Historian Neil Howe tagged the youngest generation of kids “The Homelanders.” They were born about the same time the Dept. of Homeland Security was birthed. They’ve grown up after the turn of the century and follow Generation Y. They are toddlers, elementary school children and young middle schoolers. While the majority of our work at Growing Leaders is with universities, I get asked about these younger children all the time.
New research was just released that provides a hint at the fast changes taking place in kids today. In short, if you need help navigating your portable device—you may just want to ask your toddler. They seem to have intuition about technology.
Over one third (38% to be precise) of children younger than two-years old have used a mobile device, up from 11% two years ago, according to a national survey by Common Sense Media. Another study done last year reports that 90% of preschool kids are using technology. The proportion of young kids using devices nearly doubled over a span of two years. These same children are watching less television.
“This is a really significant shift,” said James Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. “The data shows rapid and profound changes in the 21st century in both childhood and learning.”
What’s more, while there is a gap between rich and poor in the ownership of mobile devices, that gap is narrowing. Among poor families—those earning less than $30,000 a year—access to smartphones increased from 27 percent to 51 percent in two years, while tablet ownership went from 2 to 20 percent.
What’s all this mean?
In short, these children are not merely adjusting to new technology, they are growing up with it from birth. How will this impact education?
- While Generation iY grew up typing on keypads, these kids are growing up with touch screens. They will want to manipulate the device in front of them.
- They will expect to use portable devices in the classroom, and wonder why schools don’t speak their language if teachers don’t offer them.
- They will not be conditioned to merely sit and watch or listen. They will want to participate and interact with a screen and video.
- They will likely be less patient than older generations, having everything at their fingertips, from day one. Waiting on answers will be difficult.
- They will be problem-solvers, but may lack resilience, as progress and solutions have come fairly quickly for these children.
- They may be more comfortable learning from a screen than from a real person. It is clear they will learn more from a portable device than a classroom.
Talk to me. Do you know any young children? Are you observing any patterns or changes in them? What will educators need to do to reach them?