What is iGen? – And how can we help them?

What is iGen? They are the generation born in 1995 and later. They grew up with the Internet and could swipe before they could walk. Unlike any generation before them they have had unlimited access to the internet and have been shaped by this engagement with devices.

I’ve recently read Jean Twenge’s book; iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. There are some pretty interesting differences about iGen and how we can help them.

Twenge draws from four large, nationally representative surveys of 11 million Americans since the 1960s and found ten important trends shaping iGen’ers.

    1. They are growing up slowly. They are dating, drinking, driving later than other generations and are more comfortable staying at home with Mum & Dad.
    2. The internet is their lifeblood. They are hyper connected and see this as an essential part of their existence. They don’t understand why their phone use is a problem. Their social skills are diminishing as a result of time online, as is their physical activity and sleep.
    3. They interact virtually, not physically. They are happy staying in and watching Netflix and spend less time ‘hanging out’ with peers and more time physically alone.
    4. Mental health is diminishing. With less connections and more screen time, it’s not surprising that body image issues, anxiety, self-harm and depression are rising.
    5. Non religious. While their families are less religious, iGen tends to embrace more modern ideas accepting things as they are, trusting science and not requiring spirituality.
    6. Safety focus. They tend to take less risks and not put themselves in any situations that are unfamiliar or uncomfortable. They drink less, smoke less, date less, have less teenage pregnancies, fight less and wear seatbelts more – unlike any previous generation. They want ‘safe spaces’ in Universities and demand ‘trigger warnings’ on subject content. However, with less adversity, comes less experience, and more anxiety.
    7. Less ambitious. They are more likely to follow the ‘study- work- success’ ethos than any other generation. There are less entrepreneurs and artists due to their risk averse nature.
    8. Relationship shifts. With less happily married parents, iGen tends to be pessimistic about marriage and the longevity of relationships. Many simply don’t want marriage or kids.
    9. More inclusive. The average iGen’er has no issues with sexual identity or preference and is more accepting of other people’s differences. They will however not tolerate any form of ‘micro-aggression’ and will be deeply offended on another’s behalf.
    10. Independent minded. They are less likely to be involved in politics and while they may be outspoken online, are less likely to actually engage in volunteer roles or activism. The term coined for this generation is ‘slack-tivists.’

Some ideas to manage and help our iGen’ners.

  • Monitor and moderate phone and technology usage with apps and family rules
  • Encourage physical activities in groups and outside of the home
  • Support new experiences like travel, hobbies and social outings
  • Nurture passions and make time to learn new things
  • Advocate for friendships and normalise social situations

While there are a new set of complexities for iGen to navigate, the’re are also a lot of pro’s for this generation. They are safer than ever before and less likely to engage in risky behaviour. They have access to more information and opportunities, and are much more accepting of others differences. Like any generation, they need our support, compassion and gentle guidance.

Remember, iGen’ners first and foremost are human – they require connection, a sense of belonging and above all else, love.