5 Insights on Generation Z, Garnered this Year

Today, we hear from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a writer, curriculum designer, and speaker who has served with a number of non-profit organizations (and has spoken to thousands of Millennials) over the last 5 years. He now serves on our team at Growing Leaders.

This has been a year of change for our county and our world. In the midst of this change, there is one shift that is perhaps more important than any other: a new generation is rising to prominence. Generation Z (those born since 2001) will soon be in your classrooms, lecture halls, and board rooms, and if we aren’t ready, they may take us by surprise.

This year, I had the pleasure of sitting down with over a hundred members of Generation Z in focus groups across the country. Through these conversations and our ongoing research, we’ve uncovered many fascinating trends about the next generation that will shape 2017.

As you consider how your work with them will change in the new year, think too about these realities. If we aren’t preparing for this new generation, we may be lost when they arrive. Here are five insights we gained about Generation Z this year.

photo credit: kamera kızı 4/365 via photopin (license)

photo credit: kamera kızı 4/365 via photopin (license)

1. Generation Z is anxious and depressed.

One theme that keeps showing up in research about Gen Z is the amount of diagnosed anxiety and depression they deal with at a very young age. This year, I personally met middle schoolers who are on medication for depression and anxiety. Leaders of this generation will have to always keep emotional health in mind when they are working with Gen Z students.

How will this change our leadership? “Old school” tactics like yelling from the sidelines or stressful tests are not going to be as effective. We will need new teaching methods that will allow Gen Z to own their growth.

2. Generation Z experiences FOMO.

Have you heard of FOMO (fear of missing out)? Our research shows that Gen Z is always worried that something awesome is happening and they might miss it. Middle schoolers told me that, when they forget their phone at home, they have hundreds of messages waiting for them.

How this will change our leadership? We will need to challenge our students to think about what they are trying to achieve with their online personas. We can’t just say, “No.” We will have to provide a “why” when we tell them what we think they should do.

3. Generation Z builds their identity online.

No matter what level of influence you think you have over a student in Generation Z, the internet has more impact than you will ever have. Today’s students think of the web as a place to get answers to all of life’s questions. They think of social media as a constant picture of their social status.

How this will change our leadership? In 2017 we will need to think about how we can focus on giving interpretation rather than information. Students will need us to help them process the information they are getting online.

4. Generation Z thinks the adults in their life are oblivious.

Every generation of young people thinks their parents are clueless, but this is the first generation that actually has the ability to hide large parts of their social life from their parents and other adults. Your students likely think you have no idea what they are doing on their phones and tablets—and maybe they’re right.

How this will change our leadership? You may be leading your students without knowing exactly what they know and don’t know. Show them you care first, and they will be more likely to listen to you and share what’s going on in their lives.

5. Generation Z has a bright future.

Lots of people seem worried about this generation, but I’m not. Every generation experiences obstacles and challenges. Just because we are in a new day, doesn’t mean these students don’t have what it takes to thrive. Our research shows that this generation, although worried about the world, is optimistic about what they have to offer.

How this will change our leadership? This generation needs you to constantly remind them that you believe in their capability. How often are you telling them what you think about their future?

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This special ends Sunday, January 1st at midnight.

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5 Insights on Generation Z, Garnered this Year