A Few Thoughts for Parents and Teachers about Generation Z

14 Aug
By Ernie Zarra, Ph.D.
August 17, 2017
Generation Z is in a great spot. Emerging generations always seems to have so much going for them and, in this respect, the current generation of young people is no different. If you are a parent of a Gen Z student, have you considered what it would be like to be young, again: Really, really, young again—and be thrust directly in the midst of those raging hormones and unpredictable Gen Z emotions? I am learning to stay away from mirrors these days. However, I do wonder whether
George Bernard Shaw is correct when he writes, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” This is an interesting concept to consider.
One of the things that Generation Z has going for it is an intrinsic motivation to play. And play they do, which brings consequences on many levels. Gen Y is making every effort to stay in the game, as well. The average student in Gen Z will spend hundreds-to-thousands of hours online by the time they are eighteen years of age, just playing and playing some more. Interestingly enough, Gen Z works daily on typing skills, literary interpretations, and drawing rapid conclusions, expressed in a video or a “deeply provocative” 140 characters. I know. This is not really funny.
Seriously, essential to understanding Gen Z is to understand how serious they are about remaining in touch with friends throughout their days, often interrupting other classes, so as not to miss the latest emoji, Instagram, or Snapchat. While in classes, all educators just have to understand that students are immediately compelled to send photos, messages, or provide their friends the answers to quizzes or tests. Friends are in need and, after all, they were all taught to work in pairs and groups to solve problems, from Kindergarten through high school.
Text messaging has done away with the need for handwriting and passing notes to fellow students. Stealth recordings are made wherever the Gen Z student chooses, whether at home or on school campuses, and hardly anyone one can stop these recordings from being immediately shared on the Internet. Any student that needs to talk to one of their parents, or any parents that want to get a message to their Gen Z child, is just seconds away. What educator wants to step in an interrupt the “It’s my mom, I have to take this phone call?”
In fact, becoming a viral sensation is easy as an excuse to go to the restroom and then a student can make all the phone calls desired with no one around. While in the restroom, if there are other students present, one could also test out the phone’s camera and video to see if its pixels are adequate for immediately uploading to Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook accounts. Additional play-action occurs with faces changed with apps that add dog faces or circus-mirror-like distortions to photos. Yes, Gen Z loves to play.
These supposed skills may be wonderful for social media and friends, but writing skills are plummeting to dire levels. That being said, maybe Gen Z parents might want to press their children into thinking about a career in research and rehabilitation of arthritis of the thumbs, or vertebrae subluxation of the neck.
Long gone are the days of pagers, typewriters, Gigapets, Tomagatchies, Furbies, Transformers, Beanie Babies, Care Bears, Pokemon cards, and other dated machines and toys. Changes in technology always bring about new choices. How many veteran educators remember the duplicating spirits of the mimeograph machines, or the horrendous chalk dust, and overhead projector blue hand syndrome? Now, all we do is squeak along with whiteboard marker, delirious from their fumes.
Times have changed and they have changed for parents as well as for educators. They have not changed for students of Gen Z. Like precious generations before them, all they know is what they know in their present, and their brief generational history. Parents realize what educators realize. The main reason times have changed is because culture has changed.
One of the major cultural changes, of course, is in the explosion of educational and personal technologies and the impacts these have on the developing brains of Gen Z children—and this where education is seriously impacted.
Parents today have extreme pressures placed upon them, with routines of work, school, extra-curricular activities, church—you name it! When a child of a previous generation needed to be disciplined, the child was sent to his or her room. There was little to occupy the boredom. There are some differences with today’s children, however.
Getting “grounded” today may not equate to such a detriment to one’s behavior. For example, Gen Z children sent to their rooms for discipline might realize an open invitation for an awesome time. Parents today have to contend with smart phones, Wi-Fi, hotspots, computers, instant messaging, cable-television, iPads, DVD players and video games. Gen Z students are often affected by family concerns. For example, if they have to split their time between two parents in different homes, their sense of discipline can often be skewed. Therefore, one home’s discipline may be another home’s joyride. Inconsistent values that are communicated often confuse even the resilient of students.
This shows up in both large and small ways. For example, in high school and college, plagiarism is rampant. Students copy and paste documents together from the Internet, including sharing files, hacking into social media accounts, or creating pages to poke fun at faculty and staff. Technology has made it easier to cheat, and this cheating is not relegated only to students. The popular MTV cable program “Catfish” is a good example of the extent some would go to use the Internet to deceive. Then, of course, there is the newer moniker of “fake news,” that has led to classes on Internet literacy. One student’s sketchy work ethic can now be classified as another person’s innovation and fun.
Schools should take some of the blame for Gen Z’s weaknesses in the areas just mentioned. The “think, pair, share,” of classroom collaboration did little for the unmotivated students. But just think! If parents all became young again, we could work together in groups and turn in assignments derived from collaborative efforts, all sharing in the fruits of the reward. Everyone gets an “A,” and that one overachiever can be our equalizer.
Being young again would also mean being “normcore” stylish. Or, we could just wear our hats and hoodies in classes, claiming our heads are cold, while budded and listening to our favorite tunes. If we were young again and our parents allowed us to have smart phones and iPads, what is so wrong with using them whenever we would so desire? We would just be entitled to them.
Bernard Shaw concluded that “Youth is wasted on the young.” While it is true we can never go back, make no mistake about it. As things go today, parents are often megabytes in a terabyte world—while many Gen Z kids’ heads are in the iCloud.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: