Who is Generation Alpha? What are the challenges parents face in raising a child belonging to the youngest generation in our world right now?
In this post, we will get to know who Generation Alpha is – their characteristics, when they are born, and why they are called the most materially endowed generation ever. We will learn about the 3 most significant challenges for parents that affect discipline and behavior in this generation.
Who is Generation Alpha?
The “new generation”, or Generation Alpha as it is popularly known, was born on or after the year 2010. This was the year Apple launched the iPad and when Instagram started. So basically, they’re growing up with smartphones, tablets, and social media as part of their everyday lives.
Generation Alpha are the children of Generation Y or Millenials, and often the younger siblings of Generation Z.
More than 2.8 million are born around the world each week. And the numbers show that when they have all been born by the year 2025, this generation will be the largest in the history of the world.
What we know about Generation Alpha
These are the often-cited characteristics of Generation Alpha:
- They’re more likely to be surrounded by college-educated adults.
- They’re more likely to grow up in a single-parent household.
- They care more about social and environmental issues than previous generations did as kids.
- They’re also said to be the most materially endowed and technologically literate generation to ever grace the planet. Which makes them the most globally connected generation ever.
- They will also stay in education longer and, therefore start earning years later. This poses a challenge for parents as these kids will stay at home with them for longer than before.
The oldest members of this generation, however, are only 13 years old right now. We need more systematic research about this. That’s why we can’t generalize, and it’s too early to conclude about their characteristics.
3 Biggest Challenges Parents Face
There are new challenges affecting the discipline and behavior of this generation.
1. Screen time explosion.
Before, no matter how much you beg your parents, you have to wait for your favorite show to come on. But now, because of video streaming platforms like YouTube and Netflix, kids can watch whatever they want, whenever they want. There’s a greater burden placed on parents to control when and how much kids watch online.
There is also the rise of online gaming platforms such as Roblox, where kids can play, collaborate with each other, and even create their own games.
And kids are also growing up with social media all around them, with TikTok being the number one social media platform for Generation Alpha.
The screen time explosion is affecting not just kids, but parents too. Parents now turn to the internet for parenting advice, ranging from how to start solids, how to potty train, and even how to discipline their kids.
This generation is also being raised with “sharenting”, or the parent sharing of child-related content on social media, not just with friends and family but also with the public. Now, if a child misbehaves, it can be broadcast to the whole family or even to the whole world.
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2. Decreased play.
Play is important to develop social skills and executive function, which are necessary for better behavior. As the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “There are risks in the current focus only on achievement, homework, and test performance… There is little time left in the day for children’s free play, for parental reading to children, or for family mealtimes.”
Because of the changes in the current generation, play is starting to diminish, which contributes to more sedentary lifestyles.
3. COVID-19 Pandemic.
Another challenge is the COVID-19 pandemic, which UNICEF called “the worst crisis for children in its 75-year history.” A multicountry review showed increased behavior and mental health problems in nearly 80% of children.
UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2021 report underscores the severity of mental health challenges that children face which can potentially lead to disability, or worse, death.
It’s no wonder that in one survey, over 2/3 of parents feel that parenting is more challenging today.
“Parents today cannot apply all of the same principles that were used when they were growing up, because it was simply a different time. … Parenting in a different era warrants a review of what worked well in the past and is timeless, while also incorporating strategies that are appropriate for the changed times.” – McCrindle and Fell. (2021) Generation Alpha: Understanding Our Children and Helping Them Thrive