What is a digital native?
To put it simply, this refers to and individual who was either born or brought up during the flux of the digital age. Basically, these people have been familiarized with the internet and computers even from a very young age. Take a look around you. See those teenagers with their phones out? What about the kid who has their nose almost pressed up against a tablet? These individuals comprise a significant percentage of who Gen Z is.
This generation gets a lot of flak for constantly being online, but is that really such a bad thing? The opinions tend to differ a lot—in fact, this is a very divisive topic. Now, the difference in opinion tends to happen because of a generational gap. Those who were born outside of the digital age do tend to understand it much less, some are even outsiders to it, and therefore, cannot always fully comprehend the benefits of such heightened connectivity. Often only seeing its faults.
That said, let’s look at the most compared generations: Generation X and Generation Z.
Who are Generation X?
Generation X are individuals who were born during the 1960s up to the early 1980s. This is a generation of people who were alive during a time when societal values were continuously shifting. Also often referred to as the “latchkey generation” as their childhood was marked by reduced adult supervision. This generation has also been dubbed as the MTV generation—as the music video channel also found popularity during the same period.
In popular media, they were sometimes portrayed as disaffected and heavily influenced by grunge. Icons from this generation include Kurt Cobain of the band Nirvana. In fact, his influence is still felt and seen in Generation Z youths.
Gen X vs. Gen Z
It is true that trends and ideas tend to repeat throughout the decades. You’d be surprised at some of the similarities between Gen X and Gen Z when it comes to music, the arts, and pop culture. In fact, one of the growing fads among Gen Z youths include styles that were popularized during the 90’s—whether it be because of nostalgia or simply a need for something different, this particular decade is making a strong comeback in many different ways.
What about societal differences, however? Well, the most obvious would be the kind of lifestyle these generations lead. Given the age gap, most Gen X youths have now grown into adulthood with many already raising their own children. What were once taboos for Generation X is more tolerated by the Gen Z youth.
Suffice to say, being digital natives and having access to information from all over the world has certainly opened up the minds, and perceptions of the Gen Z youth more.
This generation is also more outspoken about their beliefs and the digital age has made it very easy for them to express their opinions.
There were no such things as social media for Generation X, after all. In some way, this also often causes friction between the two. Generation X is often seen as conservative, despite the period coinciding with the Sexual Revolution of the 60s. Their views tend to still be influenced by older ways of thinking, but this doesn’t apply to the general cohort.
Does this mean that Gen Z youths are more liberated in their thinking?
In some ways, yes. Political discussions, including more sensitive topics such as race and sexuality, are often discussed openly. They also participate in “adult talk” more than before—these kids have more of a voice and they are certainly not afraid to use it. This is in stark contrast to the Gen X mindset, but this isn’t a matter of who is better than the other. Differences in opinion make things more interesting and opens discussions—at the end of the day, these two generations will always find something to learn from each other.