Children at school

They say you are getting old when you catch yourself using phrases like “kids these days.” And phrases like that are normally used in more of a negative context, one in which the speaker is shaking his or her head in disappointment. While I shake my head along with them, I also feel a far greater sense of hope for this so-called “generation Z.”

Common Knowledge Isn’t That Common

I know. It’s not exactly fair to refer to children and teenagers as “ignorant,” as they haven’t had as much of an opportunity to learn the things that we already know. Just the same, I find myself shaking my head at “millennials” when they come to some strange revelations. Did you know that the Titanic was a real ship and it wasn’t just some “old movie” with Leonardo diCaprio?

Generation Z Dares to Dream Big

After the baby boomers came generation X. And then, we got generation Y (which is sometimes used interchangeably with the “millennial” generation). And after that, we have what some people are calling generation Z. Roughly, these are the kids born after 1995, a cohort that is two billion strong worldwide, making up about a quarter of the North American population.

And they just might be one of the most ambitious generations this world has ever seen. People who grew up during the Industrial Revolution may have expected to get a factory job on the assembly line, holding down that career until the day they retire. It was about doing honest work for honest pay. With youngsters these days, their dreams are far bigger. It’s not just about money either, because these young entrepreneurial spirits seem to be more socially conscious too… well, at least some of them.

A recent article in Maclean’s highlighted teenager Ann Makosinski of Victoria, BC. She invented a flashlight that can be powered by the heat of the human hand and she appeared on the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to demonstrate her creation. Her inspiration came from a friend in the Philippines who couldn’t study at night.

Tech-Savvy and Eager to Learn

Sure, these kids might not know that the Titanic was a real thing, but they can navigate their way around an iPad like no one’s business. It still boggled my mind when I watched my cousin’s son, who is only about three years old, use a tablet like a pro. He was able to wake it from sleep mode, swipe to unlock, swipe the corresponding page, open the app, and proceed to play one of his favorite games. I don’t know what I was doing when I was three.

Many parents will tell you that they try to limit the amount of time their kids spend on these kinds of devices, encouraging them to participate in some “real world” play instead. There is certainly something there, but it’s undeniable that the future generation needs to be technologically literate. From my standpoint, they most certainly are. And they’re eager to learn more too.

On Expectations and Entitlement

Folks who grew up during the Great Depression really understood the value of a dollar. Times were tough and every penny counted. If you wanted something, you really had to work for it. With millennials and generation Z, I’m not sure they have that same kind of mindset. Perhaps it comes from being in a digital age of instant gratification. They want to watch a video and, boom, there it is streaming on YouTube mere moments later.

Many of these kids feel like the world owes them something. They feel entitled. They expect to get high-paying jobs. They expect to take fancy vacations and drive nice cars. We want the best for the next generation, but at what cost?

The Issue of Race Relations

Some people will say that kids these days don’t respect their elders or that they feel entitled to everything. But you know the one thing that really gives me hope for generation Z? If this video of kids reacting to the “controversial” Cheerios commercial is any indication, it’s that these kids just might represent the first generation that truly sees all of humanity as being fundamentally equal.

They don’t care if you’re black, white, yellow or green. They just care if you’re a nice person. Let’s hope it stays that way.