It should not surprise us that a generation raised with technology would find new ways to use technology. Case in point: Google Docs. As a report noted today, teens use Google Docs to chat with each other and "collaborate" on docs that, say, rank their classmates.

It's not that surprising to me. I've been writing about the topic of the emerging generation for a while now, fascinated by how they use their phones, how they communicate, and how they will basically take over the workplace.

We're all just going to sit around and stare at them in amazement as they show total command of all gadgets and apps, putting us to shame. From an early age, they've enjoyed widespread access to technology in ways few of us can imagine. Google released the Docs suite way back in 2006--that's 13 years ago. If the typical Gen Z worker is now 23 or younger, it means they were raised by Google.

Why is it the app of choice?

For starters, Google Docs is not an obvious choice. Parents, teachers, and just about anyone on the planet thinks of Docs as a serious business app. It's incredibly dominant, widely available and totally legit, which means it is on school computers, phones, and laptops. It has an official stamp of approval. When you chat within a doc, it's also innocuous and subtle. You can pull up a homework assignment, but converse in a chat window without any effort at all. One click and the chat disappears. Close the doc and the chat also disappears--forever. It's basically the perfect chat app because no one suspects you would use it that way, and when you're done, nothing is ever saved.

Meanwhile, parents and teachers are playing whack-a-mole with other apps, especially the ones that seem like they could lead to illicit conversations. Snapchat started out that way but has arguably faded off into the distance. Guess what? Tech savvy Gen Z users are born hackers. It is in their DNA. If something can be hacked (even in a good way and for ethical purposes) they will hack it, use it, exploit it, and hide it from the general public. As we all assume teens are using Snapchat they are busy using business apps. How ingenious.

And, more power to them. When I found out that teens had figured out how Google Docs doesn't save your chat, I had another realization about how they will exploit other apps. Sure, we think they are watching videos on TikTok, but maybe they're sharing password protected videos on Vimeo instead. Microsoft is well-known as a powerhouse of enterprise computing. I've heard teens use SharePoint to upload memes and funny graphics.

It's almost like we're living in the future, a time when society in general has figured out how to use the squeaky clean apps and services, the ones sanctioned by parents, schools, and even the government, when in reality they are so smart they find backdoors. It defines the word hack. They are not taking something legit and hacking it for illicit purposes, they are merely using the everyday apps widely available and finding new ways to use them.

We think they are on Reddit posting in public or lurking on the Dark Web. In reality, they use the apps we all ignore and use in our jobs. They are hiding in plain site.

Published on: Mar 15, 2019
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