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Gen Z grew up in a screen-saturated world. They're vowing not to raise their kids differently.

As Gen Z approaches parenting age, they say refuse to raise "iPad kids."

young child at a table with an ipad
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Gen Z is planning to take a restrictive approach to their own kids when it comes to screens.

As a parent of three Gen Zers ages 15, 19 and 23, I spent many years fending off children begging, pleading and cajoling for screens and screen time of one sort or another. From around ages 9 to 14 with each child, I fielded question after question and complaint after complaint about them not having a phone and/or the limits my husband and I placed on their screen usage. It was exhausting to stick to our guns on that front (especially with our one child who would make an excellent lawyer). But we held the line, hoping and praying that someday they all would thank us for it.

Sure enough, each one of them has thanked us for it. Phew.

In fact, they've all started talking about how their own kids won't have any screens at all until they really need to, which is more restriction than we placed on them even.


"Good for you!" I tell my them. "And good luck." Their convictions are admirable, but little do they know that it's not as easy as it looks.

As the first full generation to be raised in the internet-enabled, screen-saturated world, Gen Z (approximately ages 11 to 26) has grown up in uncharted waters. Pretty much every adult they've ever known has carried and used a smartphone. Their educations have included hand-held screens from their earliest years, as the "edutainment" industry has exploded. Today's older kids and young adults became tech-savvy very young, they've been marketed to with various addictive apps their entire childhoods and have felt the pressures of social media throughout their formative years.

And Gen Z's parents have had to navigate those uncharted waters, raising kids in an online world we didn't have ourselves as children and struggling mightily to find a balance for them amid the digital chaos,. In an era where parents often need to work and childcare is prohibitively expensive, devices have become the easiest temporary babysitter, and a moderate amount of screen time (whatever "moderate" means) feels practically inevitable. Even the experts no longer have set screen time limit recommendations, but rather encourage parents to be conscious and engaged with what their children are using screens for. (In my former teacher opinion, there's a significant difference between setting up a child with an interactive app that teaches kids math or reading or geography and leaving a child with unbridled access to the internet.)

We also live in a world where people in general use our devices for almost everything and where sites like YouTube can be valuable tools. It's a reality that kids will not just get their own devices eventually, but will actually need to. But when, which one, how much, how often, what to limit and allow at what ages can be overwhelming questions for parents to navigate. Very few of us have managed to strike a balance that feels right. Sometimes I've worried we were being too strict and other times I worried we were too lenient. With each kid, especially when we were thrown into pandemic isolation, determining healthy screen time became more complicated.

But now that a good chunk of Gen Z are officially adults and starting to think about how they want to parent their own kids, they're surprisingly Luddite-like. After years and years of wanting screen time, getting screen time, and seeing how screen time can be filled with pitfalls, and also after observing Gen Alpha's early screen addictions, they don't want the same for their kids.

Interestingly, some Gen Zers are even trying to limit their own screen time by switching to 90s-style flip phones—or "dumb phones" as they now say.

Some are also pleading with their fellow Gen Zers to vow not to raise "iPad kids" who can't behave without having a screen shoved into their hands. Gabe Escobar garnered 25 million views with his "iPad kids" rant, with countless Gen Zers in the comments agreeing with him.

@gabesco

seriously pls we cant let it happen #genz #genalpha #ipadkid

And these Gen Zers aren't just kneejerk-reflex saying they don't want their kids to have screens at all. They understand that technology is a tool we all need and kids need to have access to learn how to use it. But they're watching the struggles of Gen Alpha and seeing how giving kids the excessive amount of screen time that they themselves probably begged their parents for at one point actually impacts them. It's not that they don't want their kids on screens at all, but it appears Gen Z is preparing for their parenting approach with foresight and wisdom, which is great to see.

@hopeyoufindyourdad

@gabesco I am fully on board with what this creator is saying although kids having ipads is a bit inevitable at this point the real issue is regulation and parenting styles #genz #genalpha #millennial #parenting #ipadkid #greenscreenvideo #greenscreen

I just hope they're prepared for how exhausting it is to fight that battle with their kids when the time comes. But at the very least, they can speak from experience when they tell their kids that they'll thank them someday for the limits.

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