Gen Z: Tips Customized Toward TODAY'S Teens and Pre-Teens
“Kids these days!”
Don’t be that adult. Although each generation is different, as teachers, we need to see both sides- the pros and the cons. We need to look past our own biases. Realize that even though teens and pre-teens exhibit differences from your generation, not all differences are negative. I’m sure our generation wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies as teens, either!
Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs shares the definition of Generation Z. “Generation Z refers to young people who were born between 1996 and 2014. This generation stands out from the previous generations – millennials and generation X – for a ton of reasons…”
So let’s dive into Generation Z! We’ll discuss what characteristics they exhibit, why they exhibit these characteristics, and how we can adjust our teaching to overcome the challenges and enhance the positive features.
Explanations of Characteristics of Gen Z
Today’s teens and pre-teens are full of characteristics- both good and bad. It’s important to lay it all out, so you can analyze them. See if any of these resonate with your Gen Z students’ characteristics, (Hint: they will), and how some of these characteristics are interconnected.
Greater Awareness of Technology
Let’s start with the obvious, and what first popped into your mind. It’s probably not a surprise to you to hear that this generation has essentially unlimited access to technology, so they have greater awareness and a greater understanding of how it works and can improve life. Pearson Education shares that “while Millennials used three screens on average, Gen Z students frequently use up to five. Most use a smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and a tablet. These devices occupy ten hours of Gen Z’s daily activity." TEN HOURS!
They understand technology, and use it constantly.
They were born with the internet, and will never know life without it. They have always had all the information they needed right at their fingertips. This segues us right to the next characteristic!
Need for Instant Gratification
Do your students turn in an assignment and expect it graded and handed back the next class period? This is because they are so accustomed to instant gratification.
Pearson Education talks about the way technology consumes Gen Z’s time. “The constant stimulation and access to all the world’s information at their fingertips has given them an eight-second attention span and has trained their brains to expect instant gratification.”
Even when analyzing their behavior as consumers, this generation demands instant gratification. “A few decades ago, quality was the most prized attribute. Then it became “quick and easy.” In the current environment, the demand is for “right now;” according to Huff Post.
Tendencies Toward Attitudes of Entitlement
You might recognize this trait in your own students. The Odyssey shares, “The biggest criticism of Generation Z would be that they are an entitled group of individuals who expect people to cater to them. They are often associated with narcissism and how their narcissistic entitlement leads them to believe good things will come their way because they are deserving of them. Some might also harshly label them as clueless as to how the real world operates.”
Not only do they want their assignments graded and handed back instantly, but they expect it. Of course, not all young people have this characteristic. But more and more, we need to specifically teach AGAINST this attitude in order to prevent it. Without being on guard for entitled attitudes and constantly addressing this, we as parents and teachers may allow kids to default to feeling entitled. Luckily, we can combat this by teaching gratitude.
Lack of Accountability
Do your students ever turn in work late, and expect it to be ok? This goes hand in hand with entitlement. Many students may expect you to cater to their needs.
The worst part is that sometimes even their parents encourage this behavior! I’ve had countless parents reach out to me, on behalf of their child, and ask for an extension. But for many students, this door does not swing both ways. Some expect teachers to have work graded immediately (pointing back to the instant gratification), even if they turned it in late. It can be really frustrating as a teacher to have a student walk up after only one class period has passed and ask whether you graded the work they handed in earlier that morning that was a week late! We know how often this happens in the current school atmosphere.
Ok, let’s get to the positives. We can certainly be aware of the above challenges and how serious they are, and we do need to address them. But the intent here is not to bash today’s children. They are wonderful people, and as much as we can criticize their deficiencies (in a very generalized way), we need to praise and admire their beauty!
This group has such promise in so many ways!
Desire to Make a Difference/Create Culture
I don’t know about you, but this trait makes me breathe a sigh of relief for the sake of humanity!
The Atlantic tells us Gen z has already shown evidence of an “active social conscience.” For example, Afghan teen Malala Yousafzai is an activist for female education around the world. At age 18, she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. There are many lesser-known activists, as well.
Read more about Malala here.
These kids and teens CARE about the earth. They have such a strong desire to see the world as a better place in the future. They know how to spring into action and take advantage of the web at their fingertips to use it to impact society.
Independent and Autonomous Tendencies
According to Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs, “they do not rely on their parents as much as previous teen generations did. The reason is that the internet and technologies allow gen Zers to start earning money at much earlier age than their parents.”
In fact, many don’t have a “typical teenage job,” but instead, have a creative side hustle. They do things like teach in-home piano lessons or review video games on youtube, etc. The opportunities are as extensive as their creativity!
By feeding their creative spirits, we can unearth the wonderful passions that will transform the world in the very near future!
Strengths in Visual Learning
Education Week shared an article on Gen Z’s preference for Youtube when learning something new. This signals a rise in visual learning; students find it easier to grasp concepts when they have a visual reference.
Expertise in Multitasking
Gen Z kids can scroll through instagram, send texts, gossip with a friend, and successfully study for a test all at once! Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but you get the idea. Basically, these kids are so accustomed to getting information and entertainment instantly, that they are excellent multi-taskers as a result.
How to Teach Gen Z
Teaching Generation Z requires thoughtful consideration to both adjust your teaching to overcome the challenges, and take advantage of their positive features.
Adjust to Overcome
“It's very simple, and it has improved my classroom management and instruction, and above all, my quality of life. Are you ready for it? Here it is:
I don't take late work.”
It’s simple, yet effectively solves the problem. This idea can span across various situations, like when students expect an assignment handed back instantly. Simply explain to them at the beginning of the school year that you will do your best to keep up with assignments and grading, you want them to succeed, but you have your own life outside of school. They will get it back whenever it fits into your schedule.
Take Advantage of Positive Features
Do you have any thoughts to add, or tips to share on teaching Gen Z? Feel free to share below.
If you do teach this generation, be sure to register for the free "Teaching Teens" email series - It includes information, advice, and resources that you can print and use right away!
Related Posts to Read Next:
Click to set custom HTML