Published November 11, 2015
Alas, Generation Z is coming of age. With many now in their teens, our ingenious yet curious Gen Zees, when unplugged from their screens, are facing M-rated social situations like sex, drugs and mental illness for the first time. The problem? These situations don’t come with an app. Inaugural exposure to intense adolescent situations like these, without a clue, could force our driven Gen Zees into a teenage wasteland.

As a Gen Z expert, I’ve identified the need for researchers to go beyond the screen and explore the unplugged trends among Gen Z, the social and behavioral trends discussed not nearly enough – topics such as substance abuse, anxiety from pressure to succeed,  mental health & mental illness, sexual consent, and relationships. With a deeper understanding of Gen Z at 360 degrees, other generations can better mentor, work, market and educate Gen Z more accurately.

Why look at the unplugged side?

Unplugged life can be enticing but confusing: Here are a few examples: They’re concocting triple strength cocktails that get you wasted in less than 8 seconds. They’re memorizing, “Yes Means Yes”, for the fortuitous time they consent to non-digital sex. Or wait, do they say, “No Means Yes”, to the campus druggie dressed in norm core, disguised in a cashmere hoodie selling bath salts? Legal or not, many Gen Zees are ingesting marijuana, the perfect remedy for anxiety brought on by the deluge of academic and socio-economic pressures, surely amplified by social media.

For a Gen Z, unplugged life is harder to navigate than a plugged-in life. Screens don’t teach social skills. First, instead of hanging out at the mall or with friends 24/7 interacting and developing social skills, they’ve been on the couch curating, screening and basically, controlling their social environment. Some have mastered social interaction, manhave not. Being tech-smart is one thing, being street-smart is completely different.

Rates of anxiety are high among Gen Z. Gen Z in particular needs more support to deal with academic pressures.  With rates of anxiety among 13-18 year olds at 25%, let’s explore why and how this high rate of anxiety effects Gen Z’s performance now and their promising future. And many more claim to have undiagnosed anxiety – why is anxiety such a loose term today? The lines at the college (and high school) health centers are the longest ever.

Society’s ascending interest in Gen Z is coveted by businesses that want to “work with Gen Z” or by marketers who want to “reach Gen Z”.  Let’s understand Gen Z developmentally before society accelerates their youth even more.  These social situations are too important and consequential to be cut from getting to know Gen Z emotionally and developmentally.

Unplugged Trend #1: Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying continues to be a problem among Generation Z, particularly during the holiday season when a Gen Z’s world is amped up by life stressors:  exams, social media exclusion, polarized election, college application process, and family squabbles.
As part of my series entitled, “Gen Z Unplugged”, where I explore new  social frontiers pioneered by tech-savvy Gen Z, I’d like to share a young mental health writer’s deeper look into cyberbullying and its potentially devastating effects on Gen Z. 

Guest Post by Jenny Holt, Mental Health Writer for

Is Gen Z More Susceptible to Cyberbullying?
Generation Z, loosely defined as children and teens born after 1996, is way more connected to the digital world and technology than previous generations. Studies show that 73% of teenagers have access to a smartphone or devices with connection to the internet. These young people use social networks multiple times in a day with Snap-chat, Instagram and Facebook top choices of communicating between close peers. In fact, the influence of social media on Generation Z is so huge that according to a study, 42% of respondents believed that it affects how they feel about themselves.

Cyberbullying and Generation Z
Technology and social media can be viewed in two different ways. On one side, it can empower young people by keeping them informed and connected. The other side is that social media has, in fact, a negative impact on the youth’s perception of self-worth. The 2014 statistics from the National Crime Prevention Council are not encouraging with 43% of young people reporting that they have been bullied online. Social media does have its dark side given the anonymity of messaging apps, online forums and communities. Anyone has access to social media and people can say whatever they feel like. Often, young people, the most vulnerable groups, are targeted.

Effects on Victims
Any form of bullying, online or offline, has negative consequences on the victim causing physical, psychological and mental stress. Bullied victims are at higher risk to sink into depression. They may feel sad, lonely, and unable to sleep & eat or lose interest in activities. Grades will likely suffer with some missing, skipping or even dropping out of school. Targets of cyberbullying might turn to drugs and alcohol. Bullying can lead to persistent thoughts of self-harm or suicide which might continue into adulthood. Victims of bullying may even retaliate through violent means such as going on rampant shooting.

For statistics on cyberbullying –

Stay tuned for my series on Generation Z, Unplugged where I will take you through more of the not-so-popular trends among our rising stars, Gen Z.