Generation Y, also known as the Millennial Generation, consists of people born around the late-1970’s to the early 2000’s. MTV, for better or worse, is known for its culturally relevant or astute programming, targeted, almost precisely, at its intended demographic. “MTV made a decision at its point of inception to never grow old with the audience but to reinvent periodically for each ‘generation next’.”
An article featured in FastCompany.com, highlights the insights MTV has learned about the Millennial Generation. They discuss “two tectonic forces”:
Recalibration of the nuclear family
A century of “parent-centered” nuclear family has steadily been under-going a paradigm shift, and may have just passed the tipping point. The nucleus of the family has been moving towards the child, and Millennials look like the first generation raised in that new nuclear family structure. No longer the hierarchical structure with authoritarian parent “leadership,” the new family is flattened to a democracy, with collective (if not kid-driven) decision-making process. Parents are more like best friends, life coaches, or as we at MTV call them “peer-ents.
No longer is it necessary to “rebel against” authoritarian parents to individuate, engage in acts of self-expression, or push at the boundaries. As one youth psychologist we work with pointed out, “Parents don’t say you can’t go to the party, they create safe spaces to consume alcohol, they say Can I pick you up afterwards?, Here’s money for a taxi.”
Self-expression, having your voice heard, following your own path–these are all values that are positively encouraged in modern parenting styles. Why rebel when you simply need to explain your behavior in terms of “my experiment in self discovery.”
The “You Demand It,” push button, everything free, always on culture of technology and the Internet has amplified much of the “social coding” of the way Millennials were parented. And as many commentators have already pointed out, the revolution will be tweeted. The power is in the hands of a million anonymous hands, and can be wielded apparently consequence free, in real time, with the click of a mouse.
It’s easy, I think, for us that our outside (or maybe a little bit inside) the Millennial Generation, to be critical of the ways things are. How many of us bemoan the widespread, rampant use of technology (i.e. texting) among young people today? And we say things like: If only they knew what real work was, right? Or, why don’t parents “parent” their children instead of letting the kids run the family?
Now I’m not saying (nor do I think MTV or other generational auditors) that technology and kid-centered families are inherently bad. It’s just a cultural snapshot of what I like to call, “the way things are.” Older generations like the Baby Boomers or others have quite different characteristics based on the cultural surroundings that shaped them. The Millennials have particular surroundings that older generations did not (i.e. the internet, cell phones, etc).
So my thoughts are this: it is good to know how (and why) families tend to interact these days, and it is good to know the influence and use of technology as well. Why? Because then we as the church, the community of God’s people, can help and assist families to instruct and guide their children in the wise use of technology. Technology without ethics is not wise. Kid-centered families, or “peer-ents”, is not a bad thing unless kids are not getting any kind of instruction in how to become wise and responsible adults eventually. If parents are merely acting as peers to their children, then they may not be getting the wise instruction they need to be responsible adults that are able to hold down a job or care for a future family.
When I read articles that provide insight into cultural snapshots, I am always asking the question: “In light of the way things are, how do we wisely teach and train, disciple and lead our children and our own lives, to look like the ways of God and the principles of his kingdom?”
Not a simple question, eh? No… because it’s always changing, especially in our lightning-fast culture now!