Generation Z hits the brakes on growing up

DENIZ BÖLÖNI-TURGUT, Lifestyles Staff Writer

A NEW TREND
A study conducted on American teenagers and published in the Society for Research in Child Development journal found that Generation Z, or Gen Z, teenagers are becoming independent at a slower rate than previous generations. They start driving later, engage in risky behavior less often, spend less time out of the house, and are less likely to have part-time jobs.
Trinity’s demographic and location is different from the average high school yet this trend is noticeable in certain aspects of teen life. A survey of Trinity students found that they are comparable with most members of Gen Z when it comes to part-time jobs but they don’t follow this general trend as clearly for going out and driving.

DRIVING
The study’s results show that 73 percent of Gen Z 12th graders have driver’s licenses, down from 84 percent of the previous generation, or Millennial, 12th graders.
“[Driving] was more along the lines of a convenience than anything else,” said Millennial Social Science Teacher Brandon Burmeister, who graduated from Trinity in 2000. “There’s so much going on [that] having your own ride is freeing.”
According to a survey of current Trinity high schoolers, not much has changed. About 98% of current seniors have driver’s licenses or permits. The unusually high percentage could be due to the fact that Orlando doesn’t have an efficient and extensive public transportation system like other large cities. In addition, Trinity, unlike other high schools, doesn’t offer buses. However, not every student at Trinity has taken this step.
“Honestly I’d just like to get [my license] now so I can actually drive myself places,” junior Tsehai de Souza said. “I go to the football games and it sucks to have to wait for your parents to pick you up.”
De Souza doesn’t have her license yet.

PART-TIME JOBS
The stereotypical scenario of a teenageer working at a popular diner is easily found in any coming of age movie, especially those made prior to 2000. However, unlike most teenagers before them, studies show that members of Gen Z are less likely to have a job during their high school years. Only 37 percent of Gen Z sophomores earned any money from working as opposed to 58 percent of Millenial sophomores.“A lot of my friends had jobs,” Burmeister said. “Some of them during the school year, a lot…had jobs during the summer—everything from shopping malls to Starbucks.”
Wehr agrees with Burmeister. She said having a job was common in her time as well. Yet, only 28 percent of current students at Trinity in their sophomore year or older reported ever working for pay (even less than the national average). De Souza said that she wanted to get a job over the summer in order to get experience for college applications and earn a little extra money. Unfortunately, perhaps like many other Trinity students, she didn’t get the job.
“My hours were really weird cause at the same time I was also … volunteering at my church,” de Souza said. “Also I was on vacation out of the country for part of the time … Second of all, it’s my first job so I don’t necessarily have the experience thxat other people have.”

GOING OUT
Based on the study, both Millennials and members of Gen Z wenwt out without adult relatives approximately twice a week.
Burmeister said that, on average, he went out once or twice a week when he was in high school and about 49 percent of Trinity students reported the same. Despite this outward similarity, members of Gen Z still spendore time socializing with friends than prior generations due to the rise of social media and smartphones. Mathematics Teacher Elisabeth Wehr, who graduated from Trinity in 1982 and is a member of Gen X, grew up without smartphones and no way to communicate with friends outside of school. Even Burmeister said that most of his friends didn’t have cell phones in high school.
“I think that’s the big difference if you’re looking at it,” Burmeister said. “If you wanted to see your friends, you actually had to physically go see your friends, like meet up at some location and go out.”
But when students are waiting longer to get a driver’s license it can be difficult to go out without adult relatives, especially in a city like Orlando.

POSSIBLE EXPLANATIONS
The study’s results show that Gen Z adolescents generally delay participation in traditionally adult activities. Some social scientists say this is because members of Gen Z are “lazier” or “more virtuous” than previous generations. Yet others say that the cause is a change in the lifestyle of most Americans. Previously, life expectancy was low and Americans lived “fast”. They would grow up, marry and have children at an early age. Nowadays, a slower lifestyle has become more common which leads to teenagers taking longer to grow up.    Another leading theory from an article in CNN is that teenagers nowadays are growing up in more involved households: parents are spending more time raising their children. Increased parental supervision doesn’t allow teenagers the opportunity to develop independence and engage in adult activities such as driving and going out. De Souza said that her parents are part of the reason she hasn’t gotten her license yet.
“Not to say that [my parents] don’t trust me, but they don’t trust me,” de Souza said.
Whatever the exact cause, the result is that members of Gen Z are growing up with less independence than their parents and grandparents. The long term effects of this trend has yet to be seen.