In her book ‘iGen,” Dr. Jean Twenge defines 10 traits typical in members of what many call Generation Z. Twenge prefers the term iGen, with the “i” representing high-speed internet’s impact on our world.

It is easy to compare one generation to another. The internet is full of articles written about which industries have been bankrupted by my generation, the millennials. But Twenge notes that characteristics of a generation are not themselves good or bad — they only require that we adapt in how we communicate with one another.

Kiwanis’ Key Leader program is delivered by a team of certified Lead Facilitators. We read Twenge’s book to discuss how Key Leader and service leadership in general can appeal to and benefit iGen. Listed below are the 10 traits Twenge associates with iGen, and how we believe attending a Key Leader program addresses the unique qualities of modern youth.

  1. “In No Hurry: Growing Up Slowly” — Key Leader teaches teens to take responsibility and contribute as best they can for the good of their community. In an era when students are more dependent on their parents, and for longer periods of time, we believe it is necessary that kids learn to take initiative and accept responsibility for their community’s future.
  2. “Internet: Online Time — Oh, and Other Media, Too” — Most Key Leader programs take place at a camp over a weekend. Internet access is often limited or restricted, and attendees are encouraged to enjoy their moments “off the grid.”
  3. “In Person No More” — While most teens are comfortable “hanging out” over a video chat, Key Leader emphasizes in-person interactions. One section of the curriculum presents teens with a variety of situations and asks which form of communication (in person, via text or via phone call) is best to work through the challenge.
  4. “Insecure: The New Mental Health Crisis” — Common themes have emerged concerning how to promote positive mental health. These include mindfulness, spending time in nature and exercise. Key Leader incorporates all three into its curriculum and devotes an entire section to respect for oneself and others.
  5. “Irreligious: Losing My Religion” — Youth in 2019 are less religious (on average) than their predecessors. Key Leader walks attendees through a process of identifying their values, putting those values into action and the importance of finding one’s role in a community.
  6. “Insulated but Not Intrinsic” — iGen or Generation Z prefer to stay indoors or to travel with the protection of parents or guardians. Like all humans, they wish to connect with the outside world, but it is a dangerous place. Key Leader creates a safe space where students can relax and parents can know their children are in good hands.
  7. “Income Insecurity” — This generation of young people grew up through a recession. The future is uncertain, and they are seeking stable work opportunities. Key Leader teaches important skills and concepts for professional life and development.
  8. “Indefinite” – Members of Generation Z are less sure of their family future. As they navigate how to develop romantic relationships through social media, they are in less of a rush to date, marry and start a family. An important foundation to any relationship is solid communication — a key focus of Key Leader.
  9. “Inclusive” — What generation is better prepared to take on service leadership than iGen/GenZ? Members are considered the most accepting of all current generations. Through Key Leader, attendees learn that different personalities and interests add valuable benefits to a community or project. Students are encouraged to prioritize helping others.
  10. “Independent” — I have a preferred automaker, grocery store and credit card, but today’s young people are far more independent. They search for the best opportunity and focus less on brand/party loyalty. Through Key Leader, they can channel that independence into identifying where they can be of the most help at a given moment. We can help foster a generation of versatile, compassionate service leaders.

As a reminder, generational traits are broad and regional, so these qualities may not be present in all young people in all countries. Still, with the continued penetration of smartphones around the world, it is likely that in-person, values-centric events like Key Leader will continue to offer unique value for modern youth.