Most of you who read this blog are familiar with the challenges of teaching, coaching or parenting this emerging generation of students, the ones born since 1990 that I call Generation iY. Adults must be more intentional than ever about cultivating life skills and emotional intelligence in these “screenagers” today. Most of what you’ll read on these young adults is negative—in magazines, journals and nationwide surveys.
However—it’s easy to forget the incredible “upside” to these students. They possess characteristics, based on the culture they’ve grown up in, that we can capitalize on, enabling them to become incredible adults as they mature. I just spoke about these at Kansas State University to staff and coaches:
1. They feel special and are confident.
This research has remained constant for over a decade. Young people from Gen Y enter school and sports with a confidence that reflects how they’ve been affirmed by mom and dad. 86% of high school students believe the next “Bill Gates” is in their generation; 51% believe they “know” the next Bill Gates; 24% believe they “are” the next Bill Gates. Receiving trophies and ribbons throughout childhood and being praised by family has enabled many to be bold and audacious in their dreaming. We must help them align their strengths with those dreams and take wise risks.
2. They are social and love operating in community.
The average high school student is disconnected from friends only one hour in a 24- hour day. Many sleep and even shower with their cell phones—they love staying in touch. Half of teens today show up high “I” on the DISC profile. They see themselves as a social generation that can multi-task, text and communicate with others; they’re the new TGIF Generation, except theirs is about: Twitter, Google, Instagram and Facebook. Their native tongue: social media. We must help them use these amazing skills for redemptive purposes and prevent them from being overwhelmed by it all.
3. They are tech-savvy and intuitive with portable devices.
Pew Research tells us that teens would rather give up their “pinky finger” than their cell phone. They put technology in the same category as “air and water.” It’s like an appendage to their body. In the Land of Tomorrow, we are the “immigrant” and they are the “native.” They will learn more from a portable device than a classroom. We all know—technology isn’t going away. So, we must enable them to control it rather than vice versa and learn to utilize it well, as they pursue their mission in life.
4. They love family and want to create it wherever they go.
This one has remained constant over ten years of research. Teens continue to love family and want to “create family” in their college experience, their jobs and on their teams. In one annual nationwide high school survey, high school students were asked the question: Who is your hero? For the first time in years, they did not list an athlete at the top of the list. Number one was mom and dad. Number two was grandma and grandpa. In response, we do well to create a sense of trust and support as we put them to work and guide them as mentors.
5. They are aware of their influence and want to use it.
Young adults in Generation iY have grown up in a world where they know that one of their tweets could go viral; one of their YouTube posts could go viral; one of their blogs could go viral…you get the picture. This is a new day where one touch of a screen or button can send a message to thousands. Receiving Likes, Comments, Retweets and Views is the new currency. Influence is a conscious thing. So, we must help them channel that influence into places that result in positive outcomes.
I get excited about the possibilities for their future. Are you ready to lead them?
I’m certain you’ve seen other positive characteristics in young people. Let me know what you see.