Noticing Gen Z and the Tweens of Gen Alpha, Part 3

They are not like previous generations.

This generation is different. Says someone who has been there with teens since the 1980s. I as a youth pastor have worked with teens in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and now the 2020s. (Read about these different decades here.) So I say confidently that this Gen Z and the new tweens of Gen Alpha are very different. This Information Age and the smart devices have changed adolescence. This is a good and bad thing. Join me in this series at the odd wonder of what is going on. Your heart will break and you will find inspiration.  I believe in teens.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 4.

“This is a sentiment I often sense from my generation, Gen Z—especially in recent years. I see it in the YouTube videos of old concerts that get millions of views. I see it in our fascination with polaroids, vinyls, vintage cameras, and VHS tapes.”

–Freya India,

So Gen Z is using their power to bring these things back.

Gen Z is purchasing vinyl record albums. They are listening to full albums in the song order that the artist created the album to be, and reading all of the album liner notes too. Swifties alone account for 1 out of every 15 vinyl record sales. Source.

Gen Z is reading more books. The books they are reading are actual books, not digital versions. They are also returning to hanging out in libraries. They like the quiet of those luddite spaces. Source.

Landlines are becoming a thing again? Teens actually want to be tied down to a corded phone plugged into a wall? So the trend says. Source. The pursuit of landline phones is a popular antique hunt but you don’t have to only look in antique stores. Urban Outfitters, Best Buy and Target are selling new ones looking straight out of The Brady Bunch. Of course, marketers are capitalizing their own profits again after capitalizing on us getting rid of our landlines.

Maybe they are simply tired of the digital overload. Maybe they grieve the more innocent time they were robbed of due to the social media invasion on their lives.

Parents, you can now not be shocked when your teen asks you to get that landline installed again. Act like you knew this was coming.

Many Gen Zers are keeping their phones on “do not disturb” all of the time. 90% of Gen Z report feeling anxious about talking to someone on the phone. Source. They are carrying a smart phone but don’t want to use it as a phone.

Though some are no longer carrying smart phones, intentionally. Dumbphones are back. Source. The New Yorker has declared that dumbphones are a burgeoning cottage industry. Source. A dumbphone is a basic, ’90s-inspired cellphone without the vortex of apps that contribute to high screen times.

Parents, research all of the good options for dumbphones so you are ready when your teen asks for this. Act like you knew this was coming.

I love these lines from that The New Yorker article,

“So many hours of each day are lived through our portable, glowing screens, but the Internet isn’t even fun anymore. We lack the self-control to wean ourselves off, so we crave devices that actively prevent us from getting sucked into them.”

The internet isn’t fun anymore. We are all noticing the toll on our souls.

There are so many good books and good articles on why the internet isn’t fun anymore. Read them. Listen to the many podcast interviews. Acknowledge this out loud too. Say the words out loud, “The internet isn’t fun anymore.” You will sound like a prophet or like the one who said what everyone else is thinking.

Teens aren’t the happiest age group anymore either. Even with all of the awkwardness of adolescence, these are still the best years of their lives as teens make so many first-time memories. This reality has led to the idealization of adolescence. I’m guessing you have even idealized some of your teen memories as “the best times ever.”

Hopefully today’s teens will be able to do that too…still. But they have just been declared the saddest generation. After twelve years in which young people aged 15 to 24 were considered happier than previous generations, in recent years the trend has reversed, with the depression rate among the youngest increasing by over 50% between 2010 and 2019 in North America and Western Europe. According to Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, young people are facing levels of depression comparable to those faced during a midlife crisis. Source. No one wants a mid-life crisis at age 15!

Yes, social media and smartphones are to blame.

Gen Z is using their power to change this.

Read this article about some Gen Zers who are taking on the social media cartels. The title of it is “The Youth Rebellion is Growing.” I’ve been writing about this rebellion since 1990. Maybe now.

Most teen girls consider themselves below average mostly because they’ve been on social media at too young of an age and social media is all about looks. How cruel is this! Puberty is awkward. There are early bloomers who have to live through lots of awkward. There are late bloomers who have their own awkward. This has always been true. Ask Marcia Brady, who was beautiful and didn’t know it. And who helped us awkward teen girls normalize these feelings. (I was there for the first-run of The Brady Bunch.) Social media has amped up this comparison problem with the barrage of filtered photos. Who can compare in real life to the filter? Or now the AI-created friend? Especially because the teen brain is developing?

How many of you adults already regret the filtered photos you have posted in social media world?

I feel like I’m triggering every parenting fear that you have. What I want you to notice LOUDLY is that you are already regretting the filtered photos you have published. These regrets are being learned at a younger age and because Gen Z believes they can change the world, they are actively seeking NOW to live this life differently. Parents, don’t be crippled with your regrets. Start coming alongside the “crazy” ideas your teens are having because they want to change this world that was handed to them.

I wish all of their “crazy” ideas came from a biblical worldview. Ask the good questions with your teen to steer these ideas into that biblical worldview. The way of Jesus is already fascinating to this generation. Jesus is a radical figure that is causing aspiration. Jesus does care about climate change too because he is the creator of the climate.

Please don’t minimize these fears of climate change. 2023 was the hottest summer ever on record. Weird weather patterns continue. Environmental refugees will increase. These are people who will lose their homes because of climate change. This issue is complex and involves more than just the ozone problem. This is affecting real vulnerable people which you should be proud that your teen cares about.

I have a young adult sometimes attending my church. She became intrigued with Jesus, purchased her own Bible, and has begun reading it. She cold-called contacted me when she started having questions about what she is reading. She has zero church background to figure out what a parable is, for example. She gives me hope because she is a real person exemplifying what I’ve been praying for. She also told me that becoming a Christian is way easier these days thanks to social media. Social media is what directed her to recognize what the longing inside of her soul was and how to purchase her Bible.

So thank God for social media? Yes, also.  

I have so many more observances, research links, and wisdom from my 40+ years of believing in teens. Please continue to read this series. Trust me, I see hope everywhere.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 4.


New Bible Study:  Trust Issues with God With Video

Life is unfair. When the unfair thing happens, we look for a reason, a solution, a purpose, justice. These are all things we expect from God. When God doesn’t deliver when we expect or need him to, there is a gap in our understanding of who God is. This Bible study is to help you fill in that gap with trust over suspicion by exploring the truths of the Bible, both individually and in a group setting.

Order here: