If you're shouting at some kids to get off your lawn, it's likely they're part of Generation Z—that emergent generation of idealists and doomscrollers who are still busy defining themselves. What we do know is that they are tech-tethered free spirits who have never known the world without the internet and have endured schooling in the age of COVID. They're also powerful, resilient, and ready to take on the world. Here are 11 other things to know about Gen Z.
1. The name isn't set in stone.
The only reason it's called Gen Z in the first place is because it comes two generations after Gen X (itself a label meant to evoke a lack of labels). The term Zoomer has popped up and been used widely, particularly since use of the Zoom app to partake in online classes has dominated school culture during pandemic shutdowns. Yet even that name has a complicated history, because a Zoomer used to be a highly active Boomer. Now it stands in stark contrast to that generation of grandparents and great-grandparents, born from the internet itself and, specifically, a dependency on it during a time where people are still cautious about meeting in person. Sociologists and businesses have also tried to label them the Homeland Generation, the iGeneration, and more.
2. They're (generally) born between 1997 and 2012.
There are no hard and fast rules about when a generation begins or ends, but the Pew Research Center's range is generally the accepted standard. The bottom line is that, as of 2022, Gen Z members are mostly between middle school age and their mid-twenties, which means that education is a large part of their life experience. Still, as Pew points out, the cut-off dates aren't arbitrary. In their own research, they created a dividing line between Millennials and Gen Z at 1997 to showcase the divide between one group's growing up or coming-of-age in the wake of 9/11 while the other group was either too young or hadn't been born yet to remember it.
3. They will probably be the first generation to consume more media online than off.
According to Forrester Research, 84 percent of Zoomers multitask with a second internet-connected screen while they're watching TV, meaning they're effectively double-dipping their screen time when they're not enjoying the great outdoors.
4. Their brains might work faster.
The data isn't fully conclusive, but studies from the University of California at Los Angeles Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and the University of Minnesota both point to the possibility that digital natives process information faster and stay more actively engaged when looking at a website. Some have shown cause for concern because of recent studies showing that Gen Z attention spans have gone down to 8 seconds (from the 12-second eternity experienced by Millennials), while others see it as an evolutionary necessity to filter out a larger amount of informational noise than humans have ever experienced before.
5. They want to talk face-to-face.
Despite the stereotype of Gen Z staring into their phones on the couch next to each other, they overwhelmingly prefer speaking with people face-to-face. An XYZ University poll found that 43 percent of Gen Zers would rather talk face-to-face; 24 percent prefer communicating via text, while 14 percent like talking on the phone, 11 percent want to chat via email, and 8 percent rely on social media hubs.
6. They're the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history.
In 2002, 61 percent of Millennials were non-Hispanic white. In 2018, in the same age range, only 52 percent of Zoomers were. The change has largely come from increased numbers of Hispanic and Asian children in the United States, according to Pew senior researcher Richard Fry. The cohort of youngsters also has fewer immigrants, a result of "reduced immigration flows following the Great Recession." They're also more likely to pursue college than previous generations and more likely to live with a college-educated parent.
7. They're more comfortable with gender fluidity.
Not only do six in 10 Zoomers say that official forms should include gender options beyond male and female, 35 percent of them record personally knowing someone who goes by gender-neutral pronouns. That number is up from 25 percent of Millennials, 16 percent of Gen Xers, and only 12 percent of Boomers. Gen Z and Millennials are even in their opinion that society doesn't do enough to accept people who neither identify as male nor female (about half say so), and these inclusive views transcend typical partisan political frameworks, with 41 percent of Gen Z Republicans saying that forms should have diverse gender options and 28 percent of them saying that society should be more accepting of non-binary and gender-neutral individuals.
8. They want more gun control, just like the other generations.
Many members of Gen Z have grown up afraid to go to school. As Fight: How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America author John Della Volpe reports from his conversations with young people across the country, there's a palpable sense that school—a place where they should feel safe—simply isn't. "That sense of insecurity has pervaded their entire existence," Della Volpe says.
Multiple school shootings, like the Parkland shooting in 2018 and the subsequent March For Our Lives movement that emerged from it, have played seminal roles in the lives of Gen Z students. That experience has also driven 68 percent of Zoomers to want stricter gun laws. However, that puts them in line with all other generations except those 65 and older. The biggest difference in gun control philosophy is that the majority of Zoomers and Millennials believe stricter gun laws will make a real difference, while a majority of Gen Xers and Boomers don't.
9. They want us to do something about climate change.
It's no surprise that Greta Thunberg, the most visible face of the climate change action movement, is right in the middle of the Gen Z cohort. Born in 2003, her leadership has marked a sea change in how people of all ages view the future. The general vibe is that nothing else will matter if the entire world is on fire and collapsing into the ocean. Their concern for the future goes beyond the environment, though. As a Deloitte report on Millennial and Gen Z sentiments concluded in 2021, "They’re tired of waiting for change to happen and are taking action to hold others accountable. But they understand their actions as individuals can do only so much to reverse climate change, create pay and wealth equality, and end racism and bigotry."
10. They've been very cautious about COVID-19.
Despite the images of partying college kids and reckless spring breakers, Gen Z has overall been careful about COVID-19. A 2020 Harris poll saw 79 percent of Gen Z respondents say they were strictly adhering to masking protocols and wishing that more of their peers would do the same. Harris Poll CEO John Gerzerma suggested that "COVID-19 has had [an] outsized impact on their lives right at a moment of critical decision-making, so there's a heightened urgency to fight the pandemic to control their destiny." Zoomers were also overwhelmingly more likely to cut ties with someone because that person wouldn't get vaccinated (30 percent versus 9 percent of Gen Xers and 7 percent of Baby Boomers).
11. They could be the best educated generation in history.
According to the Pew Research Center, Zoomers take their educations seriously. According to a 2020 report, Gen Zers "are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be enrolled in college. Among 18- to 21-year-olds no longer in high school in 2018, 57 percent were enrolled in a two-year or four-year college. This compares with 52 percent among Millennials in 2003 and 43 percent among members of Gen X in 1987."