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We are the children of the X’ers and the younger siblings of the Y’s. We are obsessed with ourselves, some scholars say, naming us Generation Me. Others argue we are best defined by our dependence on and desperation for technology, titling us the iGeneration. We are unrivaled competitors, spoiled techies and avid multitaskers — a generation shaped by society, trying to shape society itself.
Wall Street used to symbolize America’s presence in the global economy. It was the place where the rich, the successful and the educated went to prove their worth. It was the center of global attention, the master bank of banks, the place that really ran the international economy.
With the recent protest, “Occupy Wall Street,” the icon that once mirrored the spirit of the American population shattered into a completely different façade — people today are unemployed, fed-up and rebellious. The economy is crumbling and everyone — even teens — know it.
Marvin Marshall, Ph.D., an education veteran and author said the teens in our generation are more hard-working and more competitive — especially when it comes to more education nowadays — because they have to be. Competition begins with academic courses fit to propel students further so they get the upper hand in the future.
“There were no AP classes whatsoever when I was here,” social studies teacher David Graham, Rock Bridge class of ‘86, said. Not many students took honors classes because “there weren’t a whole lot of honors sections to take.”
Two decades later, RBHS offers more than 15 AP classes ranging from the core class groups to the arts and foreign languages. Students, such as senior Jonas Gassmann, who take these classes, have the opportunity to get a head start on the competition.
Gassmann is taking five AP courses and plays varsity soccer.
Though he has a rigorous course load, Gassmann understands the value of education, saying that being well-educated is beneficial, especially when it comes to competition.
“It’s partly that I like to feel prepared, but it’s mainly because I’m a really competitive person in everything I do,” Gassmann said, “And I like to challenge myself to see the best I can do.”
In the near future, according to Penelope Trunk, co-founder of the career management tool for the next generation, Brazen Careerist, criteria like good grades and basic knowledge will become essential when applying for jobs.
Lumina Foundation for Education said fewer than two out of 10 high school graduates attended college before the 1950s. In the 1970s, 50 percent of high school graduates pursued postsecondary education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, college enrollment rose to an all-time high of 70.1 percent in 2009, but the unemployment of college graduates last year – 2.4 million – was the highest since the Bureau began keeping records in 1952.
Nowadays, many students put themselves in the competitive mind-set to mirror a society where jobs are scarce. With the increase of people seeking a higher education, getting a college degree no longer guarantees employment as it used to.
“Now you have to go to college and you have to prove yourself,” student teacher Mallory Weber said. “It’s no longer, ‘Oh, I have a degree.’ It’s ‘What did you do in college? What’s your grade point average? What other things did you do?’ It’s getting more and more competitive so you have to constantly be able to up your game so you can compete in the world that’s out there.”
The world is changing daily. Twenty years ago there were no iPhones, Wi-Fi or hybrid cars. Ten years ago Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not exist. The rapid rise of technology and the development of machines are taking over previously stable occupations held by humans, resulting in both the extinction of careers and the creation of new jobs.
“It’s really hard to get jobs at every level. You see very educated [people] working well below their qualifications. At the same time, machines and computers are replacing jobs,” Gassmann said. “So it’s definitely very competitive.”
To get the upper hand, Trunk wants to help teenagers find jobs in the future, encouraging them to begin preening themselves for the pick.
Trunk said survival of the fittest will come to play. People who teach themselves and have good social skills will prevail — the rest will soon disappear. In addition, students will have to adapt more quickly than before. The world is evolving and flexibility is important.
“If you have skills that the job market needs, it’s good,” Trunk said. “You should look at what the job market needs and build those skills.”
Teens of Generation Z are “likely to have at least five careers and more than 20 employers” because of the competitive atmosphere, social researcher Mark McCrindle, director of McCrindle Research said.
Caused not only by the rise in population but also by the after-effects of the recent (and perhaps ongoing) recession, surviving in the working world will become tougher.
“[This generation is] more … competitive because their parents don’t have the money to help them get started,” Trunk said. “Salaries are lower, and they’re not going to have the money to look around for jobs.”
Teens in Generation Z are also “more competitive because they’re better at self-learning” through easily available information brought on by the rise of technology.
Sites such as Google, Wikipedia and YouTube contain information accessible with a click of the mouse. Schools use databases like Angel and student e-mail to communicate with students. Teens take advantage of these to contact peers and complete assignments.
“It helps with doing homework – you’re not stuck with what [teachers] told you in class and what your parents know,” Gassmann said. “You can look online for help with homework.”
With the job market evolving so quickly, Weber believes the classes she took to become an educator and the lessons she will teach are still relevant in teens’ everyday lives — in the present and the future.
“Even though technology is taking over in a lot of ways,” Weber said, “the skills that we’re teaching in class to get you to think analytically and different kinds of writing skills will help you no matter what you take on because those skills are universal.”
Teens’ future livelihoods depend on how well they can master the needed talents in the job market.
“They need to develop skills they need,” Trunk said. “Because the job market is unforgiving if they don’t.”
By Daphne Yu
Senior Will Kinney’s excitement increased exponentially as he unwrapped his final Christmas present. His new iPad 2 joined his iPod and iPhone. The Apple logo was a common sight for Kinney, but each new gadget was more and more thrilling.
These up-to-date devices are a pricey expense, but Kinney does not believe ownership of them makes him spoiled.
“I think spoiled is a relative term. My family is just a firm believer in technology,” Kinney said. “I just think our generation has more opportunities available to us, so it may seem that we are spoiled when compared to our parents.”
Director of undergraduate social work at the University of Missouri—Columbia Kalea Benner, Ph.D., agrees it is hard to say whether or not kids are more spoiled today than in the past.
“A major difference is that it’s more obvious when it happens,” Benner said. “Material objects are always coveted by kids, and in today’s world there is certainly many to choose from.”
These new spoiled lifestyles correlate directly with new styles of parenting, which are much different than 20 years ago. Sophomore Brandi Smith believes movies and television shows display the past’s different style of parenting.
“On really old movies and stuff you can tell that parents are a lot less protective than they used to be,” Smith said. “I think parents are just really busy now because of demanding jobs so they don’t really know what’s going on with their kids.”
Although no one has determined one reason why parents are more relaxed, RBHS students agree this shift is apparent. Junior Justin McDaniel said it is shown through his generation’s openness in discussing their alcohol consumption.
“I know a lot of kids who talk to their parents about the parties they go to and what goes on at them,” McDaniel said. “It’s obvious that our parents’ parents wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. I just think our parents don’t think they can stop it, so it just happens.”
With the amount of access to pop culture our generation has, it is difficult for parents to protect their children from negative activity. Social media are available in any form, from television to music. The many technology options present new information to teenagers even if teenagers are not supposed to view it.
Sixty-seven percent of teenagers hide what they do online from their parents, according to www.facebook-parental-contol-reviews.com. On top of that, only 40 percent of parents are concerned with what their child will come across on a social networking site.
“The rate that technology develops allows for information to spread faster,” Kinney said. “There is greater knowledge of the benefits of education and embracing every opportunity that comes your way. It’s just the way parents deal with situations.”
The lack of attention from parents drives teens to push the boundaries further than ever. Benner said although communication is key to a successful relationship, it is often what is lacking in families.
“The most common problem is unrealistic expectations on behalf of the parents,” Benner said. “Parents often think that children should be expected to ‘know better,’ yet, depending upon the developmental age of the child, that can lead to many issues. A teenager should know about parental expectations yet peer influence is stronger than parental influence at some ages.”
With varied ways of communication, it is hard to tell whether or not teens are aware that they are pushing limits with their parents. Instead of wanting materialistic items, kids want love and affection, Smith said.
“So many parents think that if they get their kids want they want then they will obey them,” Smith said. “But that kind of makes kids starved for attention, so they rebel a lot more and try to get a reaction out of their parents.”
As technology increases and jobs continue to become more demanding, McDaniel predicts parenting will be even looser when he is an adult.
“I think that’s why parents are the way they are now because it’s impossible to shield their kids from reality now,” McDaniel said. “A lot of parents seem to have just given up with protecting their kids because they know they can’t. Boundaries are so easy to stretch and that allows us to keep pushing and pushing until we do get what we want. Once we start to push, then that becomes the norm, and once we get what we want, then we expect that.”
By Maddie Davis
Burke’s dependence on her cell phone encourages her to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as possible, transferring the speed of her technology to the speed of her lifestyle — a characteristic shared by 57 percent of teenagers, according to www.marketingcharts.com, who view their cell phones as key to their social lives.
Just two years into her cell phone usage, Burke is more than hooked. She wakes to its alarm, completes math homework with its calculator, documents her thoughts with its notepad application and catches up on her social media with its Internet.
As technology has evolved, cell phones have not just made landlines archaic; they have also compiled all aspects of life for this generation in a small, addicting handheld device.
“It is the first thing I do,” Burke said. “I check it all first before anything.”
Psychology professor at the University of Georgia Thomas Reeves, Ph.D., found Burke’s digital lifestyle is common for today’s teenagers.
“How members of your generation use their time has changed dramatically,” Reeves said.
This generation’s take on social media and technology has become a part of teens’ daily lives, which causes teens to make technology a priority. Reeves said this is why teens have problems getting off Facebook and their phones to study.
Burke’s cell phone is more than a routine part of her life, allowing her to stay connected even when occupied with other priorities such as class. She finds no reason why she cannot study and text at the same time.
“When I’m in a serious conversation and I really need to find out something, the urge is really hard to resist, and that’s all I think about,” Burke said.
Beyond communication other new features on mobile phones have replaced their non-digital counterparts, integrating cell phones into every facet of life. More and more, phones are a necessity rather than a convenience.
Students multitask every time they use digital media. The average use is seven hours and 40 minutes every day, according to the recent Kaiser Family Foundation report on Generation M2.
Reeves said spiraling usage of technology and multitasking cripples certain aspects of teenagers’ lives.
“With all this media exposure, combined with the lack of free time young people have today, your generation may not have the opportunities to develop the habits of critical reflection and intellectual curiosity to the same degree of earlier generations,” Reeves said.
Juggling jobs, clubs, volunteer positions, homework and athletics, teenagers rarely slow down.
Junior Carleigh Thrower, a member of RBRO, Young Moderates, the state-winning tennis team, an employee at Randy’s Frozen Custard and taking classes in broadcast journalism, photography and journalistic writing, exemplifies this busy lifestyle. She rarely finds time to just hang out with friends, she said, but staying busy keeps her motivated.
“I probably overextended myself, but I also love to be busy,” Thrower said. “If I don’t do anything, I just feel very sluggish. I like to have something to do every day that I have to work towards, like tennis and making money at my job.”
Fast-paced lifestyles are a defining part of this generation because of people’s out-of-proportion egos, Reeves said. Because of their inflated egos, teens make the incorrect assumption of thinking they are capable of handling much more than is reasonable.
Teens say they feel vital to society because of their dependence on social networking sites and constant task switching, creating a sense of arrogance to accompany the extreme lack of sleep and stress of this generation.
Reeves said teens won’t stop moving because of their need to multitask and broadcast their experiences; from Facebook, to sports, to texting to homework, teens live with anticipation of the day’s next activity.
“I love being able to talk to multiple people at once while doing other things,” Burke said. “Sometimes if you’re alone, it’s nice to have someone to text to keep you company.”
By Mahogany Thomas