Generation Alpha is here! By the time you reach the end of this sentence, about 9 seconds for a typical reader, another member of this newest generation will have been born. Every generation brings with them new interests, new concerns, and new needs—and these kids are no different. Over the next few years, these kids will increasingly take a role in public life, stepping out of the classroom and into the workforce. Read on for three vital things for you to know about Generation Alpha.
1. Technology isn’t a tool: It’s life.
Put simply, Generation Alpha has never known a world that was not dominated by the internet, technology, and smartphones. In case you hadn’t heard, the official starting point for this newest generation is 2010, the same year marked by “App” as the official word of the year. Technology, computers, and most of the internet have thoroughly penetrated every aspect of these kids’ lives. If these trends were already on the rise in the earliest years of this generation, the widespread disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic have only exacerbated them. Many children in Generation Alpha have never attended school in person!
Why does this matter?
When we want to reach Generation Alpha, we have to remember that the internet has long since ceased being a tool to accomplish some goal in real life. Think how much of your social life takes place through social media and other forms of internet community—Generation Alpha has never known any other way. The distinction between “Real Life” and the internet is collapsing, a friend online is still just as much a friend as one you know in person, right?
So when you’re thinking about ways to reach and connect with Generation Alpha, remember that technology isn’t just the medium you’re trying to connect through—it may well be the space your programming needs to take advantage of!
2. Most Educated in History More than any generation before them, Generation Alpha promises to have a lifelong commitment to education. While this will certainly include traditional educational channels through schools and degree-granting institutions, the omnipresence of Web 2.0 technologies like social media, YouTube, and Wikipedia have already decentered traditional modes of education. As Web 3.0 and VR come to dominate the digital landscape, the influence of the more traditional educational institutions will likely recede from its dominance to being one voice among many.
More than anything else, Generation Alpha prioritizes peer-to-peer education as its preferred approach Whether that is sharing ideas directly through social media channels or developing worldviews from the lived experiences of their peers, Generation Alpha puts more stock in each other than in us.
Why does this matter?
Generation Alpha has never been spared the messy complexities of modern life. Social issues like racism, climate change, and income inequality are going to define their adult lives—and they know it! The good news is that this is a chance for you to give youth an active role in shaping their own futures. Think about the good you’re trying to bring the world—what problems are you trying to address? Instead of seeing Generation Alpha as a market to serve in addressing these problems, craft your appeal to include them in the solution. Even as you provide the same aid and support and services you’ve always done, work to find ways to include Generation Alpha in your projects—align your services to address social needs and you’ll be surprised how strong a motivating factor this can become.
3. Don’t Lock Them In Writing this post in early 2022, it seems that COVID-19 and its legacies will be the defining event of Generation Alpha, but they will be so much more than Generation Covid. As the world gradually returns to something like pre-pandemic life, Generation Alpha is going to find their experience utterly shaped within the creation of new social norms and habits. From car culture to music to language, history has often followed the tastes and desires of its youngest generation.
What do We do with This?
More than anything else: Listen! Generation Alpha expects horizontal models of collaboration so make sure you are inviting them to be an active part of the conversation. New models of social organization, communication, and learning are going to dominate the coming years, and understanding Generation Alpha will be key to connecting your plans to what’s coming up.