What are the latest trends for today’s young people, aka. Generation Z (born after 1995 and before the early 2010s)? Of course, we should be cautious with generalisations – there’s a broad diversity in ages and backgrounds to consider. That given though, here’s four of the big topics for Gen Z right now.
1. Rise of the gamers
Gaming continues to be an absorbing hobby. 26% of 16-24s now identify as ‘gamers’, 3% more than two years ago, while the number who have never played a mobile game has fallen from 27% in 2015 to 18% today. Online gaming thrived thanks to stay-at-home orders; popular online multiplayer games like Fortnite and Among Us provided fun ways to spend time with friends (or like-minded strangers) when they couldn’t meet in person – 41% of the surveyed said they had online-only friends. It might not all be healthy, one-in-five (19%) feel they spend too much time gaming, and gaming addiction treatments for young people have also tripled in the last year.
2. Wellbeing post(?)-pandemic
Wellbeing continues to be a priority particularly in light of the pandemic. 84% of 16-24s say their mental health has been negatively affected by the past 18 months, and 67% believe the pandemic will have a long-term impact on their mental health. Unsurprisingly after a season of school closures and exam stress (for school-aged Gen Z), 92% say the experience has changed them as a person. Half of Gen Z are always anxious, according to Youthsight. A key source of stress relief throughout Covid has been hobbies, the most popular of these for young people were reading, cooking/baking, and knitting/needlework.
3. Online risks
Dating app usage has steadily grown over recent years, and lockdowns boosted engagement – but dating app fatigue has grown too. Young people today are more likely than previous generations to be happily single (40% of 16-24 year-olds asked in Oct 2020), while fewer were ‘happily in a relationship’ or ‘looking for a partnership’ than in pre-pandemic times.
With school-aged young people, the big picture around relationships/online interaction is sadly one of risk and a growing awareness of abuse. In June Ofsted reported that peer-on peer sexual abuse and online harassment, particularly of girls, in England schools is now a widespread, ‘normalised’ reality. Online threat comes from peers and adults: in England and Wales online grooming crimes reported by the police reached an all-time high in 2021, having risen by 70% in the last 3 years. Half of incidents used Facebook-owned apps including Whatsapp, Instagram and Messenger, while Snapchat was used in a quarter of offences.
4. Ethical consumers and 'cancel culture'
‘Cancel culture’ is a contested phrase but it’s certainly true that we live in an age of accountability; brands and influencers face increased scrutiny while ethical consumerism (and creation) is a priority for Gen Z. The existential threat of climate change heightens the need for individual and corporate response, while social media (99% of 16-24s are now on social media, and Instagram rules as the principal app for 74%) offers a platform for demanding action. 87% of young people pay attention to a brand’s ethics when they purchase from them. They’re looking for authenticity and are suspicious of tokenism; if a brand said it was opposed to a social issue, only 6% said they’d simply believe them, 64% said they’d go and research online to see if it’s true. There’s a pressure in this constant activism though: 55% said there are too many issues in the world to worry about, though they still make an effort to do what they can. As Beatfreeks puts it, Gen Z “face perpetual pressure to be saying something, and to be always saying the right thing.”
- State of the Youth Nation 2021: https://www.youthsight.com/blog/gen-z-gaming-trends
- Mental Health Today: https://www.mentalhealthtoday.co.uk/news/young-people/treatment-for-gaming-addiction-has-tripled-in-the-last-year
- Youthsight, ‘Gen Z’s Top 5 leisure Trends’: https://www.youthsight.com/2021-gen-z-hobby-trends-ebook?submissionGuid=82a134a5-4043-4944-9fe3-6509891d221d
- Voxburner Youth trends Report 2021: https://www.voxburner.com/voxburner-plus
- NSPCC: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/about-us/news-opinion/2021/online-grooming-record-high/
- Ofsted: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-sexual-abuse-in-schools-and-colleges/review-of-sexual-abuse-in-schools-and-colleges#conclusion
- Youthsight, ‘Gen Z’s Dating Story': https://www.youthsight.com/blog/gen-z-dating-story-pre-and-post-pandemic-trends
- Beatfreeks March 2021 report ‘Institutions of the Future: Gen Z and the Private Sector‘ https://beatfreeksyouthtrends.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Beatfreeks_NYT_Institutions_of_the_Future.pdf