Craig Wilson

Meet generation Z, the digital natives who will shape the future

Two years ago I explained 'Why my kids will be the death of traditional media' whilst I watched my sons effortlessly move between their armoury of digital playthings. Two years later and they are even more web savvy and connected. My eight year-old now blogs from his Posterous site, displaying the latest videos he shot on a Flip Camera, edited himself on iMovie and posted to YouTube. He creates his own video games using Sploder and embeds them into his blog, which in less than a month has attracted thousands of views.

GENERATION ZHis friends are also digital natives who all chat online after school and rarely watch free-to-air TV. They download music and apps to their iPods and never turn on the radio.

Which brings me to a new study by Habbo Hotel, the world’s largest virtual community for teens, into Generation Z and their expectations for the future digital economy. The survey of more than 49,000 Australian children aged 11-18 found that the majority (55%) of respondents believe that the digital world will make traditional printed books, newspapers and magazines extinct, whilst, only 38% disagree.

Here are the major findings:

A Digital Content Diet

As the debate over how to make money from online content continues, it is clear that for the generation who has grown up in a digital playground, the future is mostly free. Almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents stated that currently they never pay for content, whilst a further 26 per cent are only willing to pay if there are no free channels available. In Spain and Italy 48 per cent of teenagers claim to never pay for content, compared to the UK where only 21 per cent are determined to access all of their content for free. This compared to 28 per cent in Australia.

Once young people have accessed their content, sharing doesn’t seem to be a priority, with only 23 per cent of respondents regularly sharing content online and 39 per cent rarely or never sharing. Of those that do share, the majority of content shared is music (54 per cent), games (35 per cent) and images (35 per cent).

Habbo hotel residents expect to access content through a range of mediums, with the majority unable to imagine a world without traditional TV or radio. The TV also joins the mobile phone as the device that Generation Z would be most upset to live without – ranking higher than content streaming or the downloading of MP3s. However, whilst the TV remains a relevant and important medium to this media-savvy generation, traditional print media (newspapers, magazines and books) won’t fair as well with 55 per cent of respondents saying that they will be extinct either very soon or some day in the future. Only 18 per cent feel that printed media will always have a place.

Digital Safety

Online safety is a concern for Generation Z. The survey findings show that schools and parents have the most influence in terms of educating young people about responsible and safe online behaviour. The Habbos surveyed stated that they learn most about online safety at school (29 per cent) or with family (20 per cent). Friends only represented 10 per cent. This compares to Australian teens where school, family and friends represented 43 per cent, 11 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

55 per cent explained that they feel fairly safe in most online environments, yet 19 per cent state that they don’t feel safe in lots of online spaces. 61 per cent of those teens questioned felt that online safety would become increasingly important in the future; whilst a quarter feel it will be as important in the future as it is now.

A Digital Community

For Generation Z, interacting online is second nature and is as important as interacting in the real world. Over a third (34 per cent) of those surveyed thought that in the future physical meetings would decrease to be replaced with online interaction. When asked about where virtual worlds could be utilized in the future, 55 per cent of respondents said ‘home’ – suggesting that we may soon be creating a virtual home where we interact with our families online rather than just visiting a virtual world.

The study also shows how teens are incorporating a new internet vernacular within their vocabulary. SMS and online chat abbreviations are being used alongside more traditional language. Over a third of those surveyed (34 per cent) felt that the informal language they use online could be transferred into offline situations and used as they grow up. 29 per cent still believe that they need to speak more formally in offline contexts while 31 per cent felt that they needed to stop using abbreviations outside of the internet.

Beyond the impact on language, the teens questioned felt that the internet is having an impact on education, with 46 per cent of teens believing that virtual worlds will one day be used regularly in schools. Teens also prefer the digital approach to learning with 43 per cent of those questioned finding it easiest to learn from the internet. Only 16 per cent chose books as their preferred way of learning new things whilst 38 per cent liked to use a combination of the two.

With 64 per cent of the teens questioned claiming that online interaction has improved their confidence, it comes as no surprise that Generation Z are building social networks beyond those which are physically within reach – the majority of teens having between 100 and 200 online friends.

Jeff Brookes, Regional Director Asia Pacific, Sulake commented, “This global study provides a clear indication of the way the internet is impacting the lives of Generation Z and how it will go on to shape the future. In the past ten years we have seen the digital landscape change dramatically and it is the current generation of teenagers who are at the forefront of this.”


Posted by Praz Hari, 19 October 2010

Brilliant post, I think Gen Z alongside the 3rd billionth entering the internet economy will change the face of both the Media and Internet forever.


Craig Wilson Sticky Advertising Craig Wilson
Company: Sticky Advertising
Position: Managing Director
Craig is managing director of Sticky, a digitally-focused agency based in Newcastle, Australia. Sticky helps corporate marketers implement INBOUND MARKETING strategies to get found online, attract new prospects and turn traffic into sales. This includes SEO, social media and conversion strategies Read Craig's full bio

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