Moral relativism. Humor. Success. Smartphones. These are just a few of the topics that latest Barna Gen Z study explores.
In partnership with Impact 360 Institute, the Barna Research Group has just released volume 2 of their Gen Z research. While this new study builds on the initial 2018 report, it focuses on well-being, screen use, and how to create resilient disciples.
Whether you are a parent, youth pastor or teacher (or really anyone interested in understanding Gen Z), this report will be helpful.
Here are seven of the new insights that stood out to me:
Gen Zers can be described as “positive pessimists.” 77% agree they have been successful so far and nearly 91% agree they hope to achieve a great deal. And yet more than half say they tend to expect the worst to happen (56%).
Teens spend 5.15 hours per day on smartphones, and young adults spend 6.7. Yet, six in ten teens and young adults say their generation spends too much time on screens (60%). Over half of Gen Zers feel bad about how much time they spend on screens (53%).
Humor is a key feature of the Gen Z experience, which can ease anxiety and form friendships. While there is a range of what teens find funny, 64 percent say that what they find funny is “dark or cynical.” And 63 percent say they find things funny that they shouldn’t.
There is a lot of talk about the growth of the “nones,” who do not identify with a particular religion, but this new Barna study found that younger non-Christians are significantly more likely to be spiritually curious than older non-Christians.
In the past five years, the percentage of Gen Zers who agree that morality changes over time based on society has increased from one-quarter (24%) to nearly one-third (31%). According to the study, “Moral relativism hasn’t just crept into the worldview of Gen Z; it is now the majority opinion” (p. 52).
More than nine out of ten Gen Zers agree that it is okay to disagree with the opinion or point of view of another (91%). Yet nearly half (44%) say it is not okay to challenge what someone else believes to be true. So, the majority believe it is okay to hold different views and yet only half think it is okay to raise those differences with others. They are torn between groupthink and cancel culture.
Gen Z has lost significant trust in key institutions in America. Between April and June 2020, Gen Z trust in police and the health care system sunk in half. Who do they turn to for advice and wisdom? Older generations. According to the study, “Gen Z trusts older generations more than any other social institution” (p. 56).