How To Understand Gen Z Communication Patterns

Picture of Mary Kate McGrath By Mary Kate McGrath


Gen Z Communication PatternsWho is Generation Z and how do you understand their communication patterns? In 2018, the Pew Research Center defined where Millennials and Gen Z begins, after the center decided that a cut-off point between millennials and the next generation was necessary. 

Generational delineations help researchers better understand how formative experiences such as world events, technology, economic and social change, shape people’s worldview, according to Pew. In order to continue to gather meaningful data on the millennial generation, the center decided 1996 was the last birth year to be considered - meaning anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (23 to 38 in 2019) is a millennial, while anyone born 1997 on is considered Gen Z. 

Technology is one of the key changes across generations, and the way individuals use technology to communicate is particularly significant. For example, Boomers grew up during the rise of television, an invention which dramatically shifted people’s lifestyles and the way that people around the world connect and share information. Similarly, Millennials grew up in the age of the Internet, which brought social media, video chat, and other new communication tools that keep people in constant communication. The biggest difference in how these technologies are used across generations has a lot to do with when people come of age. While Millennials adjusted and adapted to a new era of mobile technology, Gen Z take these tools for granted, as technology has been a given  part of the social fabric in the United States since they were kids. 

In order to manage safety and security for Gen Z on college or university campus, it’s important to understand the implications of a generation “tuned in” to technology. By the time Gen Z was 10 years old, mobile phone technology and WiFi were already the predominant modes of communication in the United States. Gen Z is made up of tech-savvy, “digital natives” - meaning they were brought up in the age of technology, rather than introduced to it as an adult. As a college or university students, Gen Z are likely to prefer the speedy communication style that mobile technology and social media enables. For campus safety managers, understanding communication styles can make an enormous difference when it comes to implementing an effective emergency response plan. 

Learn More: 3 Ways to Engage with Generation Z Students

How Gen Z Communicates On Campus

Digital communications - especially via mobile phone - are the predominant mode of connecting for Gen Z students. Mobile Phone Technology is near ubiquitous for Gen Z - approximately 95% of Gen Z students have a smartphone, and about half of these students use their mobile phone for 5+ hours per day. 65% of Gen Z students are on their phones after midnight multiple times per week, and 29% report being on their phone after midnight every night of the week. During an emergency, mobile phone communications will be the most reliable way to reach Gen Z students on campus, no matter where the emergency occurs or at what time of day. 

Texting is the most popular medium of communication for Gen Z students. Luckily, text-based communications can be easily incorporated into an emergency communication plan by campus safety teams. If the college or university utilizes a mass notification system, prioritizing text during an emergency situation can ensure that the majority of students are informed. 

Gen Z students also prefer app-based communication since it allows them to communicate on the go and multi-task with multiple conversations. Push-notifications can be a powerful tool for reaching these students - Gen Z students are 3 times as likely to open a push-notification, and utilizing this tool can allowing campus safety managers better reach students with important resources or information. 

Campus Safety managers should understand which mediums Gen Z find preferable, but it’s equally critical to understand the modes of communication these students are unlikely to turn to. It’s noteworthy that Gen Z utilizes email less for personal or professional reasons while online. Students are still likely to utilize e-mail, but for matters which are timely, it may not be the most effective way to reach students. Keeping track of which social media apps are popular among members of Gen Z can help safety managers better reach this demographic as well as well. While Baby Boomers and Millennials used Facebook or Twitter, the next generation has largely spurned these once-popular sites in favor of Instagram, WhatsApp, VSCO, and other newer, more visual social media platforms  

These platforms largely communicate using short-form communications, pictures or video, which speaks to dwindling attention spans. The average millennial has a consumer attention span of 12-seconds, while Gen Z attention-spans have diminished to 8 seconds, according to Forbes. Once again, the decrease in attention may have a lot to do with the Gen Z tendency to multitask - while millennials have on-average 3 screens going at-once, Gen Z are likely to have 5 screens at -once, making it more difficult for one medium. The multi-task generation emphasizes the importance of targeting and personalizing communications aimed toward Gen Z - reaching out via text or push-notification remain one of the most effective ways to reach and engage students. 

Leveraging Technology To Communicate With Gen Z

Technology should be a  key component of a safety plan which includes Gen Z students. A campus safety app can empower tech-savvy students to take safety into their own hands. The app has a variety of safety capabilities and allows students to set a safety timer while traveling across campus. If a student does not arrive at the designated location within the time they set, campus safety or local law enforcement will be informed. The tool will also provide location data to officials, further reducing response time. Given the prevalence of mobile phone technology among Gen Z students, the app provides a unique way to bolster safety among this demographic. There is another one of the many 

The app also acts as a database for campus resources, allowing students to access critical safety information such as emergency procedures, travel documents, and other key resources which can be shared with users via the interface. A call directory is also available, allowing students to access important numbers. If a student is having a health concern, for example, they will be able to find contact information for the campus wellness center via the app. Students can also reach out to campus safety officials directly via the app during an emergency. For a generation which is already likely to have their phone on hand, Gen Z students are more likely access to resources via the app. 

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Mary Kate McGrath

Written by Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.


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