How Generation Z Are Being Shaped by Technology

Has technology changed the way teenagers tick?

Teenagers today still go through puberty, adolescence, and all the associated personal and relational dramas that go along with that. So their basic desires, needs, and questions haven’t changed.

But we need to acknowledge that the technology they have grown up with has completely changed the way people go about their lives.  Young people today will have a radically different experience of childhood and adolescence than their parents did.

Adults talk about social networking and mobile technology as “new technology” yet for tweens & teens it is merely the where and how of interactions.

Just this last week I came across 2 bits of information that confirm just how engrained technology is, and will continue to be, in the lives of young people.

In one study it was found that the average age at which a child acquires an online presence is 6 months (thanks to their parents). 81% of children have a ‘digital footprint’ by the time they are 2 .

While in survey of older kids Nielsen Research found that the average American teenager sends or receives 3,339 texts a month. That is about 6 texts per hour for every hour they are awake. Remember when we used to buy phones to talk to each other?  Not this generation. Of those surveyed 43% identified texting as the main reason for having a mobile phone.

These are only a snapshot of the countless ways young people and technology are interacting in what are defining ways. Such a technologically saturated upbringing cannot be without effect.

Here are 5 ways young people’s relationship to technology is  shaping how they live and view the world.

It’s How They Connect With Each Other

Teens still see each other at school, in the park, and at the shopping mall. However the conversations they have at these places are no longer about catching up on what has happened since they were last together. They already know what has been happening, to those present and to just about all of their other friends.

In the age of mobile phones, mobile social networking, texting, photo sharing, and status updates, any big news in a teenager’s world is known almost instantly.  This nearly constant connectedness to each other is beyond what teenagers of previous generations could have dreamt of.  Peer groups have always been important, now they are important and always present. This level of interconnectedness will shape the way this and future generations view relationships.

It’s How They Connect With the World

The internet is like one big window to the world.  With Social Media, the Web, and mobile technology young people are able to gaze out and see what is happening with their friends, get the latest news on their pop idols, explore what clothes to wear, learn which movies are worth watching, buy their favourite music, and arrange their social calendar which is now a dynamic rather than static document.

Unlike previous generations where much of the engagement with the world was one of passive observance, these days teenagers take for granted the ability to interact and shape the world while they are observing it.

It’s Where They Explore Their Identity

Whether it is a skater, a goth, a rock chick, surfer, or little monsters, teenagers have in the past, and will continue in the future, seek to find a place, a tribe, a group to identify with and belong to.

The internet and mobile technology affords young people the ability to explore their still forming identities with greater efficiency and on a greater scale than ever before.  Once teens might only have been limited to knowing a few other kids who embraced a niche look or hobby they were interested in. These days young people can discover and connect with hundreds of other like minded teens from all around the world. So now the Indie chick doesn’t only have some magazine photos and one other person down the street to model herself on, she has a global community of influence and inspiration.

It’s Where They Play

Sure tweens and teens still run around the streets and play sport on the weekend just like they have always done. But they are also very used to accessing the internet, and now mobile apps, to satisfy their desire to play.

A recent survey of tweens aged 8-11 found that 91% of boys and 93% of girls play games online. Another similar survey found that 73% of teenagers who are online play games on the internet. Screens aren’t just things to be watched, they offer the chance to play.  And playing rarely has to be alone, there will always be someone on the other end who is happy to play with them.

Its Where They Learn

Believe it or not, the web is also the location where today’s young people learn.  When faced with a question their automatic response is to “Google” it.  For younger kids today, those who will be teens in a few years, they will not remember a time when “Google” wasn’t a verb.

With information so accessible learning has fundamentally changed for future generations.  Learning is not about gaining information. Learning is now about arranging, remaking, mashing-up, reinterpreting, and making sense of the information. This requires new types of learning and different skills sets to what we were taught at school. Make no mistake, technology has changed what learning means for today’s teens.

These are my 5 basic impacts of technology on teens. What are yours?

Image by włodi

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