Millennials: Today’s teen and young adult population

There is no arguing that today’s teens and young adults have distinctive characteristics like no generation before them.

In the history of the United States, there have been several varying generations of individuals. These individuals are grouped by age and the likely experiences, values and sense of identity they share. The Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, is one of the four most recent generations to be identified in U.S. history. These individuals were born between 1980 and 2000, and differ greatly from the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers that came before them.

Throughout their upbringing, learners of the Millennial Generation were taught that they each were “winners” who deserved prizes for participation and awards no matter the outcome of their efforts. Both mental and physical safety have been the top concern in raising this generation, making the Millennials highly respectful of authority and rules, along with any enforcement needed to uphold such structures. Such a close relationship with their parents has made this generation highly socialized, assimilated to community norms, and likely to seek advice from a leader of an older generation. These factors have also contributed to a general desire for expert feedback and a great comfort working in teams. Millennials look for opportunities where their personal/individual likelihood of failure is low and where they can be curious and explorative in a safe, judgment-free environment.

Research from the Pew Research Center found that Millennials, despite having great reverence for their elders, are accepting of social differences. The Millennial generation is more ethnically and racially diverse than Generation X or the Baby Boomers. The same Pew research found Millennials to be more racially tolerant, more receptive to immigrants, and more accepting of nontraditional families than any generation before them. On track to being the most well educated generation in the United States, these individuals were raised in environments where they were expected to achieve and thus carry the same expectations for themselves into adulthood. They do not have trouble identifying their goals, are willing to do what it takes to reach those goals, and will invest great amounts of energy to do so. Measuring their success based on substantial outcomes, Millennials tend to be more prepared and confident than their older counterparts.

Though Millennials tend to exhibit an air of self-assurance, as learners, they need to feel prepared, and prefer working in groups because of the situations that have plagued their journey to adulthood. Terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and ongoing wars contributed to Millennials’ sense of insecurity. The Pew report mentioned previously, also notes instability in the national economy, low job security and a media culture that highlights negative global activity, as factors that influence the Millennials’ need for security. As the initial generation to be raised completely in the technological revolution, these individuals are accustomed to any and all information being readily available to them. These “digital natives” tend to have shorter attention spans than the generations before them because of the multitasking ability facilitated by today’s technologies and a constant access to visual and auditory stimulation. Millennials see technology as a standard in their day-to-day activities and tend to find out-of-date systems to be unacceptable.

Millennials are one of the primary audiences for Michigan State University Extension youth development programming. With diverse opportunities in pre-college camps and experiences, along with skill enhancing experiences that contribute to success both in college and the workforce, MSU Extension, 4-H and other professionals working with Millennials need to take into consideration their unique generational attributes and how to be engage and teach to those attributes.

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