THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- FEBRUARY 16, 2018
Parents were asked a simple question: “At what age does your child know more about technology than you do?” When Hotwire, a global communications agency, gathered the data the answer was 8.7 years old.
Who are these kids? They are Generation Alpha, “the tech-savvy young children of millennials.” They were born beginning in 2010 the same year Apple introduced the iPad. Their ranks will expand until 2025; 2.5 million of them are born every week. By the end of the cycle Generation Alpha will be around 2 billion in number. (Those born between 1995 and 2009 will number 1.8 billion by comparison.)
According to AdAge.com, we have not seen a generation like this before. “These children are more comfortable swiping a tablet or speaking to a voice assistant than most of their adult relatives. Generation Alpha will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology-supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever. Most of them won't start having children until at least 13 years after graduation from high school. One in three Alpha women will never have children. Alphas will live longer than any previous generation because of medical intervention, (but) they will experience more health problems largely related to increasingly sedentary lives." (https://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/move-gen-z-generation-alpha-watch/316314/)
Because of this tech savvy, Generation Alpha is already influencing family dynamics. In the Hotwire “Understanding Generation Alpha” report: “Two-thirds of parents say the habits and needs of their children influenced their last technology purchase, including TVs, smartphones and tablets. The generation's influence is even higher in the U.S., where 81 percent of parents reported their kids' desire played a role in tech purchases.”
This reality creates a dilemma for parents. On the positive side: “While many parents worry about the amount of screen time that their children have, they’re not convinced that all screen time is bad. In fact, parents believe that technology helps their children think more quickly and be more confident. Roughly 75 percent of parents believe the technology their kids use now will be a benefit in their future careers."
On the negative side: “ One in four (26 percent) parents believe their kids value phones and tablets more than any other possession or activity, from traditional toys to holidays and even days out with their friends and family. An alarming statistic and one which causes these parents some concern.”
The bottom line? As if parenting was not challenging enough , Generation Alpha creates a whole new ball game. “The growth of smartphones and tablets means almost everyone has a high-powered computer within arm’s reach at any time. Generation Alpha use smartphones and tablets naturally. These children were born along with iPhones, iPads, and applications. They don't know or can imagine how life was without them. They are not afraid of technology or touching buttons to learn what those buttons do. Generation Alpha is growing up with the familiar voice of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant in their home. In the world of the Alphas, interacting with Artificial Intelligence and voice assistants is simply natural.”
Perhaps the most demanding area of change as a result of Generation Alpha comes in the field of education. According to the Hotwire report: “Generation Alpha requires changes and a new approach to education at all levels. We no longer need to remember facts, dates, numbers or places and can focus our brain on more intellectually demanding activities. Even now in a lot of primary/elementary schools, there’s less emphasis on memorizing times tables to understand multiplication, and more focus on understanding the problem itself. The right way to teach the young Alphas is by developing their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. It will be important for Generation Alpha children to be able to see problems from different perspectives. Teamwork will let them analyze possible alternative solutions according to different viewpoints, and then make decisions based on their own personal and individual critical thinking.” (https://www.hotwireglobal.com/feature/understanding-generation-alpha-2-us)
InterestingEngineering.com makes this prediction: “This is the generation that will populate Mars and the Moon. Generation Alpha is the generation that will go where no other generation has gone before.” (https://interestingengineering.com/generation-alpha-the-children-of-the-millennial)
That's well and good, but if you really want to characterize Generation Alpha there is no better way than to ask one of it's members. In a Hotwire video (https://youtu.be/iXFaajABy50) a child about three or four years old pretty much sums it up: “I'd rather have an iPad—better than a dog."