The new book by social researcher Claire Madden, Hello Gen Z: Engaging the Generation of Post-Millennials is being released later this month. Claire was interviewed on Channel 7’s Daily Edition about Hello Gen Z and some of the key reasons as to why Gen Z spend so much time on their phones.
Behind the Screens of Gen Z
Here are 5 key reasons that the research identified about why Gen Zs are glued to their phones:
Connection to their social networks is almost as essential as oxygen for a Gen Z, and using phones is not just to achieve a practical function, but rather they have an emotional connection with their devices. As a generation raised in an instant society, they are conditioned to providing and receiving immediate updates on the lives of people in their network, even if the news or update seems somewhat inconsequential.
If a Gen Z is not active in the online space, they can feel like they will be out of the loop and excluded when it comes to offline conversations too.
For Gen Z, communication is fluid and continual, with online communication seamlessly flowing on from any face to face interaction and vice versa – there is no real barrier or demarcation between online and offline.
Affirmation and identity
Having their identity tied into their activity on social media drives them to continue their engagement with the various platforms, particularly during their formative years where the hunger for social acceptance is a major driving force in their lives.
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
FOMO, the “Fear Of Missing Out”. It’s a big deal. The term has been coined to describe Gen Zs approach to life in general, and in particular as a major factor that drives so much of their online behaviour, use of technology and consumption of social media.
Tracking trends and keeping up to date with what’s popular and what’s shaping their generation is of essential importance for a Gen Z.
Create and manage personal brand
Previously reserved for the realm of celebrities, creating and maintaining a personal brand is now part of the daily routine for a Gen Z. They are personal brand managers from the youngest of age, constantly receiving feedback and responding to what posts engage their audiences and gather more followers.
What are some of the impacts of overuse of phones? Here are a few:
Short attention spans
Having been raised in a hyper-connected, entertainment saturated and sensory overloaded environment, Gen Zs find it difficult to concentrate for extended periods of time, or even to focus on just one thing at a time.
Feel constantly wired
Gen Zs explained that they don’t know how to ‘switch off’ and even if they have a few spare moments, they’ll fill it by scrolling their social media feeds.
Underdeveloped face to face communication skills
Screens can act as a social risk reducer, where people prefer to pull out their phone and scroll their social media feed rather than be confronted with meeting new people or maintaining conversations in offline settings. Gen Zs mentioned
Identity linked to online brand
Gen Zs are navigating their formative years in times of unprecedented complexity, and where they receive feedback and affirmation from a fickle, unmediated audience. Many described that beneath their picture perfect lives displayed on their social media accounts, they felt high levels of mental and emotional stress.
Indoor and sedentary lifestyles
Numbers of Gen Zs mentioned that ‘life was better when we got to ride bikes outside’ and ‘life was better before social media’, but also expressing that they are now addicted to their devices and can’t go back.
5 things older generations and parents can do:
Role-model healthy use
When parents use technology around their kids, it can cause ‘technoference’ – where technology gets in the way of interactions between parents and their kids. For example, allowing work calls or emails to interrupt a conversation with your kids communicates that the technology takes precedence over your interaction with them. Model the behaviour you want to see in your kids.
Be interested in their lives
Take an interest in your kids lives, what they are doing on their phones, their daily lives, the technology they use, the platforms and the apps – even if you don’t understand the point of some of them!
Engage online and offline
Engage with your child in the online space by finding a game or app that you can use together. Also intentionally engage offline – build an environment at home where offline conversations are prioritised
Negotiate family rules
Family media plans can help everyone in the home use technology in a fair, safe and positive way. Work out together what family guidelines about screen time hours could be – including when and where you can use technology at home, and what kind of websites are off limits.
Technology can have great benefits for productivity and efficiency – and the Gen Zs in your family probably have a few tips they can teach along the way. Use technology together and find ways that it can help build relationships and communication in your household.
About Hello Gen Z
Hello Gen Z is Australia’s first qualitative generational study on people born between 1995 and 2009, and is based on exhaustive interviews with more than 100 of its members.
The study reveals how Generation Z – immersed in a world of technology and global connectivity – will change how Australia approaches education, family and employment.