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“Millennials and Their Momentous Future: Part of the Crisis is Already Visible”




Reporter
Kevin Niedermier
The Millennial Generation as Tomorrow's Adults


Friday, December 17, 2004

The current crop of American teenagers is growing-up in the wealthiest, most highly technological and indulgent time in history. We wondered what kind of adults these kids will become. In the final part of our series ..."Teenagers, The Millennial Generation," WKSU's Kevin Niedermier looks at how Millennials might shape the future...

WKSU's Kevin Niedermier reports:

Windows Media / MP3 Download

The Millennials have grown up with amazing technology and hyper-realistic games. They're pragmatic decision makers who are close to their doting parents. Millennials want social equality, and enough income to live comfortably. But they don't want their lives dominated by work. The world is a small place to them because of communication technology and globalization. And the Millennials are generally optimistic about their future:

Teen 1:"It looks pretty bright, I think I'm gonna do pretty well because I have a lot of connections."

Teen 2: "I was looking into actually being a doctor. But I was looking into that mainly because of the salary. But not just to have a fancy car or a fancy house or anything, but to be able to provide for myself without a problem."

Teen 3: "Nothing really scares me about the future. I mean I try not to be afraid of it because whatever is going to happen is going to happen and you just gotta deal with it when it comes."

Teen 4: "I think it will be pretty bright. I mean it will be as bright as I make it for myself, so... I consider myself a hard worker, so as much as I want out of it I will get out of it."

James Taylor studies and predicts future trends for businesses. He says the Millennials are the first generation since television to rely less on broadcast media for information. They communicate more with each other by cell phone, e-mail and face-to-face. Plus, they aren't as tied to national or global movements as their parents may have been. Taylor says most Millennials form a 50-person network, and that will change America's political landscape:

TAYLOR: "With the concerns of people being dictated by the concerns of their network - not the wider concerns of a kind of grand vision of American society - it will be America the society of tribes. And the tribes will take on their own interests, and those will be the dominant, highly splintered political interests that will frame the political debate for some time to come."

Taylor expects the Millennials to steer the country on an even more conservative path. Their Baby Boomer parents spent much less time studying and more time fighting for social issues such as racial and gender equality. Those issues have largely been addressed says William Strauss, co-author of Millennials Rising. He says this generation will be dealing with issues like the massive debts they carry from college loans:

STRAUSS: "And I'm concerned about it for the best and the brightest because it's going to push them into careers that serve the elite rather than careers that serve their ideals. I'd like to see these kids inspired to go into the arts, to go into teaching, to go into the Peace Corps, to do those kinds of things... and if they have very large student loans, that will deter them."

Strauss says Millennials are seeing a much wider disparity in income than their parents saw. And those who get financial help from their parents will be tomorrow's winners. He believes they will demand a more progressive tax structure.

But futurist David Pearce-Snyder says that does not mean today's teenagers will be politically active:

PEARCE-SNYDER: "They really don't have the time to be engaged with politics unless it really is germain to them, unless their ox is being gored, unless their particular values or issues are being compromised. Otherwise, that's why you've got such a low voting rate from the population in general and young people in particular. On the other hand, they do want the democratic dimension of referendum and recall so that if there are people promoting some dimension of policy we don't like, we can mobilize on the Internet and we can defeat this initiative with popular mobilization. Or conversely, we can get rid of this guy, we can move to recall."

Pearce-Snyder believes the Millennials' willingness to take matters into their own hands when it suits them will also show up in the workplace. He says they won't let a job dominate their lives like many of their parents:

PEARCE-SNYDER: "There is the advantage that a great deal of the work from now on will be contingent. We're not looking for loyal employees to sign on and stay with us for 30 years. We're looking for people who are competent, who will come in and do a job four months out of the year, this year, and probably next year and if they're available to com back.... but we only need them for this seasonal surgeon or operation, we don't need them all year long. And a lot of the Millennials are going to say that suits me fine, because... I can work for you guys for four months and then I'm going to do other things, I'm going to be more self-actualizing, I've got a avocation I'm going to turn into a profession, I'm going to go back to school for a couple of courses... So the whole attitude toward work is to assimilate it into other things I want to be doing for me over the long term."

It's a complete flip from Baby Boomers, according to William Strauss. He says Boomers did not work nearly as hard at school. They waited until they got jobs:

STRAUSS: "In college, they famously took it easy a bit and dabbled in this, dabbled in that... in social causes and the like, as though there were not so many cares about tomorrow. And by the time boomers got into mid-life, they were pushing up the numbers of hours worked per employer in our country. And Millennials I suspect are going to reverse that trend and one of the reasons is that they feel as though they've been working so hard through high school and college, and professionalk schools and graduate schools... By the time they get out they're going to want a life that offers more than just work and pressure."

Another influence shaping the outlook of the Millennial generation may be the games they've been playing since pre-school. 75 percent of Millennials are regular video game players. Futurist David Pearce-Snyder believes immersion in the game's rules shape the way Millennials will function as adults:

PEARCE-SNYDER: "They require strategy, they require a coherent way of thinking ahead, something that young people in the past have never been particularly good at doing. So here they are living in a milieu which gives them a new set of skills and a new perception on the world - that the world is a closed system and its got a set of rules, and if I learn the rules, I'm going to win the game."

Pearce-Snyder says this attitude carries over to situations like the workplace:

PEARCE-SNYDER: "Games, there's always a solution. Nobody markets games that don't have a way to win. Therefore, they approach a task on the job with the notion of 'oh I've been given a task and there's a way to do this and I'm going to go out there and kill it, and I know how to do this...' Failing to understand that in real life there very often aren't any correct answers to the problems you are given. In fact, sometimes the only answer is a better approximation of wrong than the one we've got now. But they don't see that. They're out there to win."

The gaming mind-set also flows into how Millennials deal with social issues according to consultant James Taylor. He says these Millennials tend to think all situations have a direct solution:

TAYLOR: "In other words, they have trouble with eliptical experiences, so that if they're exposed to something like the gasoline crisis and you point out that the gasoline crisis cannot possibly be resolved without a full-fledged hydrogen fuel option that won't be available for 200 years, they go into mind meld and it shuts down the question because they like stories that have beginnings, middles, and ends just like the games. And the games always have a thematic content that's encapsulated by the game itself. Life isn't quite so convenient."

For example, Taylor says Millennial gamers tend to believe that terrorism will end if Osama Bin Laden is defeated. In the end, each generation's greatest legacy is its children. Taylor says their own parents made Millennials a generation sensitive to others' feelings, and probably good at raising kids:

TAYLOR: "So if you took a generation that was raised on being loved and being told it could succeed, and being told that their self-esteem was important to the world... Then extrapolate them to being happy, fairly well-adjusted, extremely effective interpersonally... they're going to make soccer moms look like child abandonment. They're going to be so intensely involved with their children because they're so intensely involved with their families to begin with."

Millennials like this 17-year-old haven't looked quite that far ahead. But like most of her generation, she isn't worried:

KID: "Not really, I'm more excited to get out of high school and go to college just to find something new and sort of break into adulthood."