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5 Gen Alpha Characteristics (Plus, Everything Else You Need to Know About the Newest Generation)

They’re changing their pronouns and keeping their iPads

gen-alpha-characteristics: Smiling young boy taking selfie with friends through smart phone while standing in city. The friends are both guys and girls. They are all white and either have brown or blonde hair.
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A new generation is emerging, known as Gen Alpha. If you haven't heard of them yet, Gen Alpha represents the youngest cohort of children growing up today. And as the newest generation, we're still discovering what to expect from this particular group (they have a lot of growing up to do, after all). However, we do have some insight into Gen Alpha characteristics and how the modern world is shaping today’s youth. Read on to find out more.

Meet the Expert

Jennifer Kelman is a mental health expert on JustAnswer, where she has provided online support to those in need since 2012. In addition to her work on JustAnswer, Kelman has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for more than 30 years and maintains a private practice specializing in relationships, parenting and children’s mental health issues. Kelman is also a children’s book author and has lectured around the country and appeared on news and television programs.

What Is Generation Alpha?

Generation Alpha refers to the group of people born between 2010 and 2025 (yep, they’re still being born) and research suggests they will be the largest generation in history. This generation follows Gen Z, i.e., those born between 1997 and 2012. (And yes, there’s some overlap there but defining generations isn’t an exact science). According to reports, most (up to 73 percent) of Gen Alpha’s parents are millennials, leading some to dub this generation as "mini millennials."

What Is Generation Alpha Known For?

Australian social researcher Mark McCrindle coined the term “Generation Alpha” to describe this budding cohort and his observations of children belonging to this generation are astute. For starters, he points to the ways in which COVID-19 has influenced Gen Alphas—particularly the fact that many belonging to the generation experienced some kind of remote learning, thus making technology an unusually important part of their young lives. Indeed, the relationship between Gen Alphas and technology may be their most defining characteristic so far.

McCrindle dubs this “the Great Screen-Age” and observes a number of ways in which the increase in access to technology and social media has affected Gen Alphas. “From shorter attention spans to the gamification of education, from increased digital literacy to impaired social formation, these times impact us all but transform those in their formative years,” he writes. The rise of social media is also shaping the childhoods of Gen Alphas and providing them with more exposure to sociopolitical topics and cultural trends. For a more detailed breakdown of how this plays out, read on.

5 Common Characteristics of Generation Alpha

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1. They’re Digital Natives

A surprise to no one, this generation is the most tech-savvy one yet. That’s because Gen Alpha was born into a digital age more so than any other generation, being the first cohort to experience technological advances such as remote learning, tablet computers and streaming services from early childhood.

Per generations expert Dr Eliza Gilby, the average Gen Alpha has over 100 photos of themselves posted on social media before their first birthday. This relationship with technology continues as they grow older, with researchers estimating that 65 percent of Gen Alpha children ages 8 to 11 have access to a mobile phone and 84 percent of American students use technology in the classroom. (These statistics don’t surprise this millennial parent—I have photo evidence that both of my Gen Alpha kids were able to enter the passcode to my iPhone and access the camera by the tender age of three.)

There’s speculation that this technological savviness will play an important role in the economic contributions of Generation Alpha, and Kelman agrees: “These kids are going to be responsible for potential technological advancements, whether it be coding or creating things, because it's a creative generation.”

For better or worse, Gen Alpha’s technological savviness lends itself to increased use, and even dependence upon, social media as a means of human connection and entertainment. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, “surveys show that 90% of teens ages 13-17 have used social media. Seventy five percent report having at least one active social media profile, and 51% report visiting a social media site at least daily.”

The role technology plays in the lives of Gen Alphas has many benefits, yet the expert has some misgivings; Kelman reports seeing issues with overuse and screen addiction in her private practice and has also observed that kids of this generation are spending considerably less time outdoors and are less enthusiastic about it when they do. It’s also worth noting that research shows a link between excessive screen use and increased rates of anxiety and depression. In other words, Gen Alpha’s comfort with and use of technology is a double-edged sword and moderation will likely be an important factor for the success of Gen Alphas.

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2. They Value Inclusivity

Discussions about race and sexuality have been amplified the last decade or so, and Gen Alphas got a front row seat to the sociopolitical discourse. In fact, the conversations around inclusivity have become so important that many Gen Alphas are being introduced to the topic at school (depending on where they live) and through kids’ television programming, with shows like Sesame Street saying that it’s never too early to teach kids about race.

This has had a profound influence in creating what Kelman describes as “a much more open generation with flexibility in mind and thought around these types of issues,” adding that, “it’s nothing for them to talk about [LGBTQ] issues; it’s just commonplace, as opposed to other generations where these subjects were far more hush hush.” Personally, I believe that this development is one that history will smile upon and I know many other millennial parents agree. “My kids are constantly reminding me not to assume someone’s pronouns,” a mother-of-two tells us about her 7- and 9-year-old children.

It’s not just parents who are recognizing this shift, though. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Gen Alpha is slated to be the most diverse and multicultural generation to date.

And as the most diverse generation, it stands to reason that Gen Alpha will expect the world around them to reflect their values. Per a report in AdWeek, companies and brands are going to need to step it up if they want to cater to younger generational preferences. Reads the Gen Alpha report: “VisualGPS research has found that 72 percent of global consumers expect brands they buy from to support diversity and inclusion, with 80 percent loyal to brands who support their values. These skew even higher for younger generations.”

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3. They’re Less Attached to Traditional Gender Norms

Closely related to the above, anecdotal evidence indicates that Gen Alphas are very tuned into the newfound freedom of picking pronouns that suit them. (True story: I am corrected on a near-daily basis when it comes to the pronouns my 9-year-old daughter’s friends prefer.) While there isn’t a ton of data at this time, given how young this generation is, emerging polls and studies do indeed suggest that younger generations are embracing gender neutral language and gender fluidity significantly more so than ever before. Per a recent Time magazine article titled ‘How Gen Z Changed Its Views On Gender’: “The number of young adults reporting they identified as transgender quadrupled between 2014 and 2021, while the number of transgender people in older age groups stayed about the same. Transgender identification was virtually identical across age groups in 2014, but by 2021 four times more young adults than older adults identified as transgender.”

Kelman sees this in her practice as well. “That’s their freedom that we didn’t have…and it’s not really a game for them. It’s them teaching us that ‘hey, that’s cool if you want to be a they/them, a fish, a unicorn…,’” she notes, while praising the openness and fluidity that this generation embraces as a powerful force in reducing the suffering and isolation of people who feel different. And happily, the world at large seems to be dialing in to this fact with many books, movies and toys increasingly reflecting this new, more flexible way of thinking.

gen-alpha-characteristics: Girls and teenage schoolgirls practicing yoga upward facing dog on school playing field. All of the girls are different races.
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4. They’re More Focused on Mental Health

Mental health is a complex issue when it comes to Gen Alpha—namely because it’s been well-documented that this generation has suffered a serious hit due to the pandemic and the negative effects of excessive screen time. In fact, the 2022 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report suggests that nearly 20 percent of children ages 3 to 17 are struggling with a “mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorder.”

There’s a silver lining, though, and it has to do with the way millennials are helping kids through these issues by speaking openly about and emphasizing the importance of mental health—a decidedly more enlightened stance that is reflected both at schools and in the home.

There are nation-wide school programs to help kids deal with big feelings, such as MindUP, an organization that teaches children how to focus, manage stress and build resilience, and, in NYC, programs like University Settlement that provide public school students with counseling during and after the school day, as well as other family services designed to help children as young as four (and their parents) navigate emotions. Meanwhile at home, some reports estimate that nearly 3 in 4 (74 percent) millennial parents practice gentle parenting, an exceedingly calm approach to child-rearing that is known to prioritize feelings.

These efforts are clearly having an effect. According to a survey that insights group Cassandra recently released, the Gen Alpha: Generation Infinite research report, it was determined that 59 percent of 7 to 12 year olds surveyed agree that mental health is a big issue, and 62 percent say their school should focus more on mental health education than physical education.

In other words, despite the mental health hurdles they face, Gen Alpha may ultimately benefit from the increased self-awareness and openness that’s required to heal from the well-documented uptick in adverse childhood experiences that this cohort has faced.

gen-alpha-characteristics: Three young children stand in a grassy field with protest signs that say slogans about saving the planet.
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5. They’re Budding Activists

On the plus side, Gen Alphas have shown a propensity for activism. (I was both proud and amused when my daughter started regularly drafting petitions on various topics ranging from ‘don’t litter’ to ‘longer recess’ and bringing them into school for her peers to sign.) Another parent shared with me that when her 6-year-old son’s class was asked to list their heroes, Greta Thunberg was in the top five, after mom and Santa. But the evidence of this is more than anecdotal.

For example, New Jersey recently mandated that climate education be a part of the public school curriculum and, on the other side of the country,  a group of very young kids sued the state of Montana in 2023 for its pro-fossil fuel policies. Kelmans take? “This generation is more open, they're more active, they're more environmentally conscious. They have the potential, if they can get their eyeballs off the phone, to do great things.”

How Is Gen Alpha Different From Gen Z?

There are a lot of similarities between Gen Z and Gen Alpha—particularly in terms of digital fluency and an interest in mental health, but that comes as no surprise as each generation lays the groundwork for the next one. That said, one could argue that Gen Alpha might one day enjoy a healthier relationship with technology, given that it’s less novel to them and they may develop an inclination to be less consumed by it than their millennial parents. This, of course, is largely speculation; given the very young age of Gen Alpha members, only time will tell.

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