Yesterday at soccer I overheard a young boy say to his team mates “I can’t wait to get home and have my steak sandwich with caramelised onion”. I didn’t make that up he specifically mentioned the onion was CARAMELISED. At the risk of sounding like a boring old fart, back in my day it was a sanger banged on a bit of bread with a squirt of tomato sauce on top, nobody even wanted onion, let alone caramelised onion. We are in a whole new world here folks.
They say each generation forms its own set of specific characteristics. Social researcher, Michael McQueen, defines the different generations thus:
The Builders (Early 1900’s to Mid 1940’s) – dutiful, frugal, stoic, proper.
The Boomers (Mid 1940’s to Mid 1960’s) – optimistic, stylish, career focused & prosperous, assertive, afraid of ageing.
Gen X (Mid 1960’s to Early 1980’s) – sceptical, cynical, flexible, independent, non-collective, committed to friends over family, pragmatic.
Gen Y (Early 1980’s to Late 1990’s) – high self-esteem & confidence, well-educated, ambitious, tolerant, tech savvy, socially aware.
Gen Z (Late 1990’s – to whenever) – tech savvy, prematurely mature, pampered, empowered, risk averse, protected.
I sometimes wonder how my essentially Generation Z children and their friends will turn out. Undoubtedly, they are far advanced in the culinary stakes, the kid at soccer with his caramelised onion, my own children with their love of smoked salmon, brie cheese and soft shell crab. I blame Masterchef.
I struggle to see them fitting into the demands of a 9-5 office life, although at some point settle down they must. I suspect they will be even more entrepreneurial than Gen X, crafting out their own working opportunities, scheduling flexibility ahead of pay, prestige and climbing the corporate ladder. In fact I don’t think many of them will even attempt the corporate ladder, which is going to make for an interesting working environment in future years. Perhaps they will be the ones to find out a way to turn all this technology into viable business models from the comfort of their own lounge rooms?
They are certainly socially aware, climate change worries them, from a young age a number of them became vegetarians in meat-eating families. I suspect they will be more accepting of difference, gay, straight, disabled, black, white I don’t think they are going to notice so much. Perhaps the influence of popular culture plays a part in that, Glee with multi-racial cast, a kid in a wheelchair and gay storylines, Modern Family with a gay couple going through the same trials and tribulations as any other parents.
There’s no doubt they are the most over-protected generation to have ever walked the earth. Their Generation X parents raised in a culture of benign neglect, the first generation of divorce and two parents working, we undoubtedly overcompensated with our children. Could we have been more INVOLVED? We also held our babies as we watched the towers collapse in New York, and bombs going off in Bali, and I think those days are part of defining our parenting of this generation. It just made everything seem that much more unsafe, travel seemed like a high risk proposition, even visiting popular landmarks in your own country took on an edge of danger, I remember seeing an increased presence of security guards patrolling the Sydney Opera House around that time. High Alert became a term. I’m hoping they can overcome their bubblewrap childhoods to discover their resilience and ingenuity.
There’s many factors that define a generation, wars, depression, recession, pop culture, politics, major events they all combine to produce a certain “feel” to the group of individuals they produce. Undoubtedly parents have a big influence too.
What do you think is the future for Generation Z? How do you think our parenting has impacted on the generation we’ve produced?