"I have literally checked my phone five times since beginning this article and this is me focused ... " writes Brinda Barcelon, a high school senior, for "Teen Life," a series written by teens for The Press Democrat of Santa Rosa, Calif.
Experts debate exactly when Generation Z starts and ends, but most agree people born from the mid-90s through 2004 are within the generation. While these kids are diverse, several characteristics emerge that contribute to understanding members of their generation.
Members of Generation Z have never known life without personal computers, mobile phones, gaming systems, MP3 players and the Internet. They are true "digital natives," comfortable with e-mail, texting and computer applications. They are also able to grasp and master advances in technology more quickly than previous generations. Unfortunately, technology has also contributed to this generation's lack of interest in playing outdoors, resulting in a sedentary lifestyle that may lead to obesity.
Social networking sites and instant messaging were common as Generation Z grew up, so they have little concern for privacy and no problem sharing even the most intimate details of their lives with virtual strangers. Cell phones, instant messages and e-mail make communication immediate. As a result, members of Generation Z is very collaborative and creative. When they get to be working age, they will change the workplace dramatically in terms of style and expectations.
Generation Z is so comfortable with technology, it stands to reason they are also born multitaskers. "We can text, read, watch, talk and eat all at the same time, a talent that stuns adults," Barcelon says. With this preference toward multitasking comes a dark side, which mental health experts are calling "acquired attention deficit disorder." While they are able to complete many tasks at once, each task gets divided attention, and the generation is losing the ability to focus and analyse more lengthy, complex information.
Barcelon also notes cohorts are afraid of length. A short attention span, perhaps brought on by the tendency to multitask, also requires information to be delivered in rapid, short bursts if it is to be understood. Generation Z thrives on instant gratification. "I gear my curriculum so students can experience success as quickly as possible," says Daniel Watts, a graphic arts teacher in Sacramento, Calif.