iGen – Understanding the New Generation – MBFLP 211

iGen - understanding the new generation

Move over, Millennials – the new generation has arrived! Researcher Jean Twenge calls them iGen – the first generation that’s grown up with smart phone in hand. How has that shaped their thinking? What does that mean for the rest of us? How should we teach and prepare our children to interact with their generational peers? Are there things to watch out for – and opportunities to grasp? Join us for a discussion of Twenge’s book iGen and how this new culture impacts our family life, ministry, and society at large.


Discussion of Jean Twenge’s book iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us

Researcher Jean Twenge noticed that numerous cultural trend lines took a sharp turn about 2012 – the year after the majority of Americans were carrying smart phones. She marks this as the sign of a new generational group some have called Generation Z (following the Millennial “Generation Y”). She’s called them iGen – the generation shaped by the iPhone – and she makes a powerful case that the handheld devices might be the largest influencer in their thinking, philosophy, and personality.

What’s distinctive about this generation?

They are growing up online. The average high school senior now spends six hours a day on new media, including two hours of Internet and two and a quarter of text messaging – every day. Time previous generations spent on homework, extracurricular activities, after-school jobs, and hanging out with friends, has been replaced by hanging out online. They are insecure and unhappy from their constant diet of social media, and 34% have been cyberbullied. Because they know how people manage and manipulate their image, they are cynical about what they see even while it impacts them emotionally.

They value individualism. Like Millennials, they seek authenticity. As a rule, they will not tolerate criticism of anybody, especially themselves (though they are prone to self-criticism). They have largely embraced the sexual revolution (widespread pornography, abortion on demand, same sex marriage, normalization of transgenderism) as nobody’s business “as long as nobody is hurt.”

They are maturing more slowly. Their parents have been protective and the children have embraced child status well into their twenties. The typical high school senior today is less likely to have earned a driver’s license, had an after-school or summer job, gone out on a date, or even spent much time outside parents’ direct supervision.

They value safety. iGen’ers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors like reckless driving, drug and alcohol experimentation, or sex as teenagers – not because these activities are immoral (iGen appears to continue the Millennial rejection of religion), but because they aren’t safe.

Their social lives and identity are text-based online, so words are weaponized. This is why campus culture is becoming hysterical over controversial speakers or even contrary opinions. iGen students demand protection from challenging viewpoints and consider offensive words as literal, physical assault. They are less likely to have had scuffles on the playground as children; instead, they’ve grown up savaging one another by text message.

iGen - what we need to know about the new generation

Why should we care, and what should we do about it?

Although we may be raising our own family by older standards, this is the generation of our children and the culture they will need to navigate as adults. How can we prepare them to succeed?

Move slowly on cell phone and social media. Social media is linked to depression, especially in younger students. Although older teens need to understand these tools, Twenge suggests younger teens shouldn’t get cell phones any sooner than necessary, and then start with “dumb” flip phones rather than Internet capable. Even then, monitor usage closely.

Push them forward to independence. Get their driver’s license early. Encourage them to get jobs and learn to manage their own money. Teach them how the world works, how to evaluate choices and make decisions.

Encourage real-life friendships. Don’t over-regulate time with friends and activities, especially as they reach older teen years. Get them off their phones and out of the house more.

Train your Christian children to stand on the Scripture without applause. This generation is growing more hostile toward Christianity, and its hysterical reaction to opposition will make it resistant to the Spirit’s conviction. We can’t be surprised when they react, but neither can we simply refuse to speak up; We need to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” and choose our words and opportunities with care.

 


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