10 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z

You're probably tired of reading about Millennials—about their sky-high hopes, their successes and shortcomings. Good news! The Generation Z train is fast approaching and it’s bringing in a whole new group of young people to discuss. These kids are 18 years old and under, but they are quickly becoming the ones to watch in the effort to keep your brand relevant and thriving in the years ahead.

So what are the top things you need to know now about the new kids on the block?

1. They are huge. Consider this another boom. Globally, Gen Zs make up more than a third of the world's population. At home in the United States, they comprise nearly a quarter of the population, greater than both Millennials and Baby Boomers, and they’re still coming of age.

2. They are the most diverse generation ever. We saw record-breaking levels of diversity among Millennials, but Gen Z has quickly surpassed them. With the rapid growth in the Hispanic population and other groups, Gen Z will be the last majority-white generation born in the United States. And even within Generation Z the white majority is holding on by a thread, with only 51 percent of Gen Z being born into non-Hispanic white families.

This generation’s diversity isn’t just skin deep. It also extends into their sexuality and gender identities. Gen Zs view their identities on a much more fluid scale than their older peers. More than one third of Gen Zs self-identify as bisexual to some degree, and more than half know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns.

3. They idolize influencers, not celebrities. For Gen Zs, YouTube rules. Most of them spend hours on the site every day, dedicating more time to YouTube than any other social site. As such, their view of celebrity isn’t limited to movie stars and musicians. They instead are contributing to the billions of views racked up by such YouTube stars as RayWilliamJohnson and PewDiePie. They want to emulate self-made influencers who are just like them. Their relationship to these celebrities is more intimate and authentic than the connections they feel to “traditional” celebrities.

4. They have a plan to get paid. Millennials are well known for pursuing their “passions for passion’s sake.” It makes them creative and bold, but often does not produce enough income to be independent and secure. Gen Zs have decided to change the story for themselves. They are certainly still passion-driven, but if they know their passions won’t lead to financial stability, they have a plan for something else that will. In everything from entrepreneurship to sports, kids and teens are finding the places where they excel very early and focusing all their efforts in hopes of a payoff.

5. They have safe fun. Gen Zs are still teenagers! They want to have a good time, but they don’t want the fun they have now to negatively impact the successful and secure future they are working so hard to build. So while they are still engaging in typical teen behaviors, they’re being smart about it. The teen pregnancy and birth rate are at historic lows, as is the usage of cigarettes and heroin among high schoolers.

6. They care about “cool.” Where Millennials are all-accepting and inclusive, Gen Z is snarky and very image aware. With the ever-growing influence of social media in kids’ and teens’ lives, there is a palpable return of “cool kids” and “losers” among Gen Z. They will quickly take down a post that doesn’t receive enough likes or comments for fear of someone seeing its lack of praise and attention.

7. They won’t share everything with you online. Millennials are known for sharing every tiny detail of their lives on social media, but Gen Z takes a much more crafted and curated approach to posts. They are more aware of who they are sharing their lives with and how that affects their identity online, which is why platforms like Snapchat are so appealing. They saw the devastating effect that party pic had on their sibling’s scholarship or job offer, and they are careful not to repeat that mistake.

8. They don’t want to be “Beta Boys.” Millennials grew up in a time of “Alpha Girls” and “Beta Boys.” Gen Z boys, however, want to be taken a bit more seriously. To them, girls are certainly equal, but not better. Where Millennial boys let girls take control in relationships, Gen Z boys want back in on the partnership. They are achieving this by taking themselves a bit more seriously in school, work, and relationships, but they are also embracing their sensitive side. Gen Z boys are not afraid to celebrate their sensitivity in their relationships with girls, as well as their relationships with their guy friends.

9. They are cynical. Millennials believed they could do and be anything, and that the world would support their efforts. Gen Zs have more realistic expectations and are skeptical that the world will work in their favor. It’s no wonder that they feel this way considering the events they have witnessed in their lifetimes. More than eight in 10 Gen Zs were born after the September 11th attacks. As they were growing up, conflicts over heavy issues like the economy, gun violence, and climate change were commonplace. As a result, these teens have developed a valid claim to cynicism.

10. They are kids! This generation is just beginning to come of age, and as uptight as they may seem, they’re still kids who haven’t quite figured it all out yet. They’re working hard and taking themselves seriously, but they are still silly, young, fun, and undeclared.

Kate Pershing is a researcher at Open Mind Strategy, LLC, a research and brand strategy company specializing in actionable insights. OMS was founded by Robin Hafitz in 2010 with the mission of providing “more human intelligence”—research intelligence that respects consumers as human beings and that is tailored to meet the needs of demanding clients. The OMS team is proud to have worked with leading clients, such as A&E Networks, AMC, Amazon, Clear Channel, Condé Nast, Gannett, Kao Brands, MTV, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks, Unilever, USA Today, Yahoo!, and many more.

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