Raising the Next Generation

Digital Footprint. Graphic designed by Mattison Hansen. 

By Mattison Hansen

Growing up, we heard stories from our grandparents and parents about the glorious adventures they experienced during their childhood, picking wild fruits with their family or playing games with other kids in their neighborhood. For us, there are memories of playgrounds in the backyard, family trips to the beach, and going to the movies with friends. But if you were to look at the children of today, their only experience with the outside world is through a screen.  

This newest generation is here and rising in numbers every day. Currently labeled as Generation Alpha, coined by Australian sociologist Mark McCrindle, is the age group from 2010 to 2025. This generation is estimated to be the largest in history, with an estimated number of 2 billion babies born by the end of 2025. It will also be known as the generation raised by both humans and technology.  

The Great Screen Age 

In the past two years, technology has become our saving grace. It has allowed us to connect with friends and family we could no longer see, keep up with work and school through virtual meetings, as well as escape into various outlets of media. However, this usage of technology has also disconnected the next generation from the outside world. This has resulted in an extreme decrease in socialization skills in children of all ages.  

Maddy Taylor, a junior at Flagler College who has moved to Florida from Pennsylvania, is also the mother of 6-month-old Emily. She is one of many who has noticed this stunt in today’s children. Specifically those in her own family members.  

“The first thing she [Emily] reaches for is my phone,” comments Taylor on the subject of how technology might affect this growing generation. “I have to try to get her away from technology and get her out to socialize with those her age. My brother who is 14 doesn’t know how to socialize with people his age. I’m trying not to make the same mistake with Emily.”   

Millennials (1980-1995) were once categorized as digital natives, and for Generation Z (1995-2010) technology has been used as a tool throughout their lifetime. However, those born between 2010 and 2025 will recognize technology as a way of life. Even before they understand the term digital footprint, Generation Alpha will have one because of their parents. For instance, Mackenzie Lersh is a stay-at-home mom and blogger from Bradenton, Fla. who posts images and videos of her 1-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, on Instagram and other forms of social media.   

“We try to keep it to certain minimums on social media. So, pictures with her in the tub and things like that is kept off of social media, because of how it could affect her. And you don’t know who is on the internet,” Lersh explained. “It’s hard because I’m on the internet and my husband is a musician, so both of our pages are open to the public.”   

On the other hand, not all parents are as involved with technology and plan on their children being the same way. From Jacksonville, expectant mother Meadow Granada has watched how people around her center their lives around electronic devices and social media platforms. From her 11-year-old niece making TikToks to older parents handing tablets to their kids at restaurants just to make them happy, she has decided she will not raise her future baby girl around screens, and will even wait to give her a cellphone until she is in middle school.  

“There’s a beautiful world out there, and there’s so much to live for that people don’t get when they’re glued to their screens all day,” said Granada.  

Some following negative consequences of being surrounded by more technology than any other generation include the possibility that Alphas will have short attention spans and impaired social skills. However, some positive effects involve an increase in digital literacy, wealth, and better education on global information and social issues.   

In fact, there was a study conducted by Business Wire in 2019, which focused on how Generation Alpha is the most diverse generation and how technology impacts their current and future behavior. Their results revealed that 96% of the children claimed they believed people should be treated fairly no matter what.  

“Children born after 2010…care more about all issues than their Millennial and Baby Boomer parents did when they were kids, or even than they do now,” wrote Sharon Kane in her report on Business Wire’s study.  

The way that Generation Alpha observes the world is incredibly unique. They are the world’s emerging consumers, innovators and leaders. They’ve shaped the reconstruction of multiple social media platforms and school systems. For instance, primary and secondary schools have moved from a structural, auditory method of learning to visual, hands-on methods.  

“Schools are putting more effort into more hands-on approaches, but it depends on multiple factors if it works or is even implemented,” reported Makayla Cockerham, a teacher at Lake Prep School in Leesburg, Fla., which has taken a Montessori approach when teaching their students. “If schools can afford it, students have computers they take home or have a class set, some textbooks are online only. This may also be an effect of the current generation and their understanding of technology.”  

Through this hands-on method, schools are focusing on teaching the next generation independence, problem-solving skills, and experience peer-to-peer learning. Montessori education, as used at Lake Prep School, also discourages standard tactics of achievement, like grades and tests, and instead focuses on children being naturally eager for learning.   

The Human Touch 

While technology has transformed how today’s children will grow up, one thing that won’t change is that these kids will be raised by the ever persevering generation before them.  

Granada is the first of her family to graduate, getting her degree from Stetson University and moving on to work at Zabatt Power Systems Inc. as a billing associate. Granada came from a poor home and overcame many of the struggles that came her way, and while her own parents were not there to watch her grow up, she is devoted to being there for her daughter and imparting her knowledge to the next generation along with her two-year husband.  

When asked about the difficulty of socializing her daughter might be faced once she’s born, due to the large expanse of technology and the current era of social distancing, Granada plans to overcome this hurdle with the help of close friends and a neighbor who all have young children.   

“Instead of getting them out of the house with strangers, they’ll have a close-knit group,” Granada explained.  

Expectant mother Anastasia Denisova has a similar method to parenting. Raised by both of her Russian grandparents before moving to Gainesville, FL., Denisova was taught the importance of education and respect, which she will carry on to the next generation when she gives birth to her baby boy in January 2022, though with more leniency than the age groups before her.  

“[Once the baby is born] I will let him hang out with family and people I know,” said Denisova when asked about the socialization question. Denisova has a few friends with young children and plans on involving her close relatives and friends to help raise her baby while she finishes her senior year attending Flagler College. Denisova doesn’t feel that the current pandemic will have an effect on her future son’s social skills.  

With an Associate’s Degree in Special Education and Teaching, Lersh had taken time away from her job of teaching to raise her daughter. Like Denisova, she plans on socializing and raising her daughter with close friends and family by her side with the addition of a few peers at a nearby pool where Brooklyn is learning to swim.  

“We want her and us to live as normal as a life as possible with everything going on,” Lersh described how her precaution methods to keep Brooklyn safe have adjusted from infancy to the past few months. “As she’s gotten older, we’re making sure she’s still getting the same opportunities as we did as kids.” 

Generation Alpha is our future. They’ll be the next inventors, leaders and the gate-way to the generations that comes after them. They will be faced with numerous difficulties and set-backs while growing up, some similar and some different than what we or our parents faced before. However, with their ability to access different mediums of technology from infancy, and the guidance of older generations, they will not only be the largest in history, but possibly the most successful.

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