iGen: Read This Book!

iGen cover

A different review is available here: http://hackscience.net/blog/?p=269

Twenge, J. M. (2017). iGEN: why today’s super-connected kids are growing up less rebellious, more tolerant, less happy– and completely unprepared for adulthood and (what this means for the rest of us). New York: Atria Books.

For several years, educators have been hearing about (and teaching) Millennials. This term was applied to the generation that were children around the turn of the century, they were the first to grow up in a world dominated by information technology.

Psychologist Jean Twenge has been studying your people for decades, and has documented important trends which, she suggests, are differentiating today’s young people (the examples she gives range from 11 to 23) from Millennials. She proposes iGen as the name for this new generation and in this very readable book, she documents important and drastic changes in young people’s behavior that have marked the last few years. While this is written for popular audiences, thus is not as well-referenced as I would prefer, Twenge provides evidence the iGen is growing up slowly compared to previous generations, and they are characterized by a collection of terms that begin with “I” and that describe the chapters:

Internet– they are always online with their smartphones;
In-person no more– they socialize in-person far less than even the Milllenials;
Insecure– this generation has greater rates of mental illness than other generations;
Irreligious– both in formal attendance in in the reduced reporting of spirituality;
Insulated– they are among they are very safe and expect to be unchallenged;
Income insecure- which means they tend to see education as a way to “get a better job;”
Indefinite– in their commitment to serious relationships;
Inclusive– as they tend to accept diverse lifestyles;
Independent– in their political affiliations (or lack thereof).

Throughout, Twenge correlates these trends with the arrival or smartphones in this generation’s packets, and she argues that there is a causal link. This is especially distressing with regards to the insecurity of this generation. It appears the smartphones and the social media these individuals consume on them is having adverse effects on their mental health. Most interesting is the observation that young people who avoid these media for a week report being less lonely and less depressed.

For educators and other adults interested in young people, this is an important book to read to understand how recent events (e.g. the recession and political disputes) along with the social and technological aspects of our culture are influencing how these young people act and react.