12 Most Important Things to Know about Kids Today
Ask most people what comes to mind when they think about “kids today”. If you’ve sampled the literature about Gen Y or The Millennials, you’re likely to hear that kids today are over-corrected, entitled, arrogant, irresponsible, directionless, and apathetic. With twitter-sized attention spans—these kids lack values, character, and basic civility.
They have been labeled, tagged, earmarked, and characterized in a multiplicity of ways, but nothing sets them apart more from other generations than the fact that kids of today are most certainly unlike any other generation of kids we have known.
As a veteran educator, parent, and mentor; I couldn’t agree more. Kids today aren’t like they used to be, and I’ve never been more proud or excited to share with you why.
1. They are bright and creative.
It takes just a minute of conversation with young learners to confirm their intellect, insight, and potential for genius. I recently had the privilege of working with a team of innovative, imaginative, and creative students on a project near and dear to my heart: Global Literacy. Meet my co-ambassadors on the project and learn how these fifth graders stepped up with ease and confidence in their roles as marketers, designers, writers, videographers, and advocates for the important cause and crusade.
2. They are optimists.
This generation is extremely optimistic. They believe in the future. They believe in the good of people. And, they believe that one person can make a difference because they have seen it happen. Listening to them speak about the world they see, gives me hope and inspiration.
Even though we are 12 and 13 years old, We can make a difference. We are empowered to be leaders and teachers, not just students. We are involved in our learning through collaborating and connecting with others. We are empowered to create great things and to have a voice. We are not waiting for someone to tell us how to do this. We can all change the world! One person at a time…we can make a difference.
3. They are good at sharing.
Sharing is essential skill of global leaders, future philanthropists, and cross-cultural communicators. For these kids, sharing is in their DNA. They share pictures, videos, stories, hopes and dreams. The process of sharing not only deepens their relationships with one another; it builds the necessary habit of contributing. Sharing strengthens their connections, fosters leadership and causes empathy to surge. The desire to help isn’t far behind.
4. They are global learners and excellent teachers.
Kids today have redefined themselves as learners, teachers, and leaders. They are self-reliant and independent. They don’t wait for school to find out how or what. This generation of global learners connects with and shares experiences in meaningful ways, like Sam Jackson’s Education Blog–12th Grade student blog about college application process. They learn to become mentors as they spread their wings and discover their abilities to teach and lead. With this unique knowledge, they teach the world what they know and inspire others to continue nurturing their own creativity and genius.
5. They are conscious and conscientious.
Our children have been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world that you and I could have never imagined. When Mrs. Peters second graders heard about the Tsunami in Japan, they took action immediately raising nearly $400 to support the nations relief efforts; not something that would have crossed my mind at eight.
Kids today are not only more conscious and conscientious than in years past. They want to be a part of the the solution to the problems they see. They come together over shared concerns like global warming, war, poverty, and injustice. Unwilling to wait, they stand up for and take courageous action on what they believe and the change they want to see.
7. They are challenge-seekers.
Young people today don’t want fluff. These learners thrive on change and challenge that is authentic and fair. They are very adaptable, flexible and hate being asked to operate inside the box. They want to create, invent, and innovate. Whether they can handle the challenge yet or not, they want people in their lives who push them, challenge them, and expect them to achieve more.
8. They are active participants and problem solvers
Throughout history, young people have engaged in social movements, but today’s youth are more active than ever. I am awed by the energy, enthusiasm, and passion not just to participate in the world, but to solve it’s problem. Kids like 2nd grade, social entrepreneur, Nathan Hidajat. His platform; clean water for all.
Nathan shares his plan for solving this problem on his blog:
Hi everyone, my name is Nathan Hidajat. I go to 2nd grade at St. Cecilia School in Ames. This is my first charity: water campaign. I’m giving up my 8th Birthday on April 12, 2011 to raise money to give people clean water so they can have a better and healthier life. My goal is to raise $1000 and help 50 people to get clean water for the next 20 years!
Instead of a birthday party or presents, please donate to charity: water and help me reach my goal. Reaching my goal will make my Birthday this year my best Birthday ever!
9. They are question askers.
The next generation is not content with the status quo. They are happy to question everything and anything and do so not to rebel or prove a point; but to forge change. They are asking questions and seeking to understand WHAT they believe and WHY they believe it. Listen to the questions, Lia, a 12- year-old seventh grader is asking about the topic of abortion.
10. They value friends and relationships
I tell my students, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” Today’s kids are deeply committed to friendships. Friends hold immeasurably influence and kids are willing to commit to these relationships. Beyond the social benefit, kids need to know the process of building and sustaining powerful relationships is key to success in every domain.
11. They are changing the world.
Young people today want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world and they are willing to lead the effort.
When 10 year old, Talia Lemon, saw television clips of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; she decided she needed to help. She galvanized other kids and started a movement to trick-or-treat at Halloween for coins for hurricane victims.
The movement caught the public imagination, Talia made it on the “Today” show, and the campaign raised more than $10 million. With that success behind her, Talia organized a program called randomkid.org to help other young social entrepreneurs organize and raise money for their efforts they believe can change the world. Talia’s current campaign to build a school in rural Cambodia, has been backed by hildren in 48 states and 19 countries.
12. They still want and need our guidance.
No matter how smart and confident this generation of kids is; they all need and respond well to our support. They want help making life’s decisions. They need adults in their life to model, mentor, and walk them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis. They need us to believe in their capabilities, talents, and passions. They need us to know they are different, and different can be good.
I hope you are as excited about these difference as I am. We have left them with a world that requires them to be smarter than we have been, more compassionate than we have been able to be, and braver than we can imagine. I know and see a group of young men and women more than able to rise to the challenge than any other in history.
I’d welcome your thoughts about what you know young people can do, and how we can maximize our partnerships and relationships with them. I am convinced that with your help and support, the future is full of hope and tremendous opportunity.
Photo credit courtesy of SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktibolaget via Creative Commons.