Peg DeMarco

Peg DeMarco

The most widely recognized generations in the U.S. are the baby boomers (born between 1946-65, yours truly included), Gen X’ers (1965-79), millennials (1980-95), and Gen Z’ers (1996 to 2009).

Mark McCrindle, a social researcher in Australia, coined the term Generation Alpha in 2009 with his book “The ABC of XYZ: Understanding the Global Generations” and that moniker seems to have stuck. They are the generation born from 2010-24 and, according to www.AdAge.com, Alphas will grow to be two billion strong by the time a new generation takes over in 2025.

The Alphas are the first generation to be born entirely in the 21st century and, as such, they will be the most tech-infused demographic to date. Gen Z’s, the group born between 1995 and 2010, grew up when social media was being established. While social media has been a useful tool for Gen Z’s, futurists predict that for Alphas it will become a way of life.

How are parents of Alphas preparing for their tech-savvy offspring? First of all, Alphas will have a digital presence before they’re even born. While members of every other generation have had to reserve their own domain name and come up with their own social media handles, Alphas won’t because most parents will have already done it for them.

A 2018 study done by domain provider GoDaddy.com found that 48 percent of millennial parents believe it’s important for their child to have an online presence early in life, compared to just 27 percent of Gen X’ers. In addition, a survey conducted by Gerber found that close to 40 percent of mothers aged 18 to 34 created social media accounts for their kids before the child’s first birthday.

In some cases, parents will even choose their baby’s name based on online availability. The GoDaddy survey found that, of the 20 percent of millennial parents who had created a website for their children, 79 percent of them had changed the top contenders for their baby’s name based on the availability of that domain name.

Quite different from when in 1947 I arrived prematurely. My parents were convinced I’d be a George Junior, but then had to quickly come up with a female moniker. I was named after a kindly nurse who tended Mom at Flushing Hospital, although Mom joked a couple of times that I behaved more like a spoiled Princess Margaret.

When Alphas are older, they’ll have multiple online identities. For example, on one platform, they will communicate only with really close friends while on another post items for the world to see. Frankly, my father gave me some advice some 65 years ago before the words computer and social media were born: “Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want the world to see,” and it’s served me very well.

Alphas’ schools will be way more digitally savvy. For the past decade, schools have incorporated a good number of computers, laptops and tablets into lesson plans, but by the time the bulk of Generation Alpha makes it to elementary school, things will be even more interactive. According to Flux Trends, “in primary and secondary school, Alphas will move from a structured, auditory method of learning to a visual, hands-on method,” for example, using iPads rather than textbooks and digitally contacting their teachers with questions rather than getting an assignment wrong.

As automation becomes even more refined, members of Alphas will need to develop deeper skillsets to thrive in the changing job market. In other words, for example, Alphas who study to become doctors will strive to specialize in a certain area of the human body. In essence, Alphas will become a class of “super-specialists.”

By now, most of us are comfortable with touch screens, iPhones, and social media (not so for me as far as the iPhone), but the newest generation also will be familiar with artificial intelligence. From utilizing facial recognition software and surgical robots to wearing health trackers practically from birth, interacting with computers on a more intimate level will be second nature to Alphas.

Alphas also will use the practice of telemedicine, which is providing health care for patients remotely. In 2016, according to a report to Congress by the Office of Health Policy, an estimated 61 percent of U.S. health care institutions and 40 to 50 percent of U.S. hospitals used telemedicine. Patients of the future will become even more accustomed to telemedicine, from meeting with their health care providers over video chat to sending them photos of their symptoms. According to a 2018 abstract done by the Cleveland Clinic, remote patient care will help cut the costs of health care and reduce patient wait times.

Now that’s a step in the right direction, but I would greatly miss my chats face to face with my physician who patiently listens to my constant excuses for a pound or two weight gain. The comfort he has given me during the last decade can’t be replaced via cyberspace, robots or computers.

Old fashioned? No, just a stubborn baby boomer.

Peg DeMarco is a Morganton resident who writes a weekly features column for The News Herald. Contact her at pegdemarco@earthlink.net.

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