The status quo of Generation Z
Immediate gratification may be the modus operandi of the generation affectionately referred to as Generation Z – teenagers – born on the heels of the Millennials. They have an application (app) for everything, and social media blurs the connections between reality, conformity, and possibly intimacy and friendship. Nevertheless, they are pros at multi-tasking, and they may be learning the skills they need for a future that is even more techno abundant.
So many of us multi task on a regular basis, and even while we engage in day-to-day activities, in the mundane and routine roles of our lives, we have a device within reach. Teenagers are the perfect example of avid and apparently successful multi-tasking. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation Study, referring to this generation as “GENERATION M2” reported “Eight- to eighteen-year-olds spend more time with media than in any other activity besides (maybe) sleeping—an average of more than 7½ hours a day, seven days a week” (Kaiser, 2010).
A common image for many parents is their teenager sitting at his desk, on the sofa, or in bed with his laptop, cell phone, tablet, and perhaps, but less likely, a book. He may be doing his homework, yet he moves between the devices almost effortlessly – texting, typing, posting, Skyping, playing games, listening to music and surfing the net in search of information. The truth is that teenagers capitalize on these shortcuts, tools, and the different avenues of communication provided by technology; and this access is convenient as well as constant. However, research suggests a disparity in potential outcomes as a result of engaging in multiple activities simultaneously.
Two sides of the same coin
The explosive use of media by teens and tweens over the past 10 years correlates to a decline in reading, writing, and academic performance. In addition, teenagers are substituting actual conversation and socializing with ineffective methods of communication. A report by the National Association of Independent Schools suggests that “the costs of media multitasking are considerable and include a decline in the ability to prioritize tasks, figure out what information is most valuable, the ability to focus on complex tasks, a decrease in long-term memory, and an increase in stress” (Bradley, 2011).
On the other hand, technology is critical to academic, personal, and eventually career skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that students who shift between multiple social media and devices tend to accomplish more, are less distracted, and may benefit in the long term vis-à-vis special neurological skills developed over time (HealthDay, 2014). Furthermore, media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Myspace and Snapchat may enforce empathy for and understanding of others, help teenagers stay in contact with friends and family, build confidence, forge key relationships, teach online etiquette, as well as broaden their comprehension of and appreciation for global issues.
Since the research on the impact of device and tech surfing is ongoing and inconclusive, teaching new generations to balance online impressions with offline reality is critical, but for now technological multitasking it is the norm for a generation devoted to apps.
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Leslie Olsen has a Master’s degree in Health Policy. She is a Published Author, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Health Coach, Fitness Coaching Specialist and Licensed Massage Therapist. You can contact her and read other articles she has written on LinkedIn.
Bradley, K. (2011). Can Teens Really Do It All? Techno-Multitasking, Learning, and Performance. National Association of Independent Schools.
Health Day. (2014). Today’s Teens Can Be Adept Multitaskers, Study Suggests.
Kaiser Family Foundation. (2010). GENERATION M2 Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds. A Kaiser Family Foundation Study.