Quick question: How old should you be before you get your first smartphone?
But guess what you'd have said if you were from the up-and-coming Gen-Z (otherwise known as "the kids these days" or "the kids you'll be hiring in a decade"--today's pre-teens and teenagers)?
Yup, 13. Kids these days are four times more likely to say you should have your first smartphone by age 13 (middle school or junior high) than the average of the other generations, according to a study by The Center for Generational Kinetics.
I think it's trending even younger; the research report predicts "it will soon be commonplace for elementary school children to have them."
Soon? I'm a mother of an elementary school kid. Believe me, it's already commonplace.
So be prepared. If you think the Millennials are tech-savvy and glued to their screens, watch out for this generation coming up. They are not just tech savvy or even, as the Millennials have been called, tech dependent, they are tech immersed.
They don't remember a time before tablets, smartphones, Facetime, Google. They don't just use the three screens typical of Millennials and Boomers, they often use as many as five at a time (smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and iPod/iPad).
For them, there is no standard screen, social-media site, or interface--they adapt quickly, use multiple sites, and want their information, games, and programs to be available on all platforms. As a business, you need to be just as flexible, just as fast to adapt, and just as ubiquitous.
The tech immersion isn't just that they rely on technology a lot. It's woven into their entire lives. Home, school, after-school activities. At school, they learn via online classes. They don't write down their homework, they snap a picture of it. They socialize, Snapchat, and Twitter with their classmates. All the time.
When my 10-year-old son wanted lunch the other day, he didn't just tell me he was hungry, he told me his "hunger bars are low," as if he were a character in a video game.
This generation will put companies that don't adapt out of business.
They're used to instant answers, so don't expect them to look up anything in a book or have to wait in line or send in a request for information. They're also kids who've purchased and shopped online their entire life, so don't expect them to go to the shopping mall to do anything other than hang out at the food fair.
All of them would think nothing of looking up a competitive price right in front of the store clerk. (Yes, all of them). They price shop, and they don't mind telling you about it.
Any trends in how technology is used--from banking and learning to dating and entertainment--will be driven by this generation. The kids these days.
How do I know? Research is telling us technological adaptation, for the first time in history, starts at the younger generation and moves on to the older generation.
Think about it--for those of you Gen-Xers cool and savvy enough to be on Instagram and Snapchat and Vine (which Gen-Z prefers over Facebook)--wasn't it your kids (or grandkids) that turned you on to it?
Jason Dorsey, a Gen-Z researcher and the lead writer on the study I mentioned at the beginning of this post, tells a great story in his TEDx talk about what happened when Grandma finally jumped on Facebook (hint: it lost a lot of its coolness factor).
Gen-Z is also the most diverse and global generation ever. Not only are these kids going to school with an ethnically diverse mix of classmates, they are online and connected all over the world.
Yesterday, my kids were playing video games. They had the game running on multiple screens, their local friends not only participating as online characters, but also connected on Facetime. Then I heard them talking about other kids I didn't recognize.
It turns out they were playing against a group of Indonesian boys. My suburban home had become a spontaneously organized hub of international game play.
I've heard them talking about a boy from Belgium they saw online and how they'd practiced their French with him, and a girl from Denmark who they can only play with on the weekend because of the time zone differences (she seems to be new to the game, and they are helping her find good costumes for her character).
Businesses, take heed. There are many opportunities for global cooperation, expansion, and trade. This generation will embrace it and be ready for it. They might even bring you the opportunities themselves. Listen to them.
Because you ain't seen nothing yet.