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How Generation Z Differs from Generation Y

The numbers are just coming in from studies of younger teens, who are part of Generation Z (also known as “Homelanders”, these kids follow Generation Y). They are part of a population who grew up post-911, where terrorism is part of the landscape, a sour economy is all they remember, and uncertainty defines our mindsets.

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photo credit: flickingerbrad via photopin cc

In many ways, we need to stop assuming they’ll simply be extensions of Generation Y (or the Millennials). They are the younger counterparts to that older generation and have grown up with new technology that’s marked them. While Generation Y grew up with computers, Generation Z grew up with touch-screens. Their phones have always been “smart.” Bill Clinton is a president from history, and Madonna is an aged veteran… like Elton John or Michael Jackson. They never knew her when she was “like a virgin.” We live in a new day.

The Shifts This New Generation Will Bring…

1. While Generation Y spent money boldly and with few boundaries, 57% of Generation Z prefers saving money to spending it.

2. While Generation Y spent loads of time at the mall, Generation Z prefers shopping online for almost all their purchases… except for online games. Hmmm.

3. While Generation Y grew up during a strong economy, Generation Z is growing up in a time of recession, terrorism, violence, volatility, and complexity.

4. While Generation Y subscribed to everything social, Generation Z doesn’t want to be tracked, preferring Snapchat, Secret, or Whisper to communicate.

5. While Generation Y watched YouTube, Hulu and Netflix, Generation Z wants to co-create, live stream, and help to make up the activity as they participate.

6. While Generation Y loved sports and adventure, Generation Z sees sports as a health tool, not for play. Their games are inside. Teen obesity has tripled since 1970.

7. While Generation Y grew up with slightly longer attention spans, Generation Z has an attention span of 8 seconds. Approximately 11% have ADHD.

8. While Generation Y initiated text messages as a norm, Generation Z prefers communicating through images, icons and symbols.

9. While Generation Y worried about their growing social status and their “likes” on social media, Generation Z worries about the economy and world ecology.

10. While Generation Y enjoyed a life that revolved around them, Generation Z plans on coping with multi-generational households and marriages (400% increase).

According to a recent report from Sparks and Honey, these younger children and teens are from a smaller population that will be more about coping with reality than Generation Y, who was about virtual reality. For instance:

  • Their movies are Hunger Games and Divergent, where youth are being slaughtered and kids no longer feel as central to their world.
  • They multitask on five screens, not one or two. They experience FOMO: the “Fear Of Missing Out.” They try to consume it all.
  • They plan to get educated and start working earlier, but will be “school hackers” and not necessarily attend a liberal arts college.

On the other hand, they are growing up in America, where:

  • The average Gen Z kid receives $16.90 a week in allowance, translating to $44 billion a year.
  • They are a major influence on household purchases, including dinner menus, vacations, home furnishings and even family cars.
  • Three out of four wish their current hobby could become their full-time job. That was far more than Millennials reported when asked about it.

What do you observe in these younger students? Are you up on Gen. Z?



  • Marisol Keyvanmanesh

    I see a trend (beginning with my children) of youth wanting to choose non-traditional careers; desiring to help make an impact on the world (peace corps); of wanting to have purpose and meaning.

    It is an exciting time….

  • JennaDeWitt

    “While Generation Y worried about their growing social status and their “likes” on social media, Generation Z worries about the economy and world ecology.” Really. Gen Z is what… 14 and younger? When the median-age Millennial was 14, texting was barely a thing and phones didn’t have color screens yet. I don’t see how this is possible.

  • NewStuffHawt

    There are a few things right with this article but more things wrong…. Part of Gen Y here… Firstly, gen Y AND gen Z are both considered Millennials having been born roughly between 1980s – 2000. (Just one of many references: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millennials). We have some differences, but a lot more similarities. We (gen Y) are the last generation to know what life was like before the internet, before everyone had personal computers, let alone smart devices. That gives us a unique perspective on the innovation of technology, having been born in a time when we could watch technology mature from one era to another at a very young age. This shaped our world view tremendously- the majority of us seeing and being taught that anything is possible. Things were exciting when we were born.. people had money… Our Baby Boomer parents gave us trophies for simply showing up to little league practice (regardless of how great or terrible we were, but that’s another story for a different article). The point is, we were encouraged. That is why when the economy tanked, gas prices rose, jobs disappeared and college tuition sky-rocketted yearly (what a beautiful recipe for an existential crisis, btw), many people of gen Y rejected the traditional career path and started from scratch. It was bumpy at first … and yes, we were whiny and complained loudly (who wouldn’t be when the promised pot of gold isn’t at the end of the rainbow after working your ass off to get there) … and fast forward 10 years later and we are on track to be the largest generation of successful entrepreneurs (gen X holds the trophy at the moment). We took an active role in innovating the moment we came of age. We were the first generation that (those who could afford to) rose the academic standard from an undergraduate degree to a graduate degree because more specialized knowledge was both in demand and necessary both personal and global progress. On the other side of the same coin, we’re the first generation to LARGELY accept that a diploma of any sort doesn’t actually mean anything if you can work smart, not hard, and innovate (I see you gen X). We. Get. Things. Done. Efficiently and Creatively…. and we hold everyone accountable. The best part is that we’re still young and relevant and FINALLY have some political power. Generation Z was born while we were floundering, scrawny little 18 year olds complaining about the economy. They were born into a huge mess and luckily don’t have a reference like we do of better times. They were also born when magical touch-screens and wifi in your pocket were a norm.. world knowledge at their fingertips from day one. I’m excited to see what’s in store from these guys… Most importantly they get to learn from our mistakes and it makes total since that they would be more cautious with their financial and social choices. I think that gen Y and gen Z (i.e. the Mils) are a good couple. The bold, creative wildling + the cautious observer, the innovator + the improver … gen Y + gen Z = Millennials, a tough act to follow.

    • Yevgeny Blinov

      There is a theory of a cycle of 4 generations. If you look throughout the history, you can see it repeating itself every ~80 years, which correlates well with the theory. I don’t know the generations architype names, but I call them like this – Builders/Creators, Stabilizers/Rulers, Rebels/Distabilizers, Fixers/Cleansers.

      Builders build a new “civilization”, which means they establish new society norms, new moral ethics, new standards.

      After a new society is built, comes the Rulers/Stabilizers. They expand the new standards, take control of it, make it strong and stable. They become the rulers of the “modern world”. Of course, it also comes with a portion of corruption, establishing a background for a “rebellion”.

      Then come the Rebels, who put individualism and self-expression above the global needs. Tired of the corruption and the flaws of the “system”, they ruin all the standards the Builders have built before them. Just like the Builders, they are also very creative, but unfortunately egoistic.

      Born in times of crysis, seeing the damage the Rebels have done, come the Fixers/Cleansers. They focus on corporative work, put social and common needs above individualism. They tend to want to “fix the world”. Following strict rules they unite to “cleanse” all the bad from the world, and prepare a background for the new generation of Builders/Creators to start anew.

      Let’s compare them to the last few generations, starting with the Greater Generation (born between 1900-1920). They were what the Y generation is today – Rebels. These rebels caused WWI, WW2, The Great Depression, The October Revolution and all the wars of the 20th century. They literally “rebelled” against the already corrupt system.

      When WW2 was over, the Silent Generation (born between 1920-1940) came in motion. They united to fix the damage the wars have done, putting aside individualism for greater good.

      When the world was “fixed”, came the Baby Boomers (born between 1940-1960), who have “built” a new world as we know it today. Their focus was on culture, on new standards. We can see it well on music, starting with 50s.

      When the world was built, the X generation (born between 1960-1980) have stepped in. They turned the new world into a large global system, took control over it, expanded it, developed it. Unfortunately, they have also made mistakes, put a lot of garbage “under the rug”, for which the younger generations have to pay for.

      Millenials, or the Y generation (born between 1980-2000, or some say up to 1995), are the “rebels”. You can see how they refuse to give themselves to large companies and prefer building their own start-ups. Individualism and self-expression are their Gods. Unfortunately, many times their selfishness grows into egoism, which distabilizes the current system. Therefore, we see how the world is so uncertain, so messy.

      Z generation (born after 1995 or after 2000) are different from Millenials. They are driven by concepts of helping, volunteering, doing things for greater good. Look at the kids today. They are less selfish, more social, more caring and emphatic. They care about health much more than Millenials – for example, many of them are non-smokers. They remind the Silent Generation. They will fix the world and prepare it for a new “establishment”.

      The next generation, Alpha generation, are going to be the next “Baby Boomers”.

      • NewStuffHawt

        I like what you’ve done here and appreciate the amount of thought you put into it, but it seems a bit oversimplified. I can get behind people in my generation being the “rebels” and wanting change, but the truth is that you can look at any generation, pick an issue and assign it one of the categories you’ve listed based on that issue. For instance, one could easily say that the boomers were the rebel generation, changing the political and cultural face of America through Civil Rights, reinventing pop music with rebellious undertones (in the 60s/70s music industry professionals marketed artists based on whether or not they would upset parents… the more upsetting, the better the sales), War protests, the culture of college protests in general, etc… In comes generation X to clean up the domestic affairs and further enforce new social norms in the aftermath of the tumultuous decades previous…. All while laying a great foundation for the globalization of new technologies and businesses. Gen Y comes along and builds on this foundation with new innovative global technologies. The growing number of start ups makes since when you look at how rapidly technology has started to evolve. Gen Z… well, most of them haven’t left high school so your guess is as good as mine. I’m not saying that your suggestion is wrong and mine is right, just pointing out how arbitrary that line of reasoning can be based on what you’re looking at. Furthermore, Gen X was actually the most likely to *start* a new business after college and millennials are more likely to *be involved with* (includes work for) start ups after college. Gen X is still at it with the start ups now that they have a bit more capital to invest, and millennials are happy to work for them. If there is indeed a cycle, we’re not going to be good objective judges of where we’re at regardless of our dates of birth simply because everything is still happening. The best we can do here is look at each generation and give kudos and slaps on the wrists where it seems appropriate. Lastly, how is it possible to know what an entire generation is concerned with globally with the vast majority of them are under the age of 16? I work with the oldest part of the latest generation… they are interns in my office and they don’t seem very different from the youngest people in my generation. There’s obvious overlap and for that reason I can’t take this article seriously. Kids being nice to eachother on the playground doesn’t count as evidence.

  • Steven Gordon

    I’m born in 1994 but I think I’m more like generation Z then Y anyway I call generation Z the neglected generation because we left them a world of catastrophic abrupt climate change at a very young age

    • darth baul

      coz you are… you are as young as the Play station 1… and people still use it till today…

  • shine dark

    i know why my genaration is fucked up in my home town (generation y, 1994)

  • Cedric Adams

    Most of those are true, I am myself known as Generation Y, in which is between 1980-2000. I have a young sister that is Generation Z and i can tell that she is focusing on technologies instead of go out and play with something. she got her phone when she was in 5th grade and i wont get my phone until 8th grade. we all can tell that Generation Z is pretty selfish with technology.

  • Roy Jones

    I’m sorry but this was a dumb article. I came on here to find out whether I was a Millennial or not and I am but the things that are said like the economy and ecology? Come on, if it’s like that, then I know a few that were worried about global warming at a young age, myself included. This was so biased and just ridiculous at the same time. I bet I can speak for most when I say that I wish I had my 3 minutes back.

  • Tessa Mattes

    I was born in 1997, and I can say that a lot of my friends born in 96-99 feel really awkward being between Millennials and Gen Z. I think I consider myself (born in 1997) more of a Gen Z than a Millennial, honestly. I feel like Millennials are more like people who grew up in and actually remembered most of the 1990’s. I don’t really remember much of the 90’s at all, and I don’t specifically remember 9/11(I would’ve been 4 y/o during 9/11.)

    • Laura Wilson

      I definitely agree. I was born in the later half of 1998 and don’t know whether I fit in with Gen Z or Millennials (and the time-line as to when one generation starts and another begins around these years is cloudy with different years being stated by different people). I was raised by Baby Boomer parents so technically that would place me more in with the Millennials, but I relate just as much with Gen Z as I do Millennials. As you mentioned I was alive when 9/11 happened but don’t remember it, and my earliest memories are all from the 2000s. I am also part of the age group that had to wait to have a phone (and my first phone was my mum’s old dog chewed phone that only had the capability to call and text, and it wasn’t until I was 15 that I was allowed a new phone, that I had saved up for), but we were also young enough to grow up surrounded by ‘smart’ technology that became integrated with our school education. And whilst I agree that there are certain characteristics that are more apparent in a generation, no one will fit fully into the archetype and there are always exceptions that throw the stereotypes out completely. But for those of us born between these few years between 1996 and 1999, it is really hard to place which generation we belong into. We were born on the cusp of change and have managed to fall somewhere in the middle.

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