Meet the Next, Next Generation
Born between 1999 and 2015, Gen Z is growing up defined and disciplined by the smartphone—in fact, they’ve never known the world apart from one. But who are they really? What makes them different from Millennials? And what do they value and believe? Our friends at Barna, in partnership with Impact 360 Institute, recently completed a new study investigating the perceptions, experiences, and motivations of Generation Z. Here are their latest findings:
Technology: The internet is at the core of Gen Z’s development, influencing their worldview, mental health, daily schedule, sleep patterns, relationships, and more. 57% use screen media 4 hours or more on an average day.
Worldview: Gen Z is highly inclusive and individualistic. Defined by religious and cultural pluralism, this diverse, open-minded group of young people is sensitive to others’ feelings and experiences and wary of asserting any one view as right or wrong. According to Barna’s eight-part definition, only 4% have a biblical worldview.
Identity: Their assorted views on gender identity and expression are just one-way teens are wrestling with how to accept and affirm other people, to create “safe space” where each person can be her/himself without feeling threatened or judged.
Security: Gen Z has come of age in a post-9/11 nation reeling from the 2008 recession, and many of them are anxious about their future. Their goals revolve around professional success and financial security, and a majority says their ultimate aim is “to be happy”—which 43% define as financial success.
Diversity: As the most racially, religiously, and sexually diverse generation in American history, Gen Z expects people to have different beliefs and experiences, and they seem to have a greater appreciation for social inclusiveness compared to generations before them.
Parents: As the offspring of mostly Gen X parents, many in Gen Z appear to have a complicated dynamic with their families. They admire their parents, but most don’t feel family relationships are central to their sense of self—a major departure from other generations. Only 34% say that family is central to their identity, compared to 40% of Millennials.
If the way your child thinks and engages her world is confusing, we understand! Changes in technology, communication, science, and law are creating a brave new world for today’s teens. Barna’s new book Gen Z helps us understand more about this generation, offering contributions from ministry practitioners and educators who share insights from their own vantage points.