What do you make of a generation of young children who don’t want a puppy?
They want an iPad instead.
Welcome to Generation Alpha, “the tech-savvy young children of millennials whose rising influence could soon make Gen Z an afterthought.” As a recent article in Advertising Age revealed, “they’re already playing an outsize role in household buying decisions, even though the oldest among them are only 9 years old.”
A bit of generational catch-up.
The three big generational groups that most are familiar with are Baby Boomers, followed by Baby Busters (Generation X), followed by Millennials (Generation Y).
The newest cohort receiving attention is Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2010. My own book, Meet Generation Z, was designed to introduce their distinguishing marks – currently the largest of the generations – and how they can be reached for Christ.
Generation Alpha, arguably too early to name and too early to designate, are those born beginning in 2010 (the same year Apple debuted the iPad).
And while early in the generational game, there are some interesting characteristics to take note of. Here are three:
- They are more comfortable swiping a tablet or speaking to a voice assistant than most of their adult relatives. Hotwire issued a report that found that 81% of parents in the U.S. say the habits and needs of their children influenced their last technology purchase. “This makes them a critical gateway for marketers looking to get in good with their parents.” Fitbit, Crest and Walgreens are already developing “Alpha strategies.”
- They are going to be a large generation. Mark McCrindle, a social researcher in Australia who coined the phrase “Generation Alpha”, estimates that more than 2.5 million of them are born every week. He also sets 2025 as the last year Alphas will be born. By then, McCrindle estimates there will be more than 2 billion. This will slightly eclipse even Generation Z, which will reach 1.8 billion globally at that time.
- They will be a well-equipped generation. “Generation Alpha will be the most formally educated generation ever,” says McCrindle, “the most technologically-supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever.”
Anything beyond these three broad assessments lies in the realm of prediction, such as the idea that most of them won’t start having children until at least 13 years after graduating from high school. Or that “more than one in three Alpha women will never have children.” Or that while they will live longer than earlier generations due to medical intervention, “they will experience more health problems largely related to increasingly sedentary lives.”
Um… the oldest member of Generation Alpha is nine. I don’t think they are thinking about when, or if, they are going to start having children.
But McCrindle is probably wise with his suggested name for this new generation. It’s not just about starting the alphabet over again (After “Z”, where else is there to go?), but also to “signify this different generation will be raised in a new world of technological integration.”
We’re only just beginning to learn what that means for Generation Z. It will be fascinating or terrifying (or both) to watch it unfold even more organically among Alphas.
James Emery White
Adrianne Pasquarelli and E.J. Schultz, “Move Over Gen Z, Generation Alpha Is the One to Watch,” Advertising Age, January 22, 2019, read online.
“Generation Alpha,” Hotwire, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.