Gen Alpha is the youngest generation on the planet, but they're already leaving their mark.
Gen Alpha began using technology at an early age, and it has heavily influenced their lives.
Parents say their Gen Alpha children will be better off than they were, except when it comes to mental health.
After reigning supreme over internet culture throughout the 2010s, millennials have in recent years been overtaken by Gen Z. The younger generation — mostly in their teens and early 20s — have been at the forefront of new social media platforms and trends, rendering many aging millennials outdated.
But Gen Z's cultural cachet won't last forever, and it seems they're in the process of being overtaken as we speak: by Generation Alpha.
You might have an iPad gathering dust in a drawer that was manufactured before some of the oldest members of the generation were born in 2010. But even though they're young, they are already starting to make their mark online.
While there are slightly differing definitions of the exact years that comprise Gen Alpha, the bulk of them are under 13 years old. The oldest are just entering their teen years, and the youngest have yet to be born. Children born from 2025 onwards will be known as "Gen Beta."
Because Gen Alpha are children of millennials and older Gen Zers, who have heavily influenced their outlook on the world, they've sometimes been dubbed "mini-millennials."
Gen Z has seemingly picked up on some of the wry nihilism and anti-consumerist tendencies of their Gen X parents, but Gen Alpha is much more likely to mirror some of the brand loyalty and nostalgia of their millennial parents, wrote Heather Dretsch, an assistant professor of marketing at North Carolina State University.
However, they have their own set of distinctive traits, and even Gen Z is confused by Gen Alpha's emerging sense of humor. After spending many of their formative years online, members of Gen Alpha are already starting to develop their own meme culture. "Skibidi toilet," a video series about singing toilet creatures, is one of the most popular Gen Alpha memes.
Many Gen Zers and millennials have expressed confusion over these videos, which has drawn attention to Gen Alpha. Here's what we know about this buzzy new generation, and how they live.
Gen Alpha began using technology at a younger age than any other generation, which might have drawbacks
Gen Alphas have grown up surrounded by technology, and they are considered to be the most "digitally native" generation yet, according to Insider Intelligence.
Less flatteringly, they're also sometimes referred to as "iPad kids" by older generations because of the amount of time they spend staring at screens. More than half of Gen Alpha owns iPads, according to a Morning Consult study published in March.
Because they tend to have access to lots of devices, Gen Alphas are used to focusing on multiple screens at once. While this has made them more adept at scanning for information, an increasing number of children have reported that they struggle to focus on one screen-based activity at a time, according to a study published in March by the British media regulator Ofcom.
Having been born in the social media era, many have also had their personal stories, photographs, and videos posted online by their parents since their birth — a practice known as "sharenting." But having your most developmental years broadcast to an audience can have its drawbacks.
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a New Jersey-based author and clinical psychologist specializing in parenting and child development, told Insider that constantly posting photos online could heighten children's self-focus and make them feel that being "ordinary" isn't enough, which could negatively impact their mental health. "The idea that 'I have to be extraordinary or I'm worthless,' it's very, very dangerous," she said.
Many Gen Alphas may struggle in social situations
Most Gen Alphas were forced to quickly adapt to spending years of their childhoods learning in remote classrooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
While it will take years for the repercussions of these lockdowns to become fully apparent, many parents have reported that the switch harmed children's social, emotional, and behavioral well-being.
Kennedy-Moore said that lockdowns have led to many children being less able to deal with conflicts and "the normal bumps and bruises of interacting with other people" because they've had less practice with it.
"They've had way too much time staring at themselves on Zoom and not having the opportunity to interact," she told Insider.
Spending their developmental years separated from their peers could become one of the defining and uniting experiences of the generation.
The internet has changed the way the Gen Alpha socializes
Many Gen Alpha children are permanently connected online, which has changed the way they socialize. Almost half of children between the ages of 8 and 11 talk to their friends online while they play games, according to a 2022 study by consumer research platform GWI.
In March 2022, Jeff Danley, who worked as the director of innovation at advertising company VMLY&R, told The Drum that gaming has become the "most social ecosystem on the planet," and that Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite have been highly successful in facilitating social experiences that bring young people together.
As well as using games and online platforms to talk to friends they already know, Gen Alpha is also using them as a way to develop new friendships. Nearly a quarter of Gen Alpha parents said their children have friends they've met online who they have never met in person, according to the Morning Consult study.
When it comes to using social media, most children spend their time watching content as opposed to posting it, according to the Ofcom study. It also highlighted that social media feeds are becoming increasingly dominated by professionalized content, which can lead to feelings of self-consciousness when it comes to posting online, making some more likely to interact using private chat apps instead of public feeds, limiting these opportunities for connection.
Gen Alpha faces an uncertain future, but they are getting more guidance from their parents
Parents are generally positive regarding the future of their Gen Alpha children. Most said that modern-day internet access and technology have meant that Gen Alpha children are better off than they were in almost every aspect, according to Morning Consult's study. Mental health was the only aspect that parents thought they were better off in than their Gen Alpha children.
According to the 2022 US National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, nearly 20% of children aged 3 to 17 have a "mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder," and emergency department visits for children aged 5 to 11 relating to mental health increased by 24% from 2019 to March-October 2020.
Parents are trying to address these problems by being open with their children, and almost half of parents have talked to their Gen Alpha children about their own experience with mental health, according to the Morning Consult report.
Experts are divided on what's to blame for Gen Alpha's mental health issues. Joanne Fidler (aka Lily-Jo) a UK-based counsellor and founder of a child and teen mental health advocacy group wrote in The Independent that she believed Gen Alpha's mental health could be impacted by today's "overwhelmingly online culture" that normalizes children having unbridled access to all corners of the internet.
But Kennedy-Moore said she thinks these concerns may come from parents having more awareness about mental health than previous generations. She also suggested that parents might actually be making things worse in an attempt to protect their children.
"Parents are doing all kinds of things to prevent kids from feeling anxious. The problem with that is that avoidance makes anxiety grow," she said. "All children deserve to struggle so that they can learn. They are strong enough to do that."
She emphasized the importance of being gentle to parents who are raising Gen Alpha children. "Parents are seeing our world divide more and more into the 'haves' and 'haves nots.' Of course they feel anxious about their children's future, and they want to do everything possible to ensure their children have a good future," she said.
We continue to learn more and more about Gen Alpha
From what we have seen so far, Gen Alpha is set to be the most digital-forward, diverse generation yet. Some parents have suggested that Gen Alpha children are especially brave and authority-defying compared to previous generations and that they are also defying gender norms.
Still, members of Gen Alpha are still children and they are changing and developing rapidly. By the time the oldest members of Gen Alpha reach adulthood around 2030, their perspectives may have shifted significantly. They may also have markedly different traits from the youngest members of the generation, who are still yet to be born.
Kennedy-Moore emphasized that none of us can actually know how Gen Alpha will turn out as adults.
"Even just thinking in the last five years, none of us could have imagined any of the events that have happened that have deeply shaped our society and ourselves," she said. "We don't know what the future is going to hold for them."
Read the original article on Insider