Who is Generation Alpha?

By: Neil Mitchell

They’re digital natives and digitally savvy. Child and digital media experts explain what makes Generation Alpha unique, and what we can expect from them in the future.

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Two Brothers Viewing Tablet | Who Is Generation Alpha

Generation Alphas were born in the era of the iPad and Instagram and raised in a global pandemic. And to researchers, they represent a new beginning.

“Having worked our way through generations X, Y and Z, I settled on the next cohort being Generation Alpha,” explains social analyst Mark McCrindle, who tracks social trends and coined the term. It’s “not a return to the old,” he says, “but the start of something new.”

So what are the differences between Alphas and the generations that preceded them, and how will the newest group impact the future? We spoke to researchers specializing in children’s digital behavior from Magid (Verizon’s research partner) to get a clearer picture of Generation Alpha, the factors shaping their lives, how they use tech, and what we might expect from the next generation.

What events have shaped Generation Alpha?


“We all know what life pre-COVID was like, but Gen Alpha won’t.” – Rich McGuire, VP, Research at Magid

For Alpha, post-COVID life is all they know. Older generations experienced changes in their daily routine—remote work, schooling and increased screen time—but for Generation Alpha, this seemed simply to be the normal way of life. “Those third graders didn’t really know what it was like to start school,” says Molly Ludwig, SVP, Global Media, Entertainment and Games at Magid, referring to a year ago when some students began in-person schooling following a couple of years of remote classes. The lasting impacts of COVID-19 on Generation Alpha, such as remote learning, parents working from home and the disruption of socializing, are all major factors in the development of this new generation.

Divisive society

“You can bet that political polarization and divisiveness will decorate the setting of future Gen Alpha coming-of-age stories.” – Rich McGuire, VP, Research at Magid

Generation Alpha is growing up in an age of political polarization and divisiveness that’s been heating up over several years and election cycles. “With politics bleeding into everyday life, Gen Alpha is witnessing division and restrictions across many parts of their lives,” McGuire says. Researchers don’t yet know how this environment will impact them in the future.

Early tech introduction

“Kids are getting phones at younger and younger ages. It’s part of the conversation in school and with families.” – Molly Ludwig, SVP, Global Media, Entertainment and Games

The combination of the pandemic, rapidly emerging technology and tech-savvy millennial parents means that Generation Alpha has been immersed in technology at a younger age than previous generations. Many Alphas were introduced to virtual learning before they ever attended school in person. Smart speakers appeared in more kids’ bedrooms. Smartwatches with voice-activated texting and calling kept kids and parents constantly connected. Videoconferencing kept kids and grandparents connected with grandparents when COVID kept them physically apart. And growing up with ubiquitous voice-activated technology means Alpha is on track to be more reliant on technology than previous generations.

What are the characteristics of Generation Alpha?

They’re true digital natives.

“Many [in Generation Alpha] will likely not recall a world pre-AI.” – Rich McGuire, VP, Research

Like Generation Z before them, Generation Alpha are digital natives, raised in the age of interactive screens. But Alpha inherits a world even more technologically advanced as artificial intelligence (AI), driverless vehicles, augmented reality and virtual reality become a way of life.

They lack trust in everything.

“Kids are aware there is lying online. They are also aware that they are creating their own digital footprint. They are learning about all of this—and it makes them question even simple things, like trick-shot sports videos—from a much earlier age.” – Sarah Holmes, SVP, Global Media and Entertainment

Political polarization, deepfakes, media misinformation: Generation Alpha has been exposed to all of this at an early age. Experts say this could mean they’ll grow up more skeptical of government and news media and beyond. Between their own skeptical nature and the easily manipulated media landscape in which they’re coming of age, media literacy and critical thinking will be crucial educational tools for Generation Alpha. Parents who lay the groundwork for their kids to question online claims and encourage them to cross-check their online sources will be giving them tools to help them successfully navigate the truth and falsehood online.

They crave authenticity.

“A very important theme we have seen is authenticity.” – Rich McGuire, VP, Research

Generation Alpha places value on keeping it real. This shows up, for example, in a rejection of cliches in entertainment. “We’re still seeing stereotypes and one-dimensional characters,” says Sarah Holmes. “And kids don’t connect with that because they know that people are so much more.” Authenticity has been a growing trend for some time, but for such a young generation to both understand and embrace it is a unique, defining characteristic. They keep an eye out for authenticity online, and they’re careful about engaging with anyone who seems like they’re not who they claim to be.

They celebrate their differences and niche interests.

“You live in southern California and you play ice hockey, that’s cool. You’re into caterpillars. That’s cool.” – Sarah Holmes, SVP, Global Media and Entertainment

Generation Alpha can dive deep into favorite interests—no matter how obscure—by watching YouTube videos, asking Siri or even prompting AI tools for detailed explanations. This “nerding out” is seen as a positive trait, celebrated by their peers, and Sarah Holmes says that this sends a strong message that it’s OK to be yourself. This celebration of individuality is in stark contrast to the highly curated social media experiences of millennials and Generation Y. “There’s such power in owning who you are.… Maybe those messages have always existed, but they feel more pronounced and articulated” in Generation Alpha, Holmes says.

How does Generation Alpha use technology?

They’re at ease with multiscreen engagement

“I feel like dual screening is very common in this age, even if you’re sitting around watching a TV show or movie with your family.… Everyone has their phone.” – Molly Ludwig, SVP, Global Media, Entertainment and Games

Having the phone in hand while watching TV, for example, is increasing across generations. For Generation Alpha, it’s just what they’ve always done. This constant splitting of attention may lead to more multitasking or difficulty focusing on a single activity. Regardless, expect multiscreen behavior to be a defining characteristic of Generation Alpha.

They engage more with content and its creators.

“Gen Alpha love to engage directly with their favorite creators and content. And they find this engagement and the subsequent potential to impact others highly rewarding.” – Rich McGuire, VP, Research

Social media and relaxed screen time rules, another COVID-inspired trend, mean Generation Alpha can fully immerse themselves in content, from social media to online gaming and livestreaming. They’re connecting and making more friends online. Your Generation Alpha child’s favorite content creator is likely to engage with them in real time in virtual events, and they’re more likely to follow, like, tag or send a direct message to their favorite brands, products and personalities on social media.

They’re more self-aware about social media and its potential harms. 

“It’s a part of the conversation in school and also with families about the [online] dangers.” – Molly Ludwig, SVP, Global Media, Entertainment and Games

Generation Alpha’s early exposure to the digital world also means they’re having more serious conversations at an earlier age about online safety. It’s too soon to tell if that means this generation will be more responsible online. As for Generation Alpha’s early exposure to social video apps like TikTok and YouTube, “they know it’s addictive and that (addictive behavior) is bad,” Molly Ludwig says. “And they know that they could be deepfaked. They have an awareness of all these things, but they can’t not do it.”

What does this mean for parents raising Generation Alpha?

Despite everything Alphas know about online safety knowledge and their easy engagement with tech, there is still a role for digital parenting. Parents can raise Generation Alpha to be active critical thinkers, not just skeptical pessimists. They can help them use tech in moderation and help them find a healthy tech-life balance. And they can keep the conversation open and ongoing about online behavior and activities, and how what they do online can impact others.

All these digital parenting skills will help Generation Alpha grow into responsible digital citizens. We hope that learning more about Alphas in this overview helps today’s digital parents achieve that mission.

Help Generation Alpha develop a healthy relationship with tech and shut off data and Wi-Fi to help them reset, block apps and websites, apply content filters and more from one app: Smart Family.

About the author:

Neil Mitchell is media consultant, focused on digital and online safety. He has been working with Verizon on online safety issues for over a decade.


Verizon's Parenting in a Digital World Portal publishes articles from a diverse set of authors with expertise across the digital safety spectrum. Contributors to the Portal are compensated by Verizon for their work.

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