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Contrasting Generation Y and Z

While Generation Y grew up with computers, Generation Z grew up with touch-screens. Their phones have always been "smart." Bill Clinton is a president from history, and Madonna is an aged veteran... like Elton John or Michael Jackson. They never knew her when she was "like a virgin." We live in a new day.
08/15/2014 06:48pm ET | Updated October 15, 2014
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The numbers are in from recent studies of younger teens of Generation Z, also known as "Homelanders" or the kids who follow Generation Y. They are part of a population who grew up during the aftermath of 9/11, where terrorism is part of the landscape, a sour economy is all they know and uncertainty defines our mindsets.

In many ways, we need to stop assuming they'll simply be extensions of Generation Y (or Millennials). They are the younger counterparts to the older generation and have grown up with new technology that has marked them. While Generation Y grew up with computers, Generation Z grew up with touch-screens. Their phones have always been "smart." Bill Clinton is a president from history, and Madonna is an aged veteran... like Elton John or Michael Jackson. They never knew her when she was "like a virgin." We live in a new day.

The shifts this new generation will bring.

1. While Generation Y spent money boldly and with few boundaries, 57 percent of Generation Z prefers saving money to spending it.

2. While Generation Y spent loads of time at the mall, Generation Z prefers shopping online for almost all their purchases... except for online games. Hmmm.

3. While Generation Y grew up during a strong economy, Generation Z is growing up in a time of recession, terrorism, violence, volatility and complexity.

4. While Generation Y subscribed to everything social, Generation Z doesn't want to be tracked, preferring Snapchat, Secret, or Whisper to communicate.

5. While Generation Y watched YouTube, Hulu and Netflix, Generation Z wants to co-create, live stream and help to make up the activity as they participate.

6. While Generation Y loved sports and adventure, Generation Z sees sports as a health tool, not for play. Their games are inside. Teen obesity has tripled since 1970.

7. While Generation Y grew up with slightly longer attention spans, Generation Z has an attention span of 8 seconds. Approximately 11 percent have ADHD.

8. While Generation Y initiated text messages as a norm, Generation Z prefers communicating through images, icons and symbols.

9. While Generation Y worried about their growing social status and their "likes" on social media, Generation Z worries about the economy and world ecology.

10. While Generation Y enjoyed a life that revolved around them, Generation Z plans on coping with multi-generational households and marriages (400 percent increase).

According to a recent report from Sparks and Honey, these younger children and teens are from a smaller population that will be more about coping with reality than Generation Y, who was about virtual reality. For instance:

  • Their movies are The Hunger Games and Divergent, where youth are being slaughtered and kids no longer feel as central to their world.

  • They multitask on five screens, not one or two. They experience FOMO: the "Fear Of Missing Out." They try to consume it all.
  • They plan to get educated and start working earlier, but will be "school hackers" and not necessarily attend a liberal arts college.
  • On the other hand, they are growing up in America, where:

    • The average Gen Z kid receives $16.90 a week in allowance, translating to $44 billion a year.

  • They are a major influence on household purchases, including dinner menus, vacations, home furnishings and even family cars.
  • Three out of four wish their current hobby could become their full-time job. That was far more than Millennials reported when asked about it.
  • What do you observe in these younger students? Are you up on Gen Z?