iGeneration: A balancing act

I’ve always been interested in the identification of distinct generations by social scientists. I am a 1964 birth, which is on the tail end of the Baby Boomers and the beginning of the rise of Gen X. I identify with traits from both.

Baby Boomers were linked to post WW2 baby boom and grew up in a time of social change; Woodstock, the Vietnam War, civil rights and equal pay for women, the first man walking on the moon and television. They hold the view that the world will improve with time; they’re active and physically fit; believe themselves to be a special generation.

Generation X occurred with the decline of births following the contraceptive pill being released. They often had both parents working, or were bought up with a single parent; Latch-Key children. Divorce was commonplace. They grew up with the energy crisis and saw the Berlin wall come down. Computers became more commonplace. They’re less likely to marry young, quicker to divorce. Have more than one career in their lifetime and generally live with debt.

All very interesting and of course then there’s Gen Y or Millenials as they are also known. They were shaped by 9/11, the rise of Terrorism, the Great Recession and the huge increase of the internet and social media. They’re more likely to live at home longer and launch their ‘lives’ later. They’re also the generation of my own children.

What I’d like to look at in more detail is the current generation of school–aged children that are being identified today. The iGeneration or Generation Z.

This generation have been so named because they have grown up in a hyper-connected world where social media and screens are the norm. They are aware of conflict around the world, and of a planet in natural crisis. Considered to be those born around the late 1990’s to present day. 

I don’t in any way want to be an alarmist, but I have been reading a few articles and listening to podcasts talking about the negative effects this reliance on iPhones can have on this young generation. There is a TED talk by Jean Twenge where she outlines some of these. She identifies a rise in negative characteristics of this iPhone reliant generation. They are less likely to go out without their parents, more likely to feel isolated, feel left out and lonely. More likely to feel they can’t do anything right or useful. There has also been an alarming rise in mental health disorders. They don’t sleep enough and are twice as likely to be unhappy. 

She ends her lecture asking people not to give up their phones, but encouraging people to put their phones down and go live their life. Go for a walk, run, swim, watch a sunset, sleep, interact with friends seeing the expressions on their faces and tone in their voice, hug and be hugged.

Let your phone be a tool you use, not one that uses you.
— Jean Twenge

I also opened a couple of educational magazines sitting on the staffroom table, to see if they had anything to say about this subject. In the March issue of Nurture I found an article written by Chris Parker entitled Connection requires conversation: parenting in a digital age in which he looks at the need for rich connection, authentic connection, empathetic connection, which requires conversation. He asks the question; …have the dazzle and demands of our digital communication technologies distracted us from the dialogue that trains us to listen, develop empathy, and grow in confidence that we can both listen and be heard?

The other magazine I perused, March Education Review, had a few relevant articles. One cited that a Canadian study has shown that screen time can delay development. When young children are observing screens, they may be missing important opportunities to practise and master interpersonal, motor and communication skills. It also contained an article by Loren Smith called, Screen it Out. This article looked at lots of differing opinions on screen time effects but generally all agreed that 1. Digital mediums can be used positively and 2. It’s when they’re used in excess that problems arise. It encouraged parents to ensure that children have opportunities to explore the physical world around them, that they have opportunities to have interactions with other humans, and so on. This article made me beam with pride at the work of our Kinder Teacher, Amanda Sargent and the Kathy Walker program she runs in our Kinder space. Children interacting with the physical world. I am also excited about Nature Play Professional Development we are all going to in a fortnight, where we’ll be encouraged to take all our students outside and immerse them in, and teach them from, nature. 

It encouraged parents to ensure that children have opportunities to explore the physical world.

So, the iGeneration; our young students saturated with digital technology, yet living in a physically wondrous and socially interactive world, that they need to be guided and taught to interact with. Such an exciting and challenging balancing task ahead of us all. 

Annie Joy - Primary Coordinatior