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Less Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol for Generation Z But Their Vice of Choice Is As Dangerous
Young members of Gen Z take less risks than their millennial counterparts.
IMAGE COLLAGE BY SANDY ARANAS
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The media’s fixation with millennials and their baffling behavior—from their fondness for avocado toast to their delicate, ‘snowflake-like’ demeanor over social issues—has left out significant conversation about the next group of members of society, Generation Z or Gen Z, for short. Also known as the iGen, it is the first generation to grow alongside and to rely on the internet for its every convenience. Although there isn’t a definite age range for this group, it usually refers to those born in the late nineties to those born in the early 2010’s. One of the most prominent studies on this group of youngsters was conducted by psychologists Jean Twenge and Heejung Park, which juxtaposes the characteristics of three generations according to age and spans over 40 years of research.

Fewer teens are leaving the house, and when they do, they're with their parents.

Gen Z teens are not as caught up with the fantasy of being independent as much as the millennials or baby boomers were in that stage of their lives. They don’t care very much about going to the mall with their friends, unchaperoned. Their monthly mall trips see them trailing behind their parents while with peers. Research shows that the 12th graders of today (typically ages 17 to 19) go out only as much as eighth-graders did in the early 1990s. When they separate from family, they keep in constant contact with them regarding their whereabouts.

They’re also less likely to seek work during their free time.

The same study shows that Gen Z is less likely to seek work for pay at a young age. The earlier generations used to seek employment in their younger years—anything for a quick buck that allowed them freedom from having to ask their parents for money. The number of eighth-graders who sought work for payback then has dwindled by half in this generation, even if employment is readily available. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out in their future, in contrast with millennials, who are obsessed with owning their own businesses.

Instead, they spend the majority of their time on their phones.

Another plausible reason why this generation is called the iGen is a nod Apple’s iPhones and the prevalence of smartphones during its time. This generation is all about selfie filters, keeping up Snap streaks with friends on Snapchat, and perfecting Instagram posts. Members have never experienced a time without a smartphone or tablet in their hands and to them, gadgets are a way of life. Older generations had the chance to grow up without the convenience of always staying connected to everyone and having a world of information packed in a portable device.

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Gen Z drinks less alcohol and smokes less too.

Members of this generation are quite secure with their habits and find less enjoyment in experimentation with drugs, alcohol, and partying as their predecessors did. These variables have gone down for both American and British teens, even if illegal drugs have become more available now than ever.

Also down: the number of teen pregnancies, possibly due to the fact that fewer teens are dating these days. The percentage of high schoolers participating in sex has fallen by 10 percent than that number of American teens in 1991, which is definitely a positive progression.

But the more time members of Gen Z spend alone, holed up in their bedrooms and on their smartphones, the more prone to mental health issues they are.

What’s replaced the dependency on alcohol, drugs, or human companionship is the constant exposure to screen time. This generation relies on a different sort of affirmation—likes and shares. Social media has become a breeding ground for depression. Heavy social media users who spend about three hours of their day on their phones reportedly have more common symptoms of mental illness, as compared to those engaging more in face-to-face interaction and outdoor activities. Many parents may be quick to blame phone usage but the problem is rooted in the relatable teenage issue of missing out and feeling lonely, a statistic in Twenge’s study that is higher for girls of this generation than it is for the boys.

h/t: The Atlantic, Business Insider

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Hannah Lazatin
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