*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on CBS News.
They are the most web-savvy, app-friendly generation. Welcome, Generation Z (also nicknamed “iGen”), the generation born in 1996 or later, who have been shaped by and are in turn shaping technology and social media in very different ways from the Facebook-reared cohort just above them.
According to the Center of Generational Kinetics, an Austin-based research firm, this young group favors more personal, immediate social platforms like Snapchat rather than broadcasting their lives widely and publicly for all to see through the like of Facebook and Twitter. What does this say about this particular group? For Gen Z, whose members grew up in an era of high-speed Internet where sharing personal details on social media was the norm, social technology is embedded deeply within all aspects of life, and as this group comes of age, they’re remaking it in their image.
These days, adoption of different social networks seems to be a marker for the start and end points of different generations. And the dividing lines are shifting more rapidly than ever, according to Jason Dorsey, co-founder and chief strategy officer of the Center for Generational Kinetics.
“Historically, a generation is defined as a birth cohort from the same time and same place. The result of that was a fairly high level of consistent predictability,” Dorsey told CBS News. “The consistency of that is starting to break, and by that I mean that, even within the millennials, you see these pronounced differences between older and younger members of the cohort.”
Dorsey said that technology has become a key marker of a given generation’s identity. For instance, baby boomers prefer face-to-face communication, Generation X is a big fan of talking on the phone (or at least email), while millennials head to social media networks. What does Generation Z like? Messaging apps that “don’t leave a paper trail,” where communications are sent and then are quickly gone, as users move on to the next stream of communication.
To examine how different generations differ in and are increasingly defined by their use of social media tools, the center surveyed 1,000 people between the ages of 14 and 69, asking about everything from shopping to phone etiquette to get a comprehensive sense of how they view and use technology, and social media specifically. The center also surveyed an additional group of people age 14 to 17 to better understand Gen Z.
For instance, the study found that Gen Z is four times more likely than millennials, Gen X, or baby boomers to say that age 13 is the appropriate age to get your first smartphone. Older generations were more likely to suggest age 18.
Gen Z was also more likely than others to say it is acceptable to use smartphones in social settings.
One statistic from the study that raised eyebrows and generated headlines was that 42 percent of this youngest generation said that social media has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves.
Whether “pernicious” or “empowering,” social media is being shaped and driven by the young people who gravitate toward it as a primary tool for peer-to-peer communication.
Dorsey said that this generation is “more connected than ever before to remote parts of the world around them.” Of course, he added, being “more connected does not necessarily mean better informed.”
He stressed that the tendency of young people to take quickly generated headlines that don’t always contain accurate or complete information, can lead people down a rabbit hole of being misinformed.
On the flip side, Rutledge said that Gen Z has “control over their message” and that they are much more “media literate in a very positive way.”