THE BLOG

Online Privacy: Generation A

10/04/2014 13:59 BST | Updated 09/06/2014 10:59 BST

In the same way that people believe history repeats itself, each generation has something new to offer the world. We've had Generation X - the MTV Generation, then came Generation Y, the Millennials, at the turn of 2000. And - sticking with the theme - we've apparently already given birth to a Generation Z whose 'coming of age' is 2013 - 2020. Generation Z will grow up in an increasingly sophisticated media and computer environment and will be way more savvy in this arena than their Generation X and Y forerunners. So we're back to square one, in effect - but what exactly is Generation Z offering the world or, more to the point, what is the world offering them? Perhaps it would be more appropriate to rename this group Generation A...and here's why.

Attention

Being online, via any medium, allows us to grab the attention of our connections. However, the advantages of this are immediately outweighed by the very fact that most of us then choose to seek attention almost as often as ours is sapped by pictures, words and status updates. The danger of this is an obsession to continuously update, as you feel you have peoples' attention for only a short time as detailed in my last post "Terms of Engagement.

Aspiration

Due to the instantaneous nature of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, we see both friends' and celebrities' lives in real time - what they're doing, who they're with, or what they are planning to do in the future. Whether it's Jennifer Lawrence on the red carpet or our best friends spending the evening in watching The X Factor, our peers and idols may well lead us to aspire to be different to who we really are - and possibly more like them. Since the introduction of the internet, not only do we have access to an immediate audience but it has also given the wannabe pop legend or TV star the opportunity to demonstrate to the world what they are capable (or often incapable) of. Whereas in the past this was something we could only dream of, now it is almost an expectation that it is possible to become famous overnight. Time for a reality check perhaps?

Affection

With the growing number of social networks and social messaging apps, how do we choose which one is the first go-to network? We all have our preferences for how we communicate, using different forms of media; we all have varying levels of affection towards Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Generation A tends to gravitate towards closed platform networks such as WhatsApp and Snapchat and this shift is made apparent through the recent decline of teenagers using Facebook. The level of privacy that is seen through WhatsApp - combined with the self-destructing nature of Snapchat - has seen these two networks rise heavily in terms of affection. It is no surprise then that Facebook acquired WhatsApp last month for $19 billion and attempted to snap up SnapChat for $3 billion. In Asia, we're seeing users of Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, move towards closed platforms like WeChat.

Addiction

The overarching danger for Generation A is addiction. We've all seen someone who is addicted to using technology, and especially as a teenager; texting friends and significant others until the early hours; playing video games until sunrise with best friends/online enemies; running up extremely large phone bills. And now, in a day and age where all of the above can happen on one device in our hands, the chance of slipping into addiction is dangerously easy. Having worked in mental health and addiction for many years, I have seen a frightening increase in internet addiction. At Prinsted, a residential treatment centre in Surrey specialising in all addictions, the team is witnessing such an increase in internet addiction that on admission, residents are asked not to bring their smartphones with them (along with iPads, Kindles and any other device with internet access). This is simply to prevent access to the internet whereby social media, gambling and pornography is all readily available. Even good old fashioned mobile phones are discouraged as the addiction is so often to texting.

We all need to learn to balance our lives online and off.

So, with all of these aspects taking a stronghold on the advancing generation, it will be interesting to see how this shift evolves as Generation A continues to face these challenges.