don’t have to lose sight of what’s important to you in the process.
Integrate screen time into events.
Tech is native to Gen Zers. Instead of forcing screens out, make use of screen time when possible. An ideal way to do this is to encourage teenagers to attend a pre-college summer program that acknowledges the usefulness of their inherently digital focuses.
These camp topics might include freelancing, working remotely, learning online, and a preponderance of career choices for emerging, talented young men and women. A benefit of attending these programs is natural personal development and growth. (Psst — Get ideas on leadership camps for tweens and teens.
Gen Zers might perplex adults at times, but, like all generations, they will also find their way with the help of their biggest supporters, cheerleaders and fans.