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Gen-Z & Gen-Alpha: How Do Their Childhoods Compare?

Does technology have an impact on Gen Alpha’s childhood?

Shutterstock/ Chinnapong

If you asked individuals from generations like Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha, “What are some prominent memories of your childhood?” it is likely that the answers would be quite different.

Recently, I explored ‘The Sephora Kids Epidemic,’ in which I talked about the behavior of Gen Alpha towards other customers and employees, as well as the trends they get influenced by at such a young age.

While researching and writing about this topic, it got me thinking about my childhood. As I mentioned before, I have a younger sister who is nine years old. When I compare my childhood to hers, there is a distinct difference in memories.

This TikTok shows the things that I grew up with as a girl born in the early 2000s, which brings me so much nostalgia.

@nostalg1ac0re the best era #nostalgia #nostalgic #nostalgiacore #dreamcore #weirdcore #kidcore #childhood #childhoodmemories #liminalspaces #backrooms #feverdream #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #fypシ #viral ♬ original sound – nostalgiacore

This is what inspired me to follow up and explore: how different are our childhoods as Gen Z and Gen Alpha?

For this, I compiled a list of five prominent childhood memories of mine (as a Gen Z) that I noticed to be different for Gen Alpha.

1. Makeup and Skin Care

Example of a makeup set that Gen Z would've had.
Children’s makeup. Credit: Shutterstock/ Chinnapong

When I started showing an interest in makeup as a child, I remember wishing for toy makeup sets. These sets usually consisted of bright and sparkly colored eyeshadows and lip glosses, along with a brush.

My parents refused to let me wear makeup because I was too young to wear any cosmetics on my face. So, if they did not let me put on a bit of eyeshadow from my toy makeup set, then they for sure would not have allowed me to use actual makeup products.

In ‘The Sephora Kids Epidemic,’ I mentioned that Gen Alpha kids have been obsessing over owning expensive skin care products and cosmetics, such as Drunk Elephant, Glow Recipe, Charlotte Tilbury, and Rare Beauty. This is due to the influence of social media platforms like TikTok, where influencers share their skincare and makeup routines.

Some Gen Alpha kids might be happy to be gifted toy makeup sets, but most would prefer branded products, and wear full faces of makeup. This is because they feel like they must due to the effects of social media.

Gen Z did not have as much exposure to social media and trends, which is why we did not wish for branded products or were made to feel like we had to wear makeup.

2. Clothing

Children's clothing with TV and movie characters.
Children’s clothing. Credit: Shutterstock/ teguh prasetia

I spent most of my childhood in Greece, where me and my friends used to wear clothes with our favorite TV shows and movie characters on them. Being the biggest Hannah Montana fan, I liked collecting the merchandise. I cannot even count how many clothes I owned with Miley Cyrus’s face on them.

When I look at my younger siblings and their friends, I rarely see them wearing t-shirts with their favorite movies or TV shows. Gen Alphas are under more pressure than Gen Z to keep up with trends on social media.

Being born during a time when technology is peaking in terms of development, it is not surprising to see the newer generation adapting to a certain aesthetic look. I think that social media during lockdown and fast fashion have had a significant impact on Gen Alphas’ clothing choices.

@itz_landen07 Kids then vs now #2000sthrowback #fy #fyp #viral #teen #style #relatable #funny #trends ♬ original sound – Itz_landen

Nowadays, people are more critical of what we wear, especially online. Due to this, Gen Alpha feels the need to keep up with trends and change its aesthetics. I first saw this happen to an Australian YouTuber, Sabre Norris. She was criticized online for her childlike clothing style (the same as I used to dress when I was younger).

Since then, she has changed her style and is now a mature woman, but I can tell that being criticized from an early age and being exposed to social media has affected her self-esteem.

Gen Alpha does not have as much freedom as Gen Z used to have wearing clothes that allowed them to express their age and interests.

3. Toys

Dolls and Toys that Gen-Z kids used to play with.
Early 2000s toys. Credit: Shutterstock/ Jose y yo Estudio

When I was younger, I had a lot of toys, but I loved collecting Barbie dolls the most. My sister, on the other hand, did not share the same enthusiasm as me towards dolls.

That is not to say that my siblings do not have any toys, because they do, plenty of them. The issue here is that they get bored of them very quickly. In my case, it took me longer to realize when I was too old to play with dolls.

I feel as though Gen Alpha matures quicker than Gen Z, especially when it comes to playing with toys. Most social media influencers that children look up to nowadays are young adults. Even with family channels, most of the children influencers are seen adapting to trends and trying to mature at a young age. Therefore we rarely see them playing with toys.

However, there are Gen Alpha individuals who enjoy playing with toys. However, from what I’ve observed with my siblings and their friends, most kids nowadays are consumed by technology which causes them to mature quickly.

Once a child hears one of their friends say that they do not play with toys anymore because they are too old (when they are not), it is like a domino effect. They will also stop playing with toys because they do not want to be made fun of. This happened to my siblings, but also probably to a lot of other Gen Z and Gen Alpha individuals.

@dunya_wais big difference… #fyp #ifykyk #relatable #newgeneration #life #kidsnow #nowvsthen ♬ Memory Reboot – VØJ & Narvent

4. Games

Kid playing games online
Online games. Credit: Shutterstock/ OHishiapply

Much of my childhood memories are of me meeting my friends after school to play outside. We would use our imagination to create new games, as well as play the classics, like hide and seek.

I hold those memories dearly and still talk about those moments with my friends. In comparison to Gen Z, Gen Alpha spend most of their childhood consuming technology.

As mentioned above, Gen Alpha shows less of an interest in toys as they prefer playing games online. The same goes for playing games with their friends. Children now spend more time playing games and communicating with their friends online, like Roblox.

My siblings are obsessed with Roblox, and so are their friends. My parents encourage them to play outside with their friends, especially during summer. However, even when they are outside, either one of their friends brings out a phone through which they all sit, watch, and take turns playing Roblox.

5. Movies and TV shows

Kid pointing at the TV with children's movies on.
Children’s TV shows and movies. Credit: Shutterstock/ Ivan Marc

A big part of my childhood was watching the Barbie movies, Bratz, Totally Spies! Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. I tried to get my siblings to watch the shows and movies I watched, but they got bored very quickly.

With platforms like YouTube and Netflix existing, Gen Alpha has a wider variety of what they can consume. Based on what I have observed with my younger relatives, they have shown more interest in YouTube videos. I think this is a key issue in Gen Alpha kids’ behavior.

My brother is seven years old, and he follows YouTubers like Unspeakable and Mr Beast. These two YouTube channels are known for doing extreme challenge videos. Very often after watching these videos, he wants to copy what they do.

I think that the content that Gen Alpha consumes is less educational than what Gen Z grew up watching.

Is everyone’s childhood the same?

One thing I must emphasize is that everyone’s childhoods are different. There are Gen Z children who wanted branded makeup instead of the children’s makeup toy set.

There are Gen Alpha children who like to go outside and play with their friends. As well as wearing clothes with their favorite TV shows or movie characters on them.

These are the differences in Gen Z and Gen Alpha childhood memories that I have noticed and that I have seen people talk about online. However, not all children live and act in the same way.

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Written By

Hi! My name is Maria and I am a final year Multimedia Journalism student at Bournemouth University.

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