There are about 97 million in the United States. They’re becoming the largest generation ever numerically and the second largest only to Boomers (born between 1946 -1960) as a percentage of the total US population. (Approximately 40 million people have been born in the States since 2002. Because they’re young, their generation hasn’t yet been named.)
Generations are shaped by the nurture they receive in childhood and the challenges they face coming of age. More of the Tech-savvy Generation than we would like have actually spent more time with their technology toys and tools than with their parents. Or, while they’re with their parents, they’re also using their digital things. They’ve been nurtured by television characters, video or computer games, and singers and their songs on their I-pods.
Obviously not every tech-savvy kid will be identical because many things influence them, but they have much in common. Even those who use less technology than others will behave similarly because it so permeates our culture.
The term “Tech-savvy Generation” is used to describe a generation of people born from about 1982-2002. They have been and still are being heavily influenced by digital technology. That’s why most researchers define the generation as beginning in 1982. It’s the year when the personal computer was invented, crude cell phones were first available, television cable became more available, and video games were more affordable.
Effects of Technology
Many in the Tech-savvy Generation spend more time with technology than they do with family and friends. Research indicates that their frequent use of digital toys and tools like phones, I-Pods, cameras, and computers and applications like the world wide web, social networking, movies-on-demand, and online games has affected their brain structure.
Through about age 25, the brain is still developing. The things we do often and the feelings we have often cause connections between neurons to form. These connections make it more likely that we’ll repeat the same actions and feelings. They become more natural and automatic. For instance, do you know someone raised in an angry environment who still struggles to not quickly be angry? It’s because of these connections.
For this age group, it’s digital technology that has especially changed their brain structure. Its use has resulted in certain beliefs, attitudes, and actions being prevalent because neurons have permanently connected. For example:
They’re good at multitasking.
They expect to be given a choice.
They struggle to focus and persevere.
They need frequent objective feedback.
They think much of the world revolves around them.
They believe tasks should be easy and convenient.
They expect to win.
They believe they’re entitled to the best.
Beliefs of the Tech-savvy Generation
More than generations before them, Tech-savvys have had their beliefs influenced by real-time news from around the world. Within hours (if not minutes) of major events, they’ve been reported on websites, tweeted from the middle of the action, and shown on YouTube. From a young age, they have seen great tragedy and great miracles.
As a result, they want to change and improve the world. Many of them have high expectations for themselves and are impatient with slow moving bureaucracies.
These tech-savvy people are not opposed to investigating a variety of ideas and can easily hold diverse ideas. They’re open to learning about everything. They value information that’s personally relevant and don’t expect others to believe what they believe. So, they won’t try to impose their beliefs on others. They believe that’s respectful.
Just because they don’t impose their beliefs on others and they don’t want us to do that to them, doesn’t mean their opinions can’t be changed. They value opinions of friends and can be easily persuaded by them. Tech-savvy Generation’ beliefs are definitely influenced by relationships. Not by people – but by people they relate to. There’s a difference. To influence them, work to know them and to be known by them.
It’s common for them to want what they want when they want it the way they want it. They believe that’s right and realistic; maybe even necessary. They can hear a song on the radio, order it from iTunes, and listen immediately rather than having to drive to a store and buy an entire CD. They can see an ad for a movie, order it from Movies-On-Demand, and watch it immediately.
The tech-savvys also believe they’re entitled to the best because they’ve seen the best. Technology rapidly changes so they expect to always have the latest and greatest.
Teaching Tech-savvy Kids: Simple Changes Can Help
Teaching tech-savvy children, teenagers, and young adults can be challenging because of how digital technology has affected their brains. For instance:
- Because they’re used to quick-paced and instant technology, it’s best to not make students wait very long. They’re impatient and can get into trouble if asked to wait with nothing to do. Be prepared and ready. When you have to go slow during some lessons, follow these with something quick-paced to vary the flow of the day.
- Remember that they’re used to multi-tasking and having busy hands, ears, and eyes. Plan for times when you allow them to do more than one or two things at once. Let them doodle while listening to you read. Allow them to alternate between two homework assignments rather than asking them to finish one before starting the other.
- Because of drop-down menus, they expect choice so build it into your lessons when you can. Cursive or printing, blue or black ink, odd problems or evens, due on Tuesday or Wednesday, write about a president or vice-president, research water pollution or air pollution, …
- Focusing and persevering tends to be difficult unless they get to choose the activity. Therefore, circulate more to encourage students during the process. Give short breaks. Check often on their progress when assigning long-term projects.
- Provide regular, objective feedback as a source of motivation and to help keep them on course. This is especially valuable for students used to getting scores on video/online/computer games and for those used to judges on competition television shows.
- Gaming has taught them they can win if they play long enough so add score keeping to group activities and challenge them to invest effort when things aren’t easy.
- Model for them that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Teach them to be other-centered.