How Generation Z Works

Understanding Generation Z

Kids these days. They prefer texting to actually holding a conversation with someone. The invention of short message service (SMS) makes you wonder how necessary the telephone would have been if Alexander Graham Bell had thought of texting first. The number of teenagers who use text messages to communicate has increased from 38 percent to 54 percent in just 18 months [source: Ludden].

The reason for this preference could be a matter of frequency rather than convenience. Instead of having a single face-to-face or phone conversation that may cover a multitude of topics over several minutes, teens would rather communicate in spurts of shorter, but more frequent, bursts of information [source: Lenhart]. And this gets to the heart of one of Gen Z's key differentiators: They crave constant and immediate feedback [source: Holmes]. This is the result of having every whim addressed with a few keystrokes. Want to know who played bass on the last White Stripes album? Google it. Forgot which chapters to read for biology? Text a classmate. The days of leaving a voicemail or shooting off an e-mail and waiting for a reply are long gone, and may have never really been part of this group's routine anyway. They need information now, and they have the tools to get it.

But if this makes Gen Z seem like an over-stimulated, impatient lot, then consider for a second the challenges they recognize in their future. For their entire lives, they've heard about the dangers of global warming, been subjected to terror alerts of varying colors and watched their parents weather the recent economic crisis. As a result, they're growing up fast and developing sensitivities beyond their years. For example, in a study conducted by Harris Interactive, 30 percent of students stated that the financial stability of their families is a concern [source: Posnick-Goodwin].

They see themselves as the solution to these problems and, as a result, are more likely to pursue careers they think will help society. And because of their ubiquitous use of social networking, they're quick to jump in and help when their circle of contacts alerts them to a need. This use of mobile technology makes them more available and being solicited by friends is more likely to interest them [source: Berland].

These are just some of the things that make Gen Z tick. In the next section, we'll explore some of the clashes that are occurring between these up-and-comers and the adults who are always on their cases.