As a member of the millennial age group, it’s easy for me to look back at my life and the lives of other people my age and understand the challenges, technologies, and events that influenced our development into adulthood. We grew up side-by-side with technology like the iPod then eventually the iPhone. We were some of the first to experience social media and interact with a global, online community.

Yet, as much as I want to believe that we millennials are the most technologically sophisticated age group in the world today, there’s another generation that could soon take the title. Researchers are trying to define the age group of today’s youth, which they call Gen-Z, and find out how technology is changing the way they see the world and interact with its people.

Who are these youngsters?

The Washington Post recently published an article outlining the efforts of the Center for Generational Kinetics as they try and comprehend the minds of today’s youth. Depending on the people you talk to, Gen-Z ranges from 18-year-olds to the babies being born right now. The article explains that:

“They are the first to learn to navigate a tablet before they learned to talk, the first to conduct childhood friendships through portable devices, the first to have their births and baby photos and elementary school recitals shared on social media.”

The goal of the center’s study is a simple one – to try and understand how technology is affecting the way “Gen-Z’ers” communicate with each other and interact with the world today. The researchers spent time talking with small groups of kids and asking them questions about their online activity and their social media identities.

Learning how to communicate with the aging youth may seem interesting to the casual reading, but the issue becomes much more serious when you start talking to businesses wanting to understand how to connect with a new target audience.

The Power of Gen-Z

There’s a growing sense of urgency for marketers to understand the best and most effective ways to influence this generation not just for the sake or pushing product, but because Gen-Z represents a “significant turning point in societal evolution.” The article explains:

“This fall, the older members of Gen-Z will be able to vote for the first time (only 26 percent of them say that they trust elected officials, according to the center’s research). By 2019, tens of millions of Gen-Z’ers will enter the workforce. And by 2020, the young adults will wield roughly $3 trillion in purchasing power.”

The growing economic power of Gen-Z is quickly being felt by marketers. With the rapid speed that technology changes, it takes a dedicated person to stay up-to-date on all the latest industry standards. And while the study found that increased exposure to screens at a young age can cause shortened attention spans and stunted social skills, it also increases a person’s ability to multitask. Making the constant updates in today’s technology more manageable for this younger generation.

Defining Gen-Z

So how does Gen-Z stand out compared to the way businesses are marketing to other audiences or other generations? The study also compiled data from Baby Boomers, Gen X, and millennials in a national survey to compare the kinetics of each age group. The study explains the survey results:

“Gen-Z’ers are less idealistic and more thrifty than millennials, having grown up in the twin shadows of the recession and student debt crisis. When it comes to privacy on social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr or Twitter, the survey showed that teens are far less guarded than millennials and Gen X members. Members of Gen Z think that everyone should get a smartphone at age 13 and that it is acceptable to use it basically anywhere — at a family dinner, during a religious service, even at weddings (even their own weddings, the survey shows.)”

While the study’s researchers are taking the time to collect as much data as possible, the center admits that they’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to defining Gen-Z. The emotional and psychological impact of children being raised with easy access to technology is an issue that demands much more research and dedicated analysis.

For marketers looking to capitalize on another generation coming of age in the purchasing world, understanding where these young customers are and how they’re interacting with other businesses could mean the future of advertising.

Gen-Z Summary

It’s easy to look at today’s teenagers and criticize them for how much time they spend on their phones, but what many of us can’t understand is the impact technology has played on this generation’s development. They grew up watching their parents use their phone for everything from making phone calls to sharing videos with relatives. Gen-Z was raised in a cradle of technology, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they turn to their devices and online activity to live their lives.

The challenge for businesses and marketers is going to be communicating with this new generation. The ones that are able to connect with Gen-Z on their level will be the business that see success in the future.

If you’d like to read the entire article reviewing the results of the center’s study, click here.