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Who Are the iGen, and What Do They Want?

Get ready, Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. iGen is here, and we may not fully understand them.

Also known as Gen Z and Centennials, the iGen was born between 1995 and 2012. They were young adolescents when the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and they do not remember a time before the Internet. In many ways, their generation has been shaped by the smartphone and lives on social media.

My interest in them was piqued by an article titled, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” written by Jean M. Twenge for the September 2017 issue of The Atlantic. Twenge’s work led me to Jason Dorsey, The Center for Generational Kinetics, also an expert in the field.

To those of us in PR and marketing, this is fascinating stuff, especially as we try to anticipate the needs and behaviors of an emerging generation, the oldest members of whom are now 20 years old. According to Dorsey, Gen Z is already the most influential group of technology trendsetters, offering a glimpse into the future of communication, banking, shopping, learning, voting, working, investing and more.

As parents and grandparents of this generation, the impacts and implications are much more personal. Because members of iGen are more comfortable with screen time than personal interactions, they are:

More content to stay home: Their social lives center around their phones, often talking on Snapchat, Vine, Instagram and Twitter.

Less likely to spend real time with friends: Research shows that actual face time with other teens dropped more than 40 percent between 2000 to 2015.

Physically safer than previous generations: It’s safer to hang out in your room than to be in a car or go to a party. By staying home, they are less likely to be involved in car accidents or get involved in underage drinking.

More likely to feel isolated and depressed: Teens who do attend social functions document every detail on social media, causing those who are not included to feel even more left out, especially girls. Then there’s the whole issue of cyberbullying.

In no rush to start driving: Unlike previous generations, this rite of passage and symbol of independence isn’t as important when you spend your spare time at home. Why drive when Mom and Dad will do it?

Less likely to date or be sexually active: Only 56 percent of high school seniors went on dates in 2015, compared to 85 percent for previous generations. On the plus side, the teen birth rate is at an all-time low.

Less likely to get enough sleep: There’s a direct correlation between the amount of time spent per day on electronic devices and the quality and quantity of sleep. According to Twenge, 57 percent more teens were sleep deprived in 2015 than in 1991.

Not closer to their parents, even though they’re home more: Here, too, technology gets in the way of real interactions.

Also according to Twenge, more than previous generations, the iGen is obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance and has no patience for inequality. Her research show that 18-year-olds now act more like 15-year-olds used to, and 15-year-olds more like 13-year-olds. Childhood now stretches well into high school.

So what’s the answer? It’s easier said than done, but experts recommend parents begin by placing time limits on smartphone and social media. They also emphasize the importance of exposing children to more activities where they develop social skills.

From a broader perspective, how do we, as Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millenials, interact with this group who will soon be the future of our nation? Tell us what you think. Do you agree with this generational profile? Did you gasp and utter the name of a loved one when you read this post? Do you have ideas about how to balance the challenges of smartphones and social media with the benefits? We invite you to share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.

Debra Anderson is the PR Director for KK BOLD and often asks for help updating her iPhone.