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Gen Z: What the latest research is telling us about our kids

If you have any children in school right now, you have a member of Generation Z in your midst. Last week at SHARE’s annual Family Education Conference in Hungary, I spoke on what I have discovered about Gen Z, and want to share just a summary of that with you today.

Who Is Gen Z?

Gen Z kids were born in the late 1990s through about 2015. The primary difference that we see in them as compared to other generations is in how they spend their time.

What stood out to me is that this generation is the first to have an iPhone in hand when they reached adolescence. Almost all of the data collected about this generation took a huge turn (usually for the bad, unfortunately) in 2011 – right when iPhones and other smartphones took over our lives.

Growing Up

Here’s what studies are showing about Gen Z growing up and taking on adult responsibilities. They are:

  • less likely to have a drivers’ license when graduating from high school
  • less time alone in the house with parents gone
  • less fighting with parents
  • less likely to have a job in high school
  • less likely to receive a regular allowance from their parents

While we may not be huge fans of some of these activities as parents (who enjoys fighting with their teenager?), they do signal a God-given desire to “fly the nest.” And we all want our kids to want independence, or they will live in our basement forever!

How Gen Z Spends Their Time

It’s interesting to read about how our kids are spending their time.

  • Gen Z is spending about the same amount of time on homework and school activities as previous generations.
  • Fewer kids are spending any time reading books or magazines (even on e-readers).
  • High school seniors are spending about SIX hours a day on what is called “new media” (social media, gaming, watching YouTube, etc.), while 8th graders are not far behind, spending on average FIVE hours a day with new media.

Those numbers were startling to me. Six hours a day?! How does that impact a young person?

Mental Health of Gen Z

With all of this time online and connectedness through social media, we might wonder if our kids are experiencing the same adolescence and childhood at us, just with slightly more screen time. But we’re finding that all that screen time is wreaking havoc on their mental health.

  • Across all measures, the number of kids battling depression has skyrocketed.
  • The number of major depressive episodes and suicides have risen dramatically in the last 10 years.
  • There appears to be a strong link between depression or suicide and social media; the more time a teen spends on social media, the more likely they are to be depressed.

So I reached this point and wondered: what can be done?

Positive Activities that Seem to Combat These Negatives

It’s not all bad news, though. Studies are showing that there are some activities that can negate or combat these challenges to mental health for our kids, such as:

  • participation in sports and/or exercise
  • reading every day (books or magazines, even on e-readers)
  • getting enough sleep
  • participation in church
  • in-person social interaction

This is only the tip of the iceberg about what research is teaching us about this generation. As parents, it’s important for us to be aware of the effects of our constantly-connected world on our kids as we make decisions about their education and activities.

If you’d like more information about any of this, feel free to reach out to me!

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