There’s a word I learnt while editing the Lounge cover story this week—screenagers. For me, it brought to mind an image of people who run screaming from blue light that could age them, but it’s actually an alternative term for Gen Alpha, or those born between 2010 and 2024. They are the children of today, the first generation to be born entirely in the 21st century, the cohort that’s expected to be the best educated and most socially conscious ever, and who shape as well as are influenced by the social media landscape. They also direct most families’ decisions, whether about composting or the next car—which makes them the darlings of marketers and creators.
Our cover story this week examines the mix of technology, social media, marketing, behavioural science and parenting that shapes Gen Alpha, set to be the largest generation in the history of the world when they have all been born by 2024. People don’t fall so neatly within definitions, and these children may very well grow into adults with entirely different attitudes and values from the ones being ascribed to them today. “We are constantly reminded that decades define us,” The New York Times acidly observed in a piece on generational change in 1995. “Is there anything more vapid?” While it is true that these terms reinforce prejudices (“millennials are lazy” or “Gen Z is flaky”), the urge to define generations rises from a desire to understand the cohort ahead of, or succeeding, us.
Each one seems faster, savvier and entirely alien to the generation before, and then we all settle in and live together—much like the popular American sitcom Modern Family (in the photo above) showed. So, tagging them with some characteristics helps understand the experiences and circumstances that shape them. Millennials and Gen Z, for instance, came of age with different kinds of technology, which influences their attitudes to work, money, health and more. Avantika, who wrote the story, is parent to a Gen Alpha child and brings a uniquely personal perspective to the generation swaying the decisions of their largely millennial parents.
Whether or not there’s someone from Gen Alpha calling the shots at home, do make time for the rest of our stories this week—we visit two very different museums, introduce you to Ladakhi food pop-ups, review a host of new books and shows, and list the best games to play this season.
Write to the Lounge editor at email@example.com