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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


What To Do with a Generation of “Firsts” (Part Two)

Yesterday, I blogged about how young people today are part of a generation of “firsts.” Just like the Boomers were the first generation to grow up with TV,  high school and college students today are among a generation who are the first to experience several realities. In fact, because they’re initiating these realities, they may present a challenge to you as parents and teachers. Adults are grappling with how to raise this population of kids who grew up online, with a screen in their hands. Consider the following “firsts” they represent.

Generation of Firsts

This is the First Generation of Youth Who:

  1. Doesn’t need adults to get information.
  2. Can broadcast their every thought or emotion to those who follow them.
  3. Has external stimuli at their fingertips 24/7.
  4. Is socially connected at all times, but often connects in isolation.
  5. Will learn more from a portable device than from a classroom.
  6. Adults have enabled to be narcissistic instead of valuing a team.
  7. Uses a phone instead of a wristwatch, camera, wall calendar or board game.
  8. Scores lower on global comparisons, but believe they’re “awesome.”

So What Do We Do?

So—how do we lead them? How do we provide wisdom to help them navigate this new world? How can we enable them to embrace new technology but not lose the timeless relational skills that enable them to be good with people? Let’s start here.

  1. Provide an agreement on how to use their cell phone, not be used by it. Talk it over, then both of you sign it which will provide accountability on the use of this tool.
  2. Balance “screen time” and “face time”. Match the hours they spend in front of a screen with the hours face-to-face with people.
  3. Determine that both of you (your class, team or family) will do a technology “fast” once a month, where no one texts, emails or is on Facebook for a whole day.
  4. Teach them to use the “employer” rule when they tweet or post. Would they want their boss to see what they’ve said?
  5. When they see a show or movie (or if you watch one together) discuss its meaning and through reflection on plot and values, begin cultivating critical thinking skills.
  6. If you discover something they really “want”, create a game that enables them to “wait” on getting it, thereby developing the ability to delay gratification.
  7. Help them discover redemptive ways they can use technology to serve the world around them—either helping their community or their campus.

This is just a start. Could you share your ideas on how we can help this generation navigate the world of portable technology without sacrificing soft skills, empathy and emotional intelligence?

photo credit: LingHK via photopin


  1. sara on September 6, 2013 at 8:57 am

    My 5 yo boy is starting to behave like these kids. My solution? Spend more time with him. It has worked very well.

  2. Dan Miller on September 6, 2013 at 9:21 am

    When my son turned 13, I made a switch whereby it was no longer “go and play” but now it was “come and be.” “Come Jonathan and join me in my conversations with my adult friends (guy friends primarily).” I have wanted my son’s to observe how we as men relate, discuss, ask questions, and use humor without it being at others expense. He is now a freshman in college and doing great. He can have adult conversations and has learned to ask questions.
    Dan Miller

  3. camom9 on September 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    My children, 23 and 28, are technology-savvy adults, but have all the people
    skills needed to succeed in this fast-paced world. Along with my son-in-law, they are successful, upwardly mobile, highly respected employees in their professional lives. I would suggest that the “new” teen interact without technology by becoming involved in sports, clubs, drama, and other activities offered by high schools & universities which do not involve technology. There are also numerous
    volunteer opportunities which do not involve technology. In order to stay connected to the real world, our young people need to interact with people of
    all ages on a regular basis without the “technology interface” in the way. Obviously, technology is here to stay and there is nothing wrong with it used in the correct manner and with wisdom and insight into how it can enhance a
    young person’s life – not dominate it. People need people, not faceless machines.

  4. Susan Barber on September 6, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I place students in “family groups” for nine week periods where they discuss, create, and work together in class. They are “forced” to learn how to face-to-face talk through and work through projects and express ideas through real words and conversations – not just texts. It works for my class, and the students gain as much in the area of social skills as they do in academic knowledge through the groups.

  5. Elizabeth on September 7, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Being a young adult, I realize how much I spend on social media and on my phone. This summer I was forced to turn my phone off for 5 days every week. It pushed me to invest in people. When I did have my phone on during the weekend, I simply used it to call home once. I was too busy investing one on one time in the relationships I was building throughout the week.

    • Tim Elmore on September 10, 2013 at 8:40 am

      Thank you for sharing, Elizabeth! That is such a great practice to have. You will certainly reap the benefits of that discipline.

  6. Elizabeth on September 8, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I think that adults should set the example for young people. If we expect kids to have the discipline to set aside their portable devices and enter reality, or learn how to interact face-to-face, then we must show that we are able to do the same. I feel that the adults who are leading the iY generation must show these younger people how to find balance in their lives. If the adults can’t do it, how can their kids?

  7. rachel on September 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I believe that parents should take control of teaching there children time management when it comes to technology. Giving children time limits with technology. Technology should be encouraged on the home but other activities should also be encouraged for kids of all ages. Parents hold a huge influence in the amount of time their children spend using technology.

  8. Moni on September 9, 2013 at 11:32 am

    As a young person from this current generation, I have to continually ask a basic question when interacting with technology and social networking– not the question of “what” or “when” but “why.” When I decide whether or not to spend time on facebook, listen to music, or watch a movie I want to see a purpose in what I do. I want the technology I use to match up with my goals, whether short term or long. I don’t want technology to be my life, but I do want to use the myriad of tools available in the best way possible.

    • Tim Elmore on September 10, 2013 at 8:44 am

      Thank you for sharing, Moni! That is a great way to look at technology and social media.

  9. Lexi Riley on September 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    This is definitely something that I’ve been noticing these last ten years. I think most of this generation tend to what things and not even question why. Why did we watch that? What message where they trying to protray? etc. I think talking about movies/tv/media with students and children is something very important.

    • Tim Elmore on September 16, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      You’re so right Lexi. We oftentimes get so caught up in a digital, fast-paced lifestyle that we never stop and question. By taking the time to ask “why”, it provides opportunities to have conversations with students and children.

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What To Do with a Generation of "Firsts" (Part Two)