The oldest members of Generation Alpha are 11 years old right now. They can most probably beat you in any video game on any device, will find information online more quickly – and will, unfortunately, trust the internet more than they trust you.
Considering that they are the first completely 21st Century generation, this is to be expected – the iPad came out in 2010, after all, meaning they have never known a world without tablets.
In the same way that they develop everyday relationships with family members, this group has grown accustomed to interacting with technology like AI devices and Alexa from a very early age.
So, who are Generation Alpha?
Australian social researcher Mark McCrindle coined the term in 2005. He defined the generation as those born after 2010.
How are they different from previous generations?
We’re used to mentions of Millennials, Generation Z, and digital natives. But what separates Generation Alpha is that members of this cohort are the first truly digitally immersed humans who were born into an environment of smartphones, tablets, and various other gadgets.
Our research showed that Generation Alpha started speaking with smart devices at the age of six, and could use a tablet before they were four. 61% have their own tablets, and 49% own their smartphone.
Think about it this way; if you want to correct the behavior of an Alpha, you’re more likely to succeed by taking away their devices than using other methods. Long gone are the days of grounding or sending them to their room. In fact, some might prefer going to their room if that involves being connected to the internet and their peers. Being sent to your room doesn’t have the same effect when you are a click and a swipe away from anyone you want to talk to.
According to our research, 46% of 6–11-year-olds have an active social media account, despite age restrictions, and 32% like, swipe, and text on their smartphones daily.
In terms of the most popular ways to stay in touch, over a third of 6-11-year-olds surveyed are on WhatsApp – with a whopping 73% of 11-year-olds well-versed in this channel. SMS isn’t far behind, with a third (29%) of Generation Alpha still using this more traditional texting method and a third (33%) using Facetime.
What does this all mean?
This generation operates multiple channels on multiple devices – the first truly connected and omnichannel generation.
Whether in Preston or Paris, Lausanne or London, the children of Generation Alpha rely on digital tools to learn and play, which influences the way they develop and see the world around them. From the age of just 18 months, children can understand the difference between a robot and a human: they recognise that only humans have a conscious goal, but the fact remains that they are interacting more with their smartphones and tablets than with some of their own family members.Catherine Thevenot, Professor in Cognitive Developmental Psychology at the University of Lausanne
While the impetus is on the adults in their lives to guide them to use digital tools in the most positive and safe way possible – both in the home and the classroom – brands and influencers should also consider how they can curate digital experiences that will enrich this future generation as potential employees and active citizens. It’s about striking the right balance between virtual and real-life activities.
Unlike previous generations, they were born into the digital world – and this will have an unprecedented impact on their development, psychology, and, as Professor Thevenot commented, the way they see the world around them.
Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic – a critical event that will shape and define the Alpha generation, will only reinforce and augment this reliance on smart devices and digital communication.
What this means in terms of being ready for their arrival and active participation in society, only time will tell. But one thing is certain; this generation will have more experience and higher expectations of how technology can serve them than previous generations.
If businesses are not prepared, they will not just lose a few customers and clients – the entire generation will simply walk by without even noticing them.
Preparing for the customer of 2030
When thinking about how to capture the attention of Generation Alpha, you shouldn’t just think about their mindset or their likes and preferences. This isn’t a typical generational challenge; engaging Alphas will be a technological challenge!
Digital transformation, a term thought of as overused by some, has become an obligatory requirement for every type of business – and having the right tools and channels will be essential if you want your business to thrive, not only now but in the decade ahead.
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