‘Youth today love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, no respect for older people and talk nonsense when they should be working. They contradict their parents, talk too much in company, guzzle their food, lay their legs on the table, and tyrannise their elders.”
Attributed to Socrates – 5th Century BC
Surely a quote about the next generation from 2500 years ago would have little or no relevance today, but there is something to Socrates’ quote that feels eerily familiar and pertinent. “Kids these days” is an adage still part of the modern-day vernacular and every adult has had a moment where they shake their head in bewilderment as they interact with a child or teenager. Yet, all is not lost and we have much to be optimistic about as we discover more about the current generation of children.
All students currently at Tudor House are part of what is known as Generation Alpha. The term Generation Alpha was coined by Australian social researcher Mark McCrindle and refers to children born between 2010 and 2024. The six generations from the Builders (1925-1945) through to Generation Alpha (2010-2024) all have their key distinctives and understanding them allows us to practically support them and help them to thrive and flourish.
McCrindle and co-author Ashley Fell have recently released the book, Generation Alpha: Understanding our Children and Helping Them Thrive. The book is a comprehensive analysis of 21st-century kids and provides fascinating insights into the world they inhabit, the challenges they face and the technology that defines them.
In the book they explain that Generation Alpha is defined by 5 key characteristics:
Generation Alpha can genuinely be labelled as ‘digital natives’. In 2010, the first year of Generation Alpha, the iPad was launched. The Generation Alpha world is both physical and virtual and affects every part of their lives. Instagram, Siri, GoPro, 3D Printers, Apple Watches, Tesla, AirPods and 5G have all been introduced during their lifetimes and more digital technologies will arrive in the years to come. The mental and physical health implications of screen time and the all-consuming nature of the digital world have received much attention and are the focus of much research. Organisations like Common Sense Media provide reviews, research, public advocacy and support for children and families. This characteristic is generally the most concerning one for parents.
Social includes social media but is not limited to it. Generation Alpha are socially saturated in virtual spaces and are able to connect 24/7 across various platforms and on a global scale. Two years of the COVID pandemic has accelerated the centrality of online social interactions and has made physical social interactions increasingly challenging. The development of social skills is essential for all children and an increased intentionality in explicitly teaching these skills and creating space for them to be regularly used is a significant challenge for families, schools and communities. The Tudor House focus on manners, handshakes, looking people in the eye and eating together are all part of our belief that social skills are important and need to be developed.
World population estimates are rapidly approaching 8 billion people and yet the hyperconnected digital world connects us all with the click of a button. Increased political tensions across the world, active conflict zones, global warming and the pandemic have fuelled instability and uncertainty but have also served to deepen the interconnectedness of humanity. The powerful influence of the global community is a double-edged sword that brings much opportunity and danger. Generation Alpha want to know what’s happening around the world and they want to make a difference and have a say. We need to support their global thirst with the skills of discernment, wisdom and self-awareness.
Travel, study, work, information and life are now mobile in ways that they have never been. Generation Alpha will move around the world more frequently, they will change career more frequently, access information anywhere and everywhere and do things on the run in a way that wasn’t even fathomable as little as 50 years ago. Self-identity, family identity and national identity need to be strongly developed through the primary years so that a firm foundation is laid for this infinitely mobile generation.
YouTube is the number one search engine for Generation Alpha. The site has almost 5 billion streams a day and Generation Alpha are flocking to the site to find out everything they need to know. Hearing and reading information are still important, but for Generation Alpha it is watching that has become the medium of choice. Giving them regularly opportunities to hone their listening and speaking skills should be a priority in homes and schools.
Primary schools across the world will be educating Generation Alphas for the next 15 years. I strongly believe that schools, parents and local communities will need to partner together to give Generation Alpha the kind of childhood that will best prepare them for the future. It will not suffice to parent and educate them using the same methods of previous generations. Teaching them to be responsible, kind, thoughtful, resilient, confident people who act with integrity and respect other human beings will not be an easy task, but it is possible and it is something we should doggedly aspire to do, together.
The beauty of being connected to a school community (Tudor House) and living in a local community (the Southern Highlands) is that the daunting challenge of raising children is not done in isolation but with other like-minded parents and families. I encourage you to lean into these relationships and connections. Ask questions, seek feedback, have conversations, and glean the wisdom of others. All these learnings will contribute to being a stronger, better equipped parent and this in the long run will only help the little Generation Alphas you tuck into bed each night.
For more information visit: https://generationalpha.com/
Mr Adam Larby
Head of Tudor House