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Gen Z: Born to Be Digital

FILE - Students use a laptop at a school in a shantytown on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, June 8, 2012. Peru has sent more than 800,000 laptop computers children across the country, in an effort to leverage digital technology in the fight against poverty.

One in a series on Generation Z.

Smartphones. Social media. Virtual reality. Artificial intelligence.

Generation Z is the first to be born into a time when that technology existed.

Gen Zers are the first digital natives, born between 1997 and 2012, into a world of vast technological advances and innovations. They are unlike other generations, who either grew up without or came into adulthood during the rise of social media, smartphones and instant accessibility of information.

FILE - Second-grader Annabelle Davis hugs a laptop commuter to her chest during a weekly computer science lesson in Marysville, Wash., Nov. 4, 2015.
FILE - Second-grader Annabelle Davis hugs a laptop commuter to her chest during a weekly computer science lesson in Marysville, Wash., Nov. 4, 2015.

Students across the country are aware of the ways in which their childhood has been unique from their parents and grandparents. New Jersey native and American University student Emily Carnevale said that Facebook has become the key way for people to join together over ideology.

“Gen Z is one of the first groups to grow up with the formations of social media, which has altered the way we think and do everyday things. It has even become a major part of our political engagement,” Carnevale said.

They are finding the world of advanced technology and constant connectivity both helpful and hurtful.

Some students, like 19-year-old Mary Liebers of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, said technological innovations such as YouTube and other digital tools can be beneficial in accessing information, but harmful as a distraction.

“I think (technology) has been a really good tool for doing research, and having all sorts of information at my fingertips has helped me be proactive in my learning in some ways,” Liebers said.

“I also think that social media, specifically, has taken away from my education, in that I have spent so much time on it when I could have been doing other, more beneficial things,” she added.

Technology has afforded Gen Zers different learning styles and tools. In August 2018, education publisher Pearson reported that 59% of Gen Zers preferred using YouTube, compared with 55% of millennials, the generation that preceded them. More telling is that only 47% of Gen Z said they preferred learning on paper books, compared with 60% of millennials.

Technology is not just changing education and Gen Z. Technology has increased connectivity with the outside world but also increased depression and suicide, and changed how Gen Zers perceive themselves. Earlier generations did not have technology that delivered gratification or disappointment as immediately as digital delivery of information does today.

Online and social media, for example, have opened up the world for Gen Zers, encouraging them to connect and collaborate with others around the world. But they also allow Gen Zers to shut out the outside world and live within online communities and echo chambers.

“The rapid evolution of how people communicate and interact” informs how new generations behave, said Michael Dimock, president of the Pew Research Center, in an article about defining generations.

FILE -- Sixth-grade teacher Carrie Young guides her students through an exercise on their laptops as practice for the the Common Core State Standards Test in Stockport, Ohio, Feb. 12, 2015.
FILE -- Sixth-grade teacher Carrie Young guides her students through an exercise on their laptops as practice for the the Common Core State Standards Test in Stockport, Ohio, Feb. 12, 2015.

Depression and suicide rates have increased in the past 10 years across the U.S., and in particular among America’s youth. One factor often attributed to the rise in depression and suicide rates among Gen Zers is their unique connection with technology.

According to the Center for Generational Kinetics, an Austin, Texas-based research firm, 42% of Gen Z — more than any other generation — said social media affects how other people see you. The same percentage of Gen Z also said that social media has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves.
“This new generation (Gen Z) is becoming the digital shepherd of a new era in technology adoption and reliance. Their acceptance and usage of technology is likely to be more similar to that of peers in distant countries than grandparents in their own country,” said Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer of the center, in a study on Gen Z and technology.

“What this means to every other generation remains to be seen. But what it means to those interested in generational change is that Gen Z has assumed the millennials’ mantle of the generation to know, understand and engage,” he added.

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Former US Congresswoman Liz Cheney Urges Graduates Not to Compromise With the Truth

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney, a Republican who represented Wyoming, delivers the commencement address at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, May 28, 2023.

Former U.S. Congresswoman Liz Cheney implored new college graduates to not compromise when it comes to the truth, excoriating her House Republican colleagues for not doing enough to combat former President Donald Trump's lies that the 2020 election was stolen.

In a commencement speech at Colorado College, the Wyoming Republican repeated her fierce criticisms of Trump but steered clear of talking about his 2024 reelection campaign or her own political future.

Cheney, who graduated from Colorado College in 1988, recalled being a political science student walking into a campus building where a Bible verse was inscribed above the entrance that read, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

"After the 2020 election and the attack of January 6th, my fellow Republicans wanted me to lie. They wanted me to say the 2020 election was stolen, the attack of January 6th wasn't a big deal, and Donald Trump wasn't dangerous," Cheney said Sunday in Colorado Springs, connecting her experiences as a student to her work in the U.S. House of Representatives. "I had to choose between lying and losing my position in House leadership."

In three terms in office, Cheney rose to the No. 3 GOP leadership position in the House, a job she lost after voting to impeach Trump for the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol and then not relenting in her criticism of the former president.

Cheney's speech touched on themes similar to those she has promoted since leaving office in January: addressing her work on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and standing up to the threat she believes Trump poses to democracy. She also encouraged more women to run for office and criticized one of the election-denying attorneys who worked for Trump after the 2020 election for recent remarks about college students voting.

"Cleta Mitchell, an election denier and adviser to former President Trump, told a gathering of Republicans recently that it is crucially important to make sure that college students don't vote," Cheney said. "Those who are trying to unravel the foundations of our republic, who are threatening the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections, know they can't succeed if you vote."

In an audio recording of Mitchell's presentation from a recent Republican National Committee retreat, she warns of polling places on college campuses and the ease of voting as potential problems, The Washington Post reported.

Most students and parents in the audience applauded throughout Cheney's remarks, yet some booed. Some students opposing the choice of Cheney as speaker turned their chairs away from the stage as she spoke.

Cheney's busy speaking schedule and subject matter have fueled speculation about whether she may enter the 2024 GOP presidential primary since she left office. Candidates ranging from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have calibrated their remarks about Trump, aiming to counter his attacks without alienating the supporters that won him the White House seven years ago.

Though some have offered measured criticisms, no declared or potential challenger has embraced anti-Trump messaging to the same extent as Cheney. She did not reference her plans on Sunday but has previously said she remains undecided about whether she wants to run for president.

Though she would face an uphill battle, Cheney's fierce anti-Trump stance and her role as vice chairwoman of the House committee elevated her platform high enough to call on a national network of donors and Trump critics to support a White House run.

A super PAC organized to support of her candidacy has remained active, including purchasing attack ads on New Hampshire airwaves against Trump this month.

After leaving office and being replaced by a Trump-backed Republican who defeated her in last year's primary, Cheney was appointed to a professorship at the University of Virginia and wrote "Oath and Honor," a memoir scheduled to hit shelves in November.

Two of Cheney's five children as well as her mother are also graduates of the liberal arts college.

Cheney's speaking tour appears to be picking up. She is scheduled to appear Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan.

How Are Girls in Afghanistan Continuing Their Education?

FILE - Afghan university students chant slogans and hold placards during a protest against the ban on university education for women, in Quetta, Pakistan, Dec. 24, 2022.

After the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in 2021, they severely limited access to education for girls. Yet a club founded in the U.S., Flowers for the Future, helps Afghan girls keep learning through Zoom meetings with U.S. students. Two students, one Afghan, one American, describe their journey with the program and what it's taught them about grit, resilience and the importance of learning. Read the essays by Mahsa Kosha and Emily Khossaravi in the Hechinger Report. (May 2023)

Could Your International Degree be Financed by Goldman Sachs?

FILE - The logo for Goldman Sachs is seen on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, Nov. 17, 2021.

Quite possibly, since the elite U.S. investment bank has been investing millions in educational startups. Students from countries like India, Nigeria and Indonesia have long struggled to finance their U.S. degrees due to limited access to loans, but these new startups could disrupt that. For example, in just the first quarter of 2022, one startup, Prodigy Finance, reported a 98% increase in the number of Indian loan applicants. Nick Cuthbert of the PIE News breaks down the financial projections. (May 2023)

How Do College Sports Bring Together American and International Students?

FILE - People play ultimate frisbee on the beach, April 11, 2018, in Santa Barbara, California.

The game of Ultimate Frisbee has no referees and isn't governed by the official association for U.S. college sports. But it is intensely competitive, and students from Australia, China and elsewhere travel to the U.S. to play for the best schools. Andrew Smith of VOA Learning English reports on how college athletics can forge international friendships outside the classroom. (May 2023)

Is It Possible for Vietnamese Universities to Find Ways to Attract American Students to Study Abroad?

FILE - An aerial photograph of Hanoi, Vietnam, Nov. 6, 2021.

Vietnamese students now make up the fifth-largest group of foreign students in the U.S., according to the 2022 Institute of International Education’s (IIE) annual Open Doors report. The report found 20,713 Vietnamese students studied in the U.S. in the 2021-2022 academic year.

But now some Vietnamese universities have recently begun trying to attract U.S. students to study in Vietnam, a goal that is challenging, some education experts told VOA’s Khanh An. (May 2023)

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