I write and speak frequently on the generational shifts and divides in law firms, along with my colleague Jonathan Fitzgarrald. We first started to identify generational trends and the impact on the law firm in 2013. We always mentioned the “next” generation, the “swipe” generation, but there was no data on them. Yet.

The studies are starting to come out, and if you’re worried about your Millennials, you need to start to panic about your iGen, a term coined by Dr. Jean M. Twenge. I just saw her on CNN, just read her article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

And I just ordered the book, iGen.

With generational divides wider than ever, parents, educators, and employers have an urgent need to understand today’s rising generation of teens and young adults. Born after 1995, iGen is the first generation to spend their entire adolescence in the age of the smartphone. With social media and texting replacing other activities, iGen spends less time with their friends in person – perhaps why they are experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.

But technology is not the only thing that makes iGen distinct from every generation before them; they are also different in how they spend their time, how they behave, and in their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialize in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. More than previous generations, they are obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance, and have no patience for inequality. iGen is also growing up more slowly than previous generations: eighteen-year-olds look and act like fifteen-year-olds used to.

The future is now

As any good GenXer, I can’t help but think of the scene when Doc comes back to warn Marty and Jennifer about their future:

It’s your kids, Marty.

The future is now, GenX.

Tying it back to legal marketing, it won’t be too long before these kids enter the workforce.

Until then what to do? When I first started researching the generations, I altered my behavior with my kids.

  • I started to give them more independence, trying to mirror some of my experiences as a kid growing up in the 1970s.
  • No helicoptering from me. They could walk to school. Walk home. And forget the allowance. They could work for the money they wanted. Take the bus. Take an Uber. I’m not a chauffeur.
  • I also forced my then 16-year old to get her driver’s license, and swallowed the bitter pill of our monthly car insurance payment. Monthly. Ugh. That hurts.

And while it seems to have made a difference with my older teen, I definitely see this iGen phenomenon with my younger teen. And I am starting to plot my intervention. I’m not even sure yet where to start, but I am well aware that it will be painful for us all.

I’m not planning on taking phones away; that isn’t realistic. But I can create opportunities for social interactions. I have already shared this article with both my teens so that they can be part of the solution, and understand that while their phones are positive in many ways, they are also a negative force in their lives.

My younger teen just started high school, so we have four years to do some course correcting before college. The older one, well, she took off last night in her car to meet up with friends, was supposed to send the Sports Dude a text letting us know if she would be sleeping at a friend’s house, and I know she has plans with friends already lined up for tonight.

One outta two ain’t bad.