Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Generation Z: A month of parenting

Image from here
While each generation has its own set of challenges with parenting, it seems that as a Generation X parent, the trials of parenting Generation Z fall into three main categories*.

1. Technology addicted

Generation Z has never experienced life without 24/7 communication. They have been able to navigate an iPhone since before they could talk. Life is about instant gratification. Need to solve a problem? Google it. Need to know where someone is? Text them. Take a photo, see it instantly.

This is the world we have created. The world that they know. It obviously has its upsides, but it means that Gen Zs have had a relatively indoor childhood compared with their parents. They have spent more time in front of a screen, dedicating their innocent years to the virtual world, rather than exploring the real world.

2. Protected

Gen Zs have been pampered by their helicopter parents. They have smaller families on average than their parent's did and they haven't had to share much. The over-parenting that is common in this situation has resulted in children who are adverse to throwing caution to the wind. Everybody just wants their children to be happy, so they are shielded from sadness, disappointment and danger. Everybody gets an award at school. Everyone gets a present in the pass the parcel. 

All this protection means that children are happy and safe, but without failure of any kind, children lack opportunity to build resilience. Without resilience, children's self esteems are at the mercy of others. By nature, self esteem needs to come from within, so no matter how many external rewards these children are given, their self esteem will not be built from praise alone. Without self esteem children are at risk of developing mental health issues, suffering in friendships and relationships and potentially impairing academic and job performance. 

It is a heavy consequence of not letting our children fail from time to time.

3. Risk averse

Fear is a driving force in our society today. Fear of terrorists, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of being sued. Add this the the infiltration of Work Health and Safety into all facets of life and risk has become a thing of the past.  

There is a whole parenting movement - the free-range parent - which has acknowledged the need to add safe risks back into our children's lives. Children today don't want to raise their hands in class should they get the wrong answer. They don't want to try something new, in case they can't do it immediately. They avoid risks, just as the broader society does. 

How this will impact on innovation and entrepreneurial spirit for this generation is anyone's guess.

How are your Gen Z's shaping up?

* Based on my interpretation of a talk that I went to by Michael Macqueen a couple of week's ago.


joeh said...

I don't think things are quite as dire as you make them seem, but you are not far off, and they are headed in that direction.

When is overprotection dangerous, when is too much freedom child abuse? It is clearly a balancing act. You can not hand a child self-esteem or manufacture it. One thing for sure is failure is important, and if you let a child figure it out on their own it is suprising how quickly they learn. THey learn nothing having things done for them.

Excellent post!!

Ms M said...

hooray for saying this. i really worry about patience, relaxation and being overly protected from lifes realities. we are contributing to this with our own tiredness and not wanting to put up with whingeing there must take a snack and enteryainment for them. heaven help they experience discomfort.

Kymmie said...

This is great Coo! I have to admit my children don't own a phone/ipad/wii/playstation. We limit tv time,and our outdoor time is relatively unstructured. We don't do after school programs (I'm sure that will come soon enough though). I worry about our kids. I hope I'm not that helicopter??!!!

I wonder how they will be when they grow up? x

Emily said...

Such a great post. I remember doing assignments at school - looking up the encyclopaedia, looking for other books at the library, photocopying pictures of famous people to stick on the page. Writing draft after draft until, very carefully and slowly, writing the final version in the best possibly handwriting.

How very different it will be when my children start doing projects!

Petra said...

You summed that up really well. Our whole society is going so strongly that way that it is frowned upon if you do try and break out of that mould (let children take risks - expose them to danger, oh no!!) or the children feel they loose out in their peer group if they don't know the latest iPod/Wii games. It is hard to find the balance somewhere inbetween.

River said...

Put all the Gen Zs in a time capsule and send them back about 50 years. Bring them back a few months later and see how they've adapted. Children are remarkably resilient and will learn and survive almost anything if given the chance.

Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel said...

Hi there, but the thing is... although there is plenty to generalise about... that's SO not how my kids are being raised, even if they are Gen Z. And your children are not being raised like that either, I'm sure. It's easier to parent in the more old-fasioned way for those of us who have bigger families, the kids just have to look after themselves a lot more.

I WILL NOT allow my kids to be wimpy and un-independent... even if they want to be. Totally not on, how will they survive in the Outback?? Glad to be a ferociously independent person with my own life too, I'm sure that'll mean the kids are independent too and not suffocated.

rockmelon said...

great post, enjoyed it thoroughly! Love that you dared to say it!

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