This year, the members of Generation Z—born roughly from 1997 to 2010—will begin entering their mid-twenties. The oldest members of Gen Z are graduating college, entering the workforce and having children. As this first post-Millennial generation reaches adulthood, we stand at the cusp of a once-in-a-generation transformation in parenting and childhood. The public, private and social sectors should all be paying close attention. They need to understand what Gen Z will expect and demand from them — and how to support Gen Z as they take up the full responsibilities of citizenship, employment and parenthood.
Their firsthand experience with mental health disorders and treatment will make them more likely than previous generations to talk with their children about emotions and mental health, equip them with social-emotional skills and seek mental health treatment.
What then should governments, businesses and the social sector know about this generation and how to help them and their children flourish in the future?
Members of Gen Z refuse to be put in a box and will reject a “one size fits all” approach. They expect personalization and an acceptance of differing lifestyles.
They will not take information and advice at face value, especially from traditional sources like doctors, government officials, church elders or even family members. Instead, members of Gen Z form opinions by crowdsourcing their expansive social networks and gathering information from sources that align with their experiences and values. Because they rely heavily on social media for news and information, much of what they consume may be largely unvetted.
Gen Z expects NGOs, businesses, government agencies and other institutions to be socially respectful and ethically responsible. They will demand that organizations “practice what they preach” and act ethically. When organizations’ actions do not align with their professed values, Gen Zers will notice and view them as inauthentic and even untrustworthy.
As institutions seek to reach Generation Z, this paradox will be important to consider: Gen Z will look to the government to play an active role in solving the many problems they see in society, but will be skeptical, critical even resistant, to how government goes about doing this. And they’re likely to be deeply disappointed if government fails to deliver solutions.
With the future open before us, stakeholders across the public, private and social sectors have a transformative opportunity to provide tailored support to meet the needs of this generation as they begin to parent and ensure a brighter future for their children.