By JAMES VAN KLEI

More often than the average teenager would like to admit and less often than our parents would claim, Gen Z as a generation, are finding it increasingly hard to get out of bed and dive headfirst into the day’s activities. Alarms have become somewhat redundant in a day and age where your alarm clock doubles as everything else to keep you entertained for hours. Why has this generation been touted as the poster child for all things ignorant and naive and to that extent, are we as lazy and entitled as we are perceived to be?

As any person over the age of 30 would agree, us adolescents are constantly typing away on a phone or computer, obsessed with the internet and can’t cope without constant stimulation. We are dependent, entitled, lazy and think we have the right to lecture the rest of the world on mental health, global warming and human rights. I think the generations that preceded us are right, we are naive and have an unmerited sense of superiority due to the wealth of information we get from the internet.

Advocates for change

Kapiti Coast district counsellor, Sophie Handford, has compelling beliefs as to why this is. Handford comments that “The current forefront of our youth ‘changing the world’ is the recent push behind climate change awareness and in the case of New Zealand, multiple school strikes advocating for change”.

There are many statistics showing children from primary school age to tertiary education age are excessively worried for the country’s environmental future, as opposed to older generations holding more relaxed beliefs, unaffected by the present uproar.

I believe it is the fault of the media that is causing the climate panic among the youth, pushing the idea that it is the younger generation’s job to rally for change, just like youth climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Just like Thunberg, Sophie Handford has been instrumental in New Zealand’s steps towards a cleaner and safer future, winning awards for her major contributions to the movement and her ongoing mission to fight for a better environment. Handford believes that Gen Z values the environment and our connection to the land and people, we value what we have and are striving to protect our future.

The media has blown this youth led facade out of proportion when in fact an unsavoury amount of teens today continue to litter, utilize fossil fuels and disrespect the environment we live in.

The media fails to stress the importance of action for the multi-million dollar corporations that heavily contribute to the detriment of the environment. Only once these companies know the impact they have on not only the country but the young people, will there be significant change in New Zealand’s attitude towards our nature.

Old vs Young

The recent COVID-19 global disaster has further emphasised the divide between the younger and older generations of New Zealand, with younger students using technology to stay on top of school work while older citizens are struggling to cope with government enforced guidelines and rules.

This is reflective of the generations’ different learning styles and the societal norms we have been raised in, specifically Gen Z’s ability to adapt and accept new changes as they come which older generations misinterpret for naivety.

The lockdown process as a result of COVID has also revealed how dependent Gen Z is on conveniences such as fast food, WiFi, online delivery and most importantly, their parents. An ongoing 20 year study conducted by Massey University’s Fin-Ed department reveals kiwis in their mid to late 20s are still heavily reliant on their parents financially. They lack the knowledge to efficiently transition to financial independence, despite only 35 percent of study participants believing their parents know what is best for them financially.

On the flipside of this dependence is the older generation’s reliance on youngsters to understand technology. It is well known in pop culture that older people lack the initiative and know how to adapt to new devices, the exception being notable political powers using their platforms to spout bigotry amongst other things.

While we can spend our time blaming one another for our differences and downfalls, Handford and I agree that the narrative of Old vs Young has become worn out.

The youngest generation, while perceived as lazy by our elders and parents, have been the loudest voices during times where everyone else was quiet. It is glaringly obvious in both mass media and classroom discussion that the youth as we know it is at the forefront of change.

While we may not hold the same black and white, traditional values as our parents or grandparents, we all share the same appreciation for the environment and more importantly, each other. Gen Z is the most social generation, through the ease of social media and capability for acceptance, it is unsurprising that they are calling attention toward the outdated status quo.

Our generation is finally having their voices heard and are making waves in today’s society, the amount of young people involved in youth political wings, indigenous groups and supporting their organisations is growing by the day and it is our duty to avoid age old narratives and embrace the future. Now is the time to adopt the same change Gen Z is fighting for and improve as a community.

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