First published on 25 Mar 2008. Updated on 3 Apr 2008.
1 Thou shalt always be connected The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimates that around 95 per cent of kids use a computer regularly and that at least 64 per cent of them access the Internet. As the first generation of the 21st century, the Gen Z kids have not known a world without broadband and wireless Internet and few of them will grow up without a PC online in their own home. In fact, the amount of information, recreation and social networking that takes place in cyberspace today, children will definitely find themselves out of the loop without access to an Internet connection.
2 Thou shalt always be mobile According to the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), between 80 and 90 per cent of high school students have mobile phones, and more than 20 per cent of primary school-aged kids have regular access to a mobile phone. While most parents cite convenience and safety as the main reasons for Gen Z-ers to have their own phone, the kids themselves are far more likely to find a mobile as a status symbol and social tool. Think back to the time before you owned your first mobile and how dependent you are upon it today. Now imagine that you’d had a mobile your entire life… that’s how important they are to Generation Z.
3 Thou shalt use computers at work It’s hard to find a workplace without at least one computer in it – even farms, worksites and kitchens don’t function without computers these days. Over 826,000 Australian workplaces maintain permanent Internet connections and 99 per cent of businesses with 100 employees or more conduct some aspect of their business online. The ability to use a computer is already a basic work requirement in the eyes of many employers – by the time Generation Z goes to work, being digitally proficient will have become assumed knowledge.
4 Thou shalt use computers at play Gaming is the main reason that kids go online today. The ABS found that around 65 per cent of Gen Z-ers participate in online gaming at least once a week. This means that Internet gaming comes second only to television viewing when it comes to the preferred recreational activities of today’s children. Considering the huge amount of social interaction that also takes place online for these little kiddies, you’ll realize that there’s an awful lot of cyber-fun and games going on.
5 Thou shalt have many friends that I will never meet If you haven’t heard of www.myspace.com, www.facebook.com or www.bebo.com, then you’ve been living under a rock. And, as far as Gen Z-ers go, you may as well be living under a rock if you don’t have at least 100 ‘friends’ online. Existing, as they do, in cyberspace, these friends can live in the next suburb, the next state, or on the next continent – it doesn’t really matter, as long as your interests are the same and your social networking spaces align.
6 Thou shalt have a second life Most kids who go online regularly use some kind of avatar (a digital likeness of themselves) as their representative in cyberspace. Australian Choice magazine highlights the virtues of the virtual world as “a space for communication, interaction, fun and education”. And, with everything from shopping, working, playing games, socializing, even buying and selling real estate now taking place within this “second life” realm, it’s easy to see why Gen Z is spending an increasing amount of time in cyberspace.
7 Thou shalt be ultra-independent With the average age of first time Aussie mother now over 30, and the average number of children per mother sitting at 1.8 and falling, Generation Z are primarily only children who are raised by older parents with greater disposable income and resources. Combine this with the reduced face-to-face socialization of these kids (due to computer use), and a strong community belief in the importance of self-determination, and you have some strong little solo acts growing up in Australia today.
8 Thou shalt multi-task Generation Z kids are experts at doing ten things at once. From birth they’re bombarded with information, a large amount of this from digital sources. Consequently, Gen Z-ers can absorb all the vital information from a page of their text book within the space of a 30 second television commercial and they can filter out the most insidious pieces of digital trash with a single click of a mouse.
9 Thou shalt always be in demand Small in numbers, big on smarts – as the least populous of any living generation, the children of tomorrow will have their pick of jobs, homes, and lifestyles. Gen Z is also shaping up to be the most highly educated generation of all time with an estimated matriculation rate of over 90 per cent. These kids are going to be experts in their field and will focus their skills on increasingly specialized areas, most notably IT.
10 Thou shalt invent a whole new language Every generation adopts a few choice words and slang terms that come to identify their image, era and lifestyle. The digital natives of Generation Z are taking this one step further with the combination of SMS and email messaging leading to the formation of an entirely new abbreviated language. But if this strange new code leaves you SYHID (scratching your head in disbelief), don’t despair! @TEOTD (at the end of the day), P2P (parent to parent), UR (you are) not alone in being baffled. There is a whole new lexicon being developed by little hands on little keypads and keyboards PDQ (pretty darn quickly), but TMWFI (take my word for it), it’s EZ (easy) to learn. L8RG8R (later ‘gater).
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