From Digital Native to Digital Averse: Gen Z Parents Rely Less on Technology in Family Life Than You'd Think
When we think of Generation Z, a picture might come to mind: tech-obsessed young adults with short attention spans who worship influencers and live and die for their favorite YouTubers. While those stereotypes may not hold water in every case, there's at least a little truth there. These digital natives spend their lives with tech. From smartphones to tablets to computers with literal terabytes of storage, none of these things are new or groundbreaking to Gen Z—because that technology has been around their entire lives.
Gen Zers grew up with a phone or a tablet in their hand from the moment their chubby, dimpled little fingers could hold them. Their Gen X and Millennial parents depended on tech to help in their parenting, pacifying a fussy toddler or entertaining a bored school-aged kid with a screen.
The oldest members of Gen Z are 23 years old, meaning many are beginning their parenting journeys. It would stand to reason then that Gen Z parents would follow in those footsteps, using tech to aid in their child-rearing. But turns out that Gen Zers are more practical about tech in parenting than their Millennial peers, according to a recent survey by Collaborata and Ignite 360.
“Yes, this might surprise people who think Gen Zers are glued to their phones all day and have some sort of innate desire to pass along this behavior to their kids. But they’re actually less tethered than Millennials and are even more strategic in how and when they use tech,” Ben Graham, Collaborata's vice president, explains in a press release.
It makes sense. When you've grown up in an environment where your every move, every milestone, every personal foible could end up on your parents' social media accounts, an environment where screens might've been an all day, everyday reality, it's really not that surprising that, as a parent yourself, you might want to take a step back from it. “Gen Z has a visceral understanding of the potential problems that come with an over-reliance on screens," Graham says. "They want to be hands-on parents and not just dump their kid in front of a TV or tablet."
Unlike Millennials and Gen Xers, for Gen Z, tech is not a shiny new thing like it is for those of us who remember a time before the internet. And because of that more pragmatic, more metered approach to tech, they haven't been as overwhelmed and subsumed by it as some of the older generations. “Significantly fewer Gen Zers believe that technology is making life better, compared to Millennials and Gen Xers," explains Nate Depies, Ignite 360 vice president of insights.
They do, however, still love their social media—they just use it differently than their parents. "Gen Z leverages social media—individuals, communities, vloggers, websites—which expose the Gen Z mom to a range of parenting approaches and are touchpoints to reach her,” says Depies.
Similarly, they're more able to sniff out the B.S. and are less likely to fall for misinformation, which allows them to use the internet as a parenting research tool, not just a pacifier for their kids. “They’re not randomly asking the Twitter-verse for parenting advice,” Graham adds. “Instead, they find those who have become experts."
So if Millennials changed the way we use tech ourselves, maybe we can count on Gen Z to change the way it's used for kids.