Perhaps the time has come to truly understand the emerging generation: Generation Alpha. A generation of children who have been born into a world of technology, introduced to the iPad at a very early age – children who know not a world without internet, and most interestingly, children who are growing up in the age of Covid-19.
The Alpha Generation
The Alpha Generation are young children who are already different from their predecessors in terms of immersion with technology and the internet.
The world of generation alpha is a complete immersion of technology in all its forms, whereby Drone Delivery, Augmented Reality, Self-driving Cars, Electric Vehicles, Smart Homes, Robots, Cashless Society and Embedded Technologies are a given.
How could we expect the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic may impact this generation, that is already naturally more attuned to technology. How can we expect the experience with online schooling, zoom classes, lockdowns, social distancing and virtual activities will impact the development of the Alpha Generation into adulthood?
Let’s take a deep dive into the generation together here.
Who are the Alpha Generation?
Children of Generation Y or the youngest siblings of Generation Z, Generation Alpha is set to be one of the largest generation with strong influence on household income and spending since a very young age.
“If Generation Alpha possesses similar behaviours, attitudes and beliefs to that of their parents, then to win a certain segment of millennial consumers (millennial parents), we must target Generation Alpha.” – Googlesource: forbes.com
Being born into technology and internet, this generation are born with brand influence and purchasing power. They know what in-game purchases, subscription fees and online e-wallets are, before the tender age of 10.
By 2020 and 2021, this Generation will be moving into young adulthood (teenage years) and the past year of lockdowns, social distancing and home schooling has just turbo-charged how these children interact with the world, society and their peers through technology.
The Alpha Generation are born between 2010 to 2025. The youngest of this generation are born into a world of face masks, alcohol sprays and limited social contacts.
Why are they called the Alpha Generation?
They are the first generation to be born in an entirely new century, the 21st century. Alpha is the first letter of the greek alphabet. There has been other nicknames, but officially known as the Alpha Generation or Alpha Gen for short.
Otherwise, also referred to as Generation Hope, Net Generation, Generation Glass and on a slightly saddened tone, there’s an increasingly use of the term Generation Covid to refer to a sub-group born 2016 onwards.
Alpha – not a return to the old, but the start of something new. – Mark McCrindlesource: generationalpha.com
Characteristics of the Alpha Generation
How has nature and nurture, the environment, technology and socio-political impact molded this generation thus far, and how could we expect this generation to develop into adulthood?
Some notable characteristics, driven by technological devices, which also brought about the nickname Generation Glass is definitely worth covering in more detail here.
With reference to McCrindle’s research and paper on the generation, while being introduced to screens at an early age meant that they will be equipped to handle the inevitable tsunami of technology in the future, it also poses lots of challenges during their developmental years.
According to the research and report, the timing at which Generation Alpha is coming of age has made it so that they are unintentionally part of a global experiment that involves placing screens in front of children at a very young age. The introduction of screens and technology during their developmental and formative years has a role on how these children develop.
Consequently, there’s been controversy over the pros and cons of children’s use of technology and devices for years already. Opinions set aside, based on the paper, the result of screen time from an early age impacts not only the individual child but how society will form as a whole in the future.
From shorter attention spans to the gamification of education, from increased digital literacy to impaired social formation, these times impact us all but transform those in their formative years. Generation Alpha been raised as “screenagers” to a greater extent than the fixed screens of the past could facilitate. For this reason, we also call them Generation Glass.
There will certainly be some positives, but like any other generation would, it will provide Generation Alpha with some unique challenges.source: generationalpha.com
From a marketer’s and business point of view, understanding the psychology behind this emerging generation and what kind of influence they have over their parents is more than about sales figures, but about being able to truly provide product and services that matter.
For example, if you were an education establishment, understanding that this growing group of children are likely to be more tech savvy then their predecessors, are more likely have shorter attention span, will also likely posses higher multi-tasking ability, and possibly need less social validation to build self-esteem, will go a long way in providing what really matters to support the future leaders.
Another example is that they may very well be more prone to short-sightedness. So, if you were an optic shop, finding and marketing new products that fit children better, such as super flexible frames, or more efficient ways to measure eye-sight means you are solving a direct need, and at the same time will naturally help boost your brand.
Impact of Covid-19 on the Alpha Generation
1 – Resilience: At a young age, children learn through observation. As much as parents, teachers, guardians and other adults involved in the lives of these children try to hide it, anxiety, frustration, fear, as well as determination, patience, and grit are some of the emotional highs and lows felt and observed by the Alpha Gen during the Coronavirus pandemic.
What is learnt during their developmental years is ‘resilience’, in other words elasticity and the ability to spring back from very low places, because that is what they are likely to have observed their parents and guardians do every day over an extended period of time.
2 – Digital Literacy: While this particular generation is born into the world of technology, internet and connectivity, the social distancing measures, stay home campaigns, and lockdowns have only encouraged the Alphas to immerse deeper into their gadgets and screens. It is very likely that this generation will grow up to be the highest digitally literate generation compared to Gen Z and the Millennials, who although had a fair share of experience with technology, were not put into the position of reliance on tech such as Zoom learning, during their early developmental years.
Over time, digital literacy for this generation may very well be more than just a learned skill but develop into an instinctive skill.
3 – Non-Conformist: For the older Alphas who are probably between 8-11 years old during the Covid-19 pandemic to-date, their development would have been different than previous generations. It is during this time that children learn a lot about what are socially acceptable behaviour (so to speak), and seek to self-affirm themselves by taking cues from peers. In other words, these cues can be called social judgements. Whether we like it or not, it is how society has been formed for centuries.
The minimal experience most children have with this type of learning about social norms and conformity, suggests they are likely to grow up as non-conformists; potentially they may exhibit more independent thinking, defy or even re-define what is considered socially acceptable and the norms of connecting in society in the future.
4 – Information-Packed: The Alpha Generation are children who have access to the internet and all the information that comes with it. Whether they spend more time playing games, or reading interactive stories, and connecting with friends via social platforms, information is free flowing. In this way, the generation is set to be one of the most information-packed generation with a wide breadth of knowledge across borders, cultures and language. Anything that is virtual, is ultimately within their reach.
5 – Live First: The Alpha Generation would have seen their parents and adults in their lives struggle during the Covid-19 era that spans years to come until the economy slowly and gradually recovers. In this way, they would have learned the importance of ‘living life when you can’. Along with the army of information and world knowledge at their disposal, we can expect this generation to delay marriage, work, and other life milestones to truly live life first. We may very well expect the Alpha Generation to be living with their parents and guardians well into their 20s and 30s or beyond, considering the need to live life first and the stronger bond that were created with their parents during the Covid-19 era.
Catering to the Alpha Generation
In conclusion, catering the right products and services to the Alpha Generation, means to really understand the environment that they grew up in. You can expect to see the generation grow into individuals that seek product and service information themselves as oppose to word-of-mouth. Potentially, they may prefer anything that is technology-backed and can be purchased virtually.
And most importantly, the patience they have had to learn during their early years as their families struggle in varying degrees to meet with the global crisis, would mean they are set to become masters at delaying gratification. They can wait.