There is a generation that comprises more than one in seven people, who are influencing the purchasing power of their household and are key to the future, yet few people have heard of them. Within the next four years they will outnumber the Baby Boomers, and many of them will live to see the 22nd century. We’re talking about Generation Alpha, the current generation of children who began being born in the year 2010. They are the children of the Millennials, and often the younger siblings of Generation Z. We gave them the name Generation Alpha (of the Greek Alphabet) because, being born entirely in the 21st Century, they are not a return to the old but the start of something new.
84% of adults believe COVID-19 will significantly shape Gen Alpha
The age at which we’re exposed to a transformative event determines how embedded it will be in our psyche, with COVID-19 predicated to be a defining event for the next generation. More than four in five adults (84%) believe COVID-19 will play a significant role in shaping the children of today. While it will be some time before we know the full extent of how COVID-19 will impact and shape this generation, the oldest of them turn 11 in 2020, so many of them will remember aspects of this global crisis. Many watched mum or dad work from the kitchen bench while keeping an eye on them as they learnt from a virtual classroom. They might not know why we need to stay 1.5 metres away from other people, but they know that we should. The fact that there was a prolonged period of time where they couldn’t go to the park or visit grandparents is not lost on them.
When we asked people what they believe the biggest impact of COVID-19 will be on the next generation, the results centred on integration of technology into their lives, expectations around working conditions and the online delivery of education.
COVID-19 has enhanced the intersection of technology and learning, but it has also shown the importance of face-to-face and tactile learning. Like many other sectors, the education sector has adapted in response to social distancing restrictions. While it posed challenges, 71% of parents who kept children home said it was a mostly positive experience for their household, and 82% of adults generally agree that education will be deliver online more in the future.
Nonetheless, schools were missed during lockdown – not just by busy parents having to juggle their own work with monitoring their child’s learning, but because schools are key to community (within the school) as well as being a place of connection within communities.
For Generation Alpha, a generation that was already impacted and shaped by technology, COVID-19 has further entrenched digital into their lives, while also highlighting the importance of the tactile. Generation Alpha will be used to using Zoom and engaging in a virtual world as a result of COVID-19. We may also see them pushing to engage with and use technology in more creative ways as a result.
Immediate family time has been enhanced with social isolation restricting people to stay at home. This has had a big impact on the next generation of children. Parents who are used to travelling have been grounded and working from home has provided new flexible ways of structuring time. This has been one of the most positive experiences of COVID-19, with 52% indicating spending more time with family/household members has been a positive experience and want this to continue. This unique family time is one positive to have come out of COVID-19, and may mark a shift in some families priorities and time allocation into the future.
Social interaction and friendships are very significant to Generation Alpha as they are in their key socialising years where behaviours are learnt subconsciously. While Zoom and virtual dinner parties have enabled much needed social interaction, in many ways it cannot replace the face to face interaction that is crucial to child development and socialisation. Remembering this and finding new and creative ways of participating and engaging in community will be key to their development, even while from a distance.
“Most young kids will remember how their family home felt during Coronavirus panic more than anything specific about the virus. Our kids are watching us and learning how to respond to stress and uncertainty. Let’s wire our kids for resilience, not panic.” – BrainPower Neurodevelopment Centre LLC
While there have been some unique challenges for Generation Alpha during COVID-19, it has also exposed them to witnessing different elements of resilience and responding to challenging times in positive ways. More than three in four adults (78%) agree that this experience will mean children of today are more resilient. It is a key role of parents, leaders and teachers to teach and model positive and resilient behaviours where possible. It is also important to ensure that, even amidst change and uncertainty, stable environments are created for the next generation as much as possible to enable them to thrive now and into the future.
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