Gen Z – we’re more than just teens with touch screens

Some of my earliest memories of childhood consist of sitting in a Macaroni Grill with my Mom’s new Blackberry Pearl phone in hand. I would hold the candy-red device in my tiny 5-year-old hands, position my thumb on the scroll wheel and play brick breaker until my parents decided that I had exceeded my “screen time” limit. Upon which I would bashfully surrender my device to its rightful owner and return to a measly existence consisting of crayons and extra cheesy penne.

For members of the generation known as Gen Z or iGen, memories like mine are not an oddity. Categorized as the children born somewhere between the mid-’90s and the early 2000s, Gen Zers have a global presence too large not to acknowledge. According to a study conducted by Nielsen Holdings, “[Gen Z] account[s] for the largest segment of the world's population at 26 percent” and that by 2020, this group will account for 40 percent of the US population. However, quantity doesn't always equal quality - so what makes my generation more than just a bunch of teens addicted to their screens?

Connectedness

Potentially born between the launch of Amazon in 1995 and Apple's release of the iPhone in 2007, Gen Z has only known a world in which humans and their devices live codependently. All previous generations experienced a gradual shift from analog to digital technology. For Gen Z, things like digital audio files, smartphones and streaming services were already mainstream or nearing relevancy by the time they were entering middle school. This has created a population of extreme technological competence and familiarity.

Diversity and Acceptance

According to studies conducted by The Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse generation to date. This diversity, combined with our social media presence, has subsequently created a group more generally accepting of cultural expression. Living to see events such as the presidency of the first African-American US president and the federal legalization of gay marriage, it is no wonder why most post-millennials are so forward thinking.

Innovation

When you grow up with figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk as household names, the word entrepreneurship isn’t as foreign as it once was. A study conducted by OnlineSchoolsCenter.com shows that 45% of Gen Zers say that they will invent something world-changing, 41% plan to start their own business and 56% percent say they would consider entering the workforce rather than going to college. This goes to show just how much the context in which Gen Zers were born has come to influence their unique outlook on the future. Spending just the past few weeks in the world of web product development has also shown me just how many new technologies are in the works, and how frequently those that already exist are changing. For my generation, this rapid pace of technological change is all we’ve ever known; it inspires many of us to challenge the status quo and break new ground.

When I listen to my parents and teachers tell tales from long ago of the world before the internet and smartphones, I can’t help but wonder what I will tell my children in 20 years.  Perhaps it will be explaining the sensation of driving my own car free from automation or having to wait days for my 3D models to print for my physics project. When I consider my journey from playing Brickbreaker on my Mom’s Blackberry to applying for a computer science degree on my iPhone within 15 years, the future of my generation and those to come seems impossible to predict.

My experience as an intern at a custom web development company that works with a diverse range of clients and technologies also has me wondering - could I be the one to program the next world-changing application? Or could I found a startup that reaches global success? It’s tough to say. Speculation aside, the rise of Gen Zers in the workplace will undoubtedly put extremely hardworking, technologically skilled, and eager minds on the front lines of innovation -- and we don't even have to wait until they graduate.

This post was written by Integrity Intern Max Pugh, a proud Gen Zer and aspiring web designer and developer.