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est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

‘Act Your Age’: The Generation Alpha Identity Crisis

Social media and parental enablement are to blame for the over-‘maturity’ of Gen Alpha tweens.
Amelia Garcia
Generation Alpha childhoods centered on beauty standards and technology are a worrying contrast to childhoods that used to be filled with playground games, LEGOs, and more wholesome, more age-appropriate activities that are now fading into irrelevance.

Instead of cartwheeling on grassy lots or waiting their turn for the swings, today’s tween girls are opting for the playgrounds of malls and social media.

Kids aged nine- through twelve-years old — the tweens of Generation Alpha (the generation born between 2010 and 2024) — are consuming, and even creating, content more appropriate for sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds, and partaking in trends that are dangerous for them long-term. They stroll into Sephora with Stanley cups in hand and make TikToks amongst shelves of mini-skirts and graphic tees instead of enjoying typical childhood staples like bracelet-making, kickball, and that “cringe” phase unique to preteens. 

This drastic shift in tween behavior begins with the parents who supply their kids with iPhones, iPads, and un-earned allowances, ignorant of the effects of their kids’ indulgences. They’re seemingly unaware that their Gen Alpha children are comparing make-up prices at Ulta instead of browsing the YA section of Barnes and Noble.

This enablement creates materialistic and technology-obsessed tweens.

And these children do not seem to care about the consequences: When they see Gen Z teens and advertisers promoting trending skincare products, they either don’t understand, or just outright ignore, the consequences. (Young girls spending money on anti-aging products and makeup in Sephora even has a name: “Sephora Kids.”) The consequences — damaged skin and unrealistic beauty standards — don’t seem to matter to these kids.

But 12-year-olds indulging in expensive makeup is just one example of Gen Alpha being negatively influenced by social media. “iPad Kids,” another label for Gen Alpha tweens, describes their short attention spans and the ubiquitous iPad stuck in their hands with little-to-no internet restrictions. These parent-provided iPads are sometimes used as a substitute for actual parenting, and as a result of the excessive screen time, they create obsessions with trending items like Stanley cups and Drunk Elephant skincare. 

This drastic shift in tween behavior begins with the parents who supply their kids with iPhones, iPads, and un-earned allowances, ignorant of the effects of their kids’ indulgences. They’re seemingly unaware that their Gen Alpha children are comparing make-up prices at Ulta instead of browsing the YA section of Barnes and Noble.

A terrifying statistic: A third of the 150 million American TikTok users are age fourteen and under. So it’s no wonder that these unhealthy habits arise from excessive social media engagement. Since parents provide their kids with the technology (87% of U.S. teenagers have  iPhones) and unmonitored social media, they are responsible for their children’s exposure to sexual content, violence, cyber threats, and other inappropriate material.

By neglecting the consequences of substituting technology for guidance in the social, emotional, and intellectual development, parents abandon Generation Alpha to the liminal space between childhood and teenage-hood with only one thing to turn to: technology and internet-fueled trends.

When the sparkles and frills of adolescent-appropriate Justice clothing have been driven out of malls, once-popular middle school reads like Percy Jackson have not been replaced by anything as beloved, and Gen Alpha is left with no proper role models, they learn to mimic the mature behaviors from social media and its influencers, resulting in the abandonment of the childhood staples of past generations.

So, where is the content about adolescents and for adolescents? Where are the parents who are supposed to be guiding their children in this uncertain stage of life? When the tween generation is growing up in a world where online media defines and shapes culture and societal norms, yet there is little age-appropriate content for them to consume, we can’t blame them for growing up too fast.

Gen Alpha is a warning. If parents continue to leave this and future generations to iPads in their hands and social media brain rot in their heads, they will always be media-obsessed, trend-driven copies of teens.

Parents should consider if they really know what their tween is doing when they get dropped off at the Brea Mall, or how putting an iPhone and iPad in their child’s hands fuels technology addiction and pushes them into adulthood.

Gen Alpha is a glimpse into the consequences of growing up with unmonitored technology at a child’s fingertips.

If parents fail to monitor their children’s internet use, if Gen Z doesn’t set a better example; and if corporations don’t more stringent restrictions on social media apps or create spaces for the youngest generations to play in, we risk handing our future over to a generation that is too media-addicted to ever act their age.

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About the Contributors
Sofia Rodriguez
Sofia Rodriguez, Culture Editor
Sofia Rodriguez, sophomore, is enthusiastic about her first year on staff as Culture Editor of the Wildcat. In addition to her involvement in journalism, Sofia plans to become an active student leader on campus by joining HOSA, Book Club, and NHS. Off campus, Sofia has dedicated her time to other philanthropic causes, including joining and serving in the National Charity League. When Sofia is not busy writing, she delves into fiction and poetry writing. An avid music lover, Sofia also collects vinyl and attends live concerts. 
Amelia Garcia
Amelia Garcia, Illustrator
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  • VivianaMay 11, 2024 at 7:34 pm

    Agreed! As an older gen Z’er (almost millenial), I was an anomaly for my time in that my parents handed me a laptop at age 5. I regret them doing so! I believe it impacted my brain’s ability to sit down and focus on slower-paced things, like books. However, I must be grateful that TikTok did not exist then. It was hard for facing the content you describe even as a late teen. Can’t imagjne the damage it is doing to children age 9… All it feels I can do is tell my future children about what I went through so they don’t make the same mistakes. Found this article on Google BTW:)