Whenever a new generation arrives, bemusement, mystery and misunderstanding often arise from the generation that came before. Gen-X-ers were famously misunderstood by their Baby Boomer parents and likewise, Millennials have had countless column inches dedicated to their unique ways. Even Socrates was quoted talking about the ‘reckless youth’ of his time back in 400 BC.

All this really demonstrates is a lack of understanding.

Today’s teens – and, more broadly, anyone born between 1995 and 2012 – are part of Gen Z, a cohort who have been shaped by technological advancements and major geo-political events.  These have had a fundamental impact on their attitudes to life and desires for the future and, therefore, it should be no surprise that they have different attitudes and behaviours to previous generations of youth.

To understand what really matters to this group, the best way is simply to spend time with them.
As a partner of Visionpath – a social enterprise that upskills and empowers students aged 13-19 in the UK – we are constantly talking to this audience.

Having grown up surrounded by technology, Gen Z has a confident and savvy understanding of its value. When asked what media they love the most and couldn’t live without, over half of those aged 13-15 cited the internet, and just over a third suggest their mobile phone. Fulfilling multiple needs, they appreciate the access these platforms provide to entertainment, information and communication.

However, when tasked with looking at their daily lives, it’s more enlightening to understand their appreciation of how technology could be an everyday enabler. Gen Z spontaneously suggested how smart tech could help save time with chores – including not forgetting your keys or homework – or even solving environmental problems through tracking food wastage in their home.

What’s important also extends beyond their immediate family and social circle. It’s evident Gen Z is concerned about societal challenges and conscious about the world around them – they care about their wider community and environment. More than two thirds (68%) of Gen Z are excited about how technology can shape their future and it’s evident that they’re hopeful about the possibilities of robotics and machine learning to help solve problems like littering and recycling. Exposure to current affairs also infiltrates their expectations for the future, from citing how virtual reality medical training and digital health trackers could ease the burden on the NHS to creating personal smoke filters in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

While self-care and wellbeing is a topic more commonly associated with their Millennial predecessors, it is also a surprisingly hot topic for Gen Z. Two in ten 13-15 year olds say they’re ‘worried’ or ‘nervous’ about the impact of technology on their life, and spontaneously cited health and fitness as an area of particular concern.
As such, offline experiences still also remain desirable. In fact, the top two categories when asking 13-15 year olds what they spend their money on were ‘looking good’ and ‘going out’. Real life experiences and sustaining personal relationships clearly remain key to this generation.

Observing what young people say and how they feel provides us with true insight into what’s important to them and provides a more tangible view than traditional methods of research can provide.  Most importantly, it means we are able to better understand what it’s really like to be a teen today and keeps us close to the consumers of the future.
Source: 223 students aged 13-15 years old completed surveys on their attitudes to technology, media and life as part of skill workshops hosted by Visionpath. the7stars has been a partner in Visionpath’s programmes with Gen Z since 2015.