Your three-minute guide to ‘young techie people’

When you started university, things made sense. People came to class with notepads and pens. While waiting in a queue, people would read a book or have a conversation with a friend nearby, or talk to someone on their phone.

Because, that’s what those devices were meant to do. Phones were for talking, computers were for using the internet, and pens and paper were for taking notes in class. But then came an influx of teenagers with strange, new ID numbers (designed by administration to make everyone else feel old), and suddenly phones were for using the internet, computers and tablets occupied every desk, and pens and paper all but disappeared.

And if you dropped your phone, you didn’t worry about breaking its screen as much as your toes.

If you dropped your phone, you didn’t worry about breaking its screen as much as your toes…

So who is responsible for this heinous crime? Who killed paper?

Generation Z did it. Members of Generation Z, also known as iGen, are gradually forming the majority of Australian universities (and modern Western society). They’ve grown up in a world of rapidly changing digital technology, and their brains are wired to adapt to its frequent changes – characteristically, they are “digital natives”.

Most iGen members try to be connected to the Internet pretty much 24/7, for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s a point of communication with other people. Secondly, it offers them constant access to the huge body of information that constitutes the internet, called “prosthetic knowledge” – information that a person doesn’t know, but can access at any time using technology. Thirdly, they can use it for recreation – movies, music, games, books, and more. So being connected means uninterrupted access to conversations with friends, work/study resources, and fun.

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For those of us who are not used to this, being constantly connected could be exhausting. However, for a digital native, it’s natural, and losing access to the internet can feel like being cut off from a whole part of their lives – which is why many members of Generation Z seem to be permanently attached to their phones.

For those who miss the good old days, the Co-op has a range of stationery, from simple, everyday fare to fancy designer creations.

For those who miss the good old days, the Co-op has a range of stationery, from simple, everyday stuff to fancy designer creations.

As for avoiding pens and paper, they usually find that they can be more efficient and organised by managing their work on a computer or tablet, mainly because they’re used to it – just as someone who isn’t used to these devices would probably be more efficient using notebooks and pens.

What does this mean when dealing with Generation Z? Basically, try to understand that being connected to the internet through various devices is crucial to the way they engage with the world. Of course, if someone’s talking to you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for their full attention – there’s no excuse for rudeness. Yet, while it may feel disconcerting to see a large group of people each engrossed in their own phones, try to remember that we all have the same human need and desire to talk to our friends and stay connected with our loved ones. This is just their way of doing it.

But mostly it means we look at pictures of cute cats.

But mostly it means they look at pictures of cute cats.


Discover more about the fascinating iGen species…

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