Technology’s Influence on Parents and Families: Engaging and Supporting the Parents of Generation Z


naspa diamond

Author
Ashley Templeton, Fort Hays State University

Published
September 13, 2018


In our changing and ever-progressing world, it is important to understand how technology plays into those changes and how we can successfully leverage it to our advantage. When it comes to parents and families of college students, it can be particularly challenging to understand how we can engage and support those family members as their student progresses through the college experience. According to Seemiller & Grace (2016), members of Generation Z, who we are now seeing enter college, were born between 1995 and 2010, are also known as digital natives, the Net Generation, or iGeneration, and are one-fourth of the United States population. Just as every generation before them, Generation Z has unique attributes that help to understand out how we are able to best serve them and those around them.

In order to best understand how we can support Generation Z in college, we first have to take a look at their parents, Generation X, or individuals who were born between 1965 and 1980 (Seemiller & Grace, 2016). Generation Z was able to see technology at its most early stages which means that they are adept at utilizing many different modes of gaining their information. We are now seeing more and more of the parents of Generation Z being members of Generation X. According to Seemiller & Grace (2016), students who are a part of Generation Z are best friends with their parents, and rely on their parents for support. Not only do they rely on their parents for financial support, they also rely on their parents for emotional support. The fact that Generation Z students are so close to their parents and families is an important factor in how we are able to engage parents and families using technology.

By utilizing the technology at our fingertips, we are able to find ways to intentionally engage the parents of Generation Z and include them in their student’s experiences while they are in college.  According to Howe in Meet Mr. & Mrs. Gen X: A New Parent Generation, most Generation X parents expect schools to be run like customer-oriented businesses. Knowing all of the information that we do about Generation X as parents, and how they utilize technology, here are five ways we can use technology to engage and involve parents of Generation Z in their student’s college experience.

  1. Post and share like you would any other business – share events, photos, and be transparent. When it comes to running a business, especially a customer-oriented one, it is important to post frequently and be transparent. Engaging parents and family members of Generation Z can be very simple if you keep in mind that you are running a customer-oriented business, and customer service to parents and families should be a priority. As you share on social media sites, remember to share what is relevant to them and do it often to keep them engaged and active in the lives of their students.
  2. Keep social media posts straight and to the point, but make sure to share as many student stories as possible. When posting on social media to engage and involve parents and families of Generation Z, it is useful to keep posts short and to the point. Parents and families do not want to have to read through a bunch of wording to get the important information they need; they would much rather just see what they need right away and move on with their day. Much like Generation Z, Generation X is used to social media and getting quick, relevant information right away. Make sure to share about student involvement and engage them through student experiences, but keep wording short and relevant.
  3. Pictures, pictures, pictures. As mentioned before, Generation Z students are best friends with their parents. When posting on social media parents and family members absolutely love to see photos of their students engaging in activities around campus. This can be as simple as going into the student union and posting photos of students at events or tables being hosted there. This is a very effective way to involve parents in the experience of students and keep them sharing and liking posts.
  4. Create e-newsletters to keep parents in the loop. Newsletters – whether shared online or through email – keep parents up-to-date on what is going on at the institution their student is attending. Putting any and all information that is useful to parents and families of Generation Z in the e-newsletters helps them to stay connected and informed. When creating these e-newsletters, it is important to remember that less is more; giving them information in a simple-to-read and easy-to-follow format, such as text in an email, makes them more likely to read it and get the relevant information quickly and easily.
  5. Webinars can be a great way to keep parents and family members up-to-date on topics that relate to them and their students. Parents and family members are able to keep up with what their student may want to be involved in or relate to topics that affect their student by participating in webinars throughout the academic year. Webinars can be useful to parents and families of Generation Z by providing student stories and real how-to guides to relate to their student through the changes they are going through, and to help their student get involved in events and resources on campus.

As opposed to previous generations, members of Generation X are not the parents who will hover over their students; rather, they want to be involved in their students’ lives and are more of the friend to them in most cases. These five tips are useful in keeping parents and family members of Generation Z engaged and involved in their students’ experiences and serving them utilizing the technology at our disposal. Generation Z students have unique needs and unique relationships with their parents and family members, which causes us to re-think how we serve those students and their parents and families in our everyday programs and processes using technology.

References

Howe, N. (n.d.). Meet mr. & mrs. gen x: A new parent generation. The School Superintendents Association. Retrieved from http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=11122

Seemiller, C. & Grace, M. (2016). Generation z goes to college. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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