It seems that every younger Generation is looked down upon by the previous ones but is this a recent occurrence or has it always been this way?
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannise their teachers.”. Any idea who said this? These are just the echoed words of a philosopher named Socrates.
It seems to be the natural order of things that as generations get older and have come to establish their paths & how they approach different life areas, the unique, almost opposing approaches from younger generations seem to inherently rub older generations the wrong way. But I come bearing good news, Gen Z is one of the most self-aware generations yet, and with that comes a lot of positive change.
According to recent studies, they drink less, take far fewer drugs, and have made teenage pregnancy a near anomaly. Generation Z (post-millennial youth born after 1996) rank quality family time ahead of sex and prioritise good grades before friendship. Unfortunately, with this more well-adjusted younger generation comes an onslaught of jeering headlines, characterising today’s youth as boring, sensible and hopelessly screen-addicted.
The cliche that many young people spend far too much time online, isn't necessarily a negative, as Gen Z-ers exercise more caution and risk-aversion than their parents, due in part to the fact that social technology exists. One of the biggest reasons for Gen Z-ers avoiding substance abuse, and the engagement of dangerous activities, is due to the fact that they have much more opportunity, access, and control over their lives than any previous generations. Gen Z-ers don’t have time to get bogged down in such activities, they’re too busy trying to take ownership of their lives and make a name for themselves.
While statistics show that smoking, drinking and clubbing may be in decline for today’s young people, the health and wellness industry is booming with the same demographic. Self-care seems to be of much greater importance than self-discovery/teenage rebellion, in part, because these young people have had so much information at their disposal.
How Gen Z looks at Health and Wellness
Technology is central to Gen Z health and wellness practices, as it is with almost every other aspect of their lives, as they don’t hesitate to look up or ask their social networks for answers to health and wellness questions.
Raised with the perception that health and wellness is about holistic balance, this idea is second nature to teens, who are quick to acknowledge how factors like their social lives, emotional health, sleep and stress affect their eating, exercise and physical health. Balance emerges as the overall goal of health and wellness for them. For teens, good health is indicated by both looking good and feeling good, and they have a sense that these two should come together.
Gen Z’s key health concerns are related to their life stage – getting enough sleep, managing stress, maintaining their grades, building self-esteem, and having time to socialise with family and friends.
Exercise is a key stress management technique, and is in fact central to how teens manage a variety of physical and mental health conditions, from weight issues to depression to sleep disorders. They know getting enough sleep is also key to stress management, and many teens take an active role in carving out time to get a good night’s rest.
“The high percentage of Gen Z reporting fair or poor mental health could be an indicator that they are more aware of and accepting of mental health issues. Their openness to mental health topics represents an opportunity to start discussions about managing their stress, no matter the cause.” says Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA’s chief executive officer.
Gen Z is significantly more likely (27 percent) than other generations, including millennials (15 percent) and Gen Xers (13 percent), to report their mental health as fair or poor. They are more likely (37 percent), along with millennials (35 percent), to report they have received treatment or therapy from a mental health professional, compared with 26 percent of Gen Xers, 22 percent of baby boomers and 15 percent of older adults.
How to Teach Gen Z in the Classroom
Today’s students refuse to be passive learners. They aren’t interested in simply showing up for class, sitting through a lecture, and taking notes that they’ll memorise for an exam later on. Instead, they expect to be fully engaged and to be a part of the learning process themselves.
In fact, Gen Z students tend to thrive when they are given the opportunity to have a fully immersive educational experience and they even enjoy the challenges of being a part of it. For instance, 51% of surveyed students said they learn best by doing while only 12% said they learn through listening. These same students also mentioned they tend to enjoy class discussions and interactive classroom environments over the traditional dissemination teaching method.
The preference towards a collaborative learning environment isn’t just limited to in-person interactions. Instead, Gen Z is completely comfortable with learning alongside other students, even outside of their own school, using digital tools such as Skype and online forums.
As a digital generation, Generation Z expects digital learning tools such as these to be deeply integrated into their education. For them, technology has always been a fully integrated experience into every part of their lives. And they don’t think education should be any different. They believe they should be able to seamlessly connect academic experiences to personal experiences through these same tools.
- Embrace personal devices. After years of fighting Millennials’ digital distraction, it’s time to shift perceptions of the smartphones and the students who use them. Generation Z went through high school organising, delegating and even collaborating on group assignments via online video chat, each working from their own desks at home. For them, learning doesn’t happen in libraries and coffeehouses but through online resources and chatrooms. Digital technology is already the infrastructure of their learning, and it needs to become the infrastructure of the classroom as well. To wit: Ohio State University this year handed out 11,000 iPads to incoming students, complete with the school’s own app and its digital learning platform, Top Hat.
- Personalise their learning environment. Personalised learning doesn’t mean designing a tailored approach for every student. Mostly, it means targeting it to the group by assessing their progress and adjusting on the fly. Formative assessment, especially when collected digitally, can give faculty a strong sense of a classroom’s comprehension of the course material. Instructors can review challenging concepts, or dig deeper into topics that clearly elicit enthusiasm.
- Publish assignments digitally. Generation Z is already awash in online content: it’s a more natural medium to them than books or television. So have them generate content of their own for peers and others to see, whether it’s written essays or video presentations. Assignments that are not intended not solely for the professor’s eyes bring an added layer of motivation and create opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and assessment.
Connectivity: Gen Z’s biggest challenge
The feelings of social isolation reported by many teenagers can be hard for older people to understand. There’s a perception that this generation should be the happiest and the most content, because they’ve got so much connectivity, across the world, and so much information at their fingertips, but that connectivity is actually disconnecting people from real friendships and the opportunity to enjoy the world together. It’s creating absolutely unrealistic ideals that young people can’t attain.
De Thierry believes the solution is more real-life contact and interaction. “We know that social isolation can have lifelong consequences on the brain and relationships and teenagers’ ability to make sense of the world. Depression and anxiety are already on the rise and being normalised. When children have childhoods, and young people are allowed to be creative and spend time with each other, then they shouldn’t be depressed or anxious.”
Without intervention, it is theorised that Gen Z will see an increase in adult mental health issues, unemployment and burnout. “People think they’ve got 1,000 friends but in actual fact, who really knows them? It’s probably nobody these days – not their parents, as they don’t eat together and are working longer hours. And not their siblings, possibly because they’re sitting in separate rooms on phones and they text each other. Being known is a really important part of being alive.”
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The contradictions of connectivity is the real challenge for Generation Z and for society at large. Something that Parents and Guardians can practically impart into their children is how to practically balance social technology and real-world social activities.