I have had the opportunity to study the cross generational mix in my home recently in terms of our relationship to technology and how we use it.
Control group: My Mum staying with us from the UK (Traditionalist), 2 x GenZ (my kids) and 2 GenXers (my wife and me).
1) My Mum’s preferred device is a traditional desktop – here she is out of her comfort zone on a laptop but after one week is starting to get the hang of it. Here are some of her clear preferences:
- Email is the beginning and the end. Indispensable.
- Typing via a keyboard is the only way to go. Touchscreens don’t cut it.
- Social media happens to someone else.
- Smartphones are for calling people and texting (1 finger).
- Electronic gaming is the undiscovered country.
2) My kids are comfortable on any device:
- They prefer ipod / iphone and it’s for gaming and instant messaging.
- Whatsapp groups and hangouts.
- Email is in case of emergencies, homework or thank you messages.
- They do all their homework on line, through the laptop and submit automatically.
- Everything is on auto back-up. They can online chat with their teachers and colleagues in a protected environment.
- Touch screen rules (two handed writing / texting) – keyboards are for homework only!
- It’s second nature – they don’t think about this, they just do it.
3) So what for us GenXers?
- My wife’s clear preference is a mini-tablet. She can read, do Facebook and her emails on it.
- My preference over the weekend is a full sized tablet.
- When out and about though I still prefer my Galaxy S5 – the larger size helps me manage my Twitter meaning I can Tweet on the go, yet it’s still small enough for my pocket.
- We are both comfortable with desktops, laptops and tablets, although don’t work too much with our smartphones. We tend to use them for texting, Whatsapp and calling.
- Touch screens and typing is OK with us.
- While we can ‘work things out’ with our tech, our kids are far more intuitive and will help us do things quicker.
- For us, the human connection is as important as the technology which enables our closeness to others – ie Facebook with our friends and family in the UK makes it so much more personal. For our kids technology I suspect is more than an enabler and a truly integrated part of their lives.
Perhaps GenXers have to be more adaptable due to where they are in the cross-generational mix. Sandwiched in the middle with the ability to emphasise and relate at each end of the spectrum. This will certainly be the case for GenX in the 2020 workplace…In part two of this post, I will consider how these observations may play out in the future workplace.