In a generation where information is available in split-seconds and connection is always constant, how does the Information Age affect students stepping into adulthood?
The Millennials. The Net Generation. Generation Y. Imagine growing up in a world where computers are always on.
Yahoo! delivers the news more often than local television.
Everyday conversation consists of texting, email, snapchat and social media.
Homework is accomplished via Word documents and sent in through Blackboard while the student is engaged in several other activities.
In this world the student’s mind never really shuts down.
Is this constant interactivity fostering productivity and creativity or is it curbing critical thinking and discouraging lasting relationships?
Why are students programmed this way?
There are several explanations for this technological mindset.
An article on howstuffworks.com explained the behavior patterns of the average Millennial college student.
“The average college student of the Net Generation works like the Internet, using hyperlinks to join information,” Howstuffworks.com said.
For these students, Google has revealed the answer to every question for as long as they can remember.
Communication is constant with parents, friends, professors and employers.
Due to this interactivity, students are excellent at multitasking long before college.
Students of Generation Y have grown up in a culture of parental involvement, high expectations, economic recession and terrorist attacks.
All of these factors come together to make the technologically savvy student so prevalent in the Millennial Generation.
How does this change the way Millennial students learn?
Students gather information quickly, seeking mainly to find the answer rather than to really absorb the information. Often, students use the information without questioning the source, such as Wikipedia.
Members of Generation Y are excellent at multitasking coupled, though, with short attention spans. They desire visuals and multimedia to keep their attention.
The article from howstuffworks.com compared the various generations in the workplace to Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.
The Baby Boomers and Generation X employees grew up in a world without the influence of technology but became familiar with these advancements as adults.
New employees accepting entry level positions are usually members of Generation Y who have grown up as digital natives of technology.
As a result of limitless information and ongoing connection, communication skills are a puzzling maze for students of Generation Y.
On one hand, there is a sense of immediacy to connect with others. Losing your phone for as little as a couple hours can cause a panic attack since that device is a primary tool to the outside world.
Conversely, face-to-face communication skills have decreased.
Students are very comfortable carrying on a conversation via text message or Facebook chat but experience difficulty sharing deep emotions face-to-face.
Do Millennial students need to slow down?
What is really happening here? How are students coping with this fast-paced always-connected lifestyle?
An article from USA Today titled, “Who’s Feeling Stressed? Young adults, new survey shows[AM1] ” addressed this issue.
“Stress levels for most Americans are falling, but not among the Millennial generation, ages 18-33. Young adults also report more stress and anxiety,” USA Today said.
The article cited work, money, relationships, family responsibilities and the economy as major factors of stress, which was not surprising.
The article explained a portion of why this is happening. “Individual failure is difficult to accept when confronted with a sense that you’re an important person and expected to achieve,” USA Today said.
Another issue to address is critical thinking. If most communication is done via text messages and assignments consist of finding sources on Google, where is the depth? Where is analytical problem solving?
If daily life goes along at such a fast pace, when do students ask questions about God? Seek lasting friendships? Grow closer to their family? Enjoy the life around them?
I am not saying these issues are never addressed, but I just have to wonder if the counterfeit interactivity and connection via social media, texting and email are camouflaging immense needs in our society.
When I see such great issues in my generation such as suicide, anorexia, depression, drugs and teen pregnancy, I wonder if our constant flurry of activity both online and in daily life shields us from what we need the most — a relationship with Christ.
The classic adage, everything in moderation, certainly applies here.
Technology is not a disguised terrorist seeking to destroy the world as we know it.
As a rule, technology makes life easier, aids business and commerce and establishes connections with people that would never have happened otherwise.
However, increased face-to-face communication, less time attached to the digital world and a life open to the call of Christ and the needs of others would make Generation Y a better place to be.