What you need to know:
- Generation Alpha born between 2010 and 2024 are expressive, independent, tech-savvy and fast that they open a TikTok account without your knowledge.
- So how do you raise this generation that is not the ‘yes-mum’ kind, especially as a millennial parent?
Does raising Generation Alpha, or the "iPad children" scare you?
These children who were born between 2010 and 2024 have begun a generational rite of passage and it is not what their millennial parents went through.
They are expressive, independent, tech-savvy and fast that they open a TikTok account without your knowledge, and then you find photos which they innocently took, tongue out, and posted on social media platforms.
Generation Alpha navigates smartphones with ease that you as their parents are so baffled you tell your peers, "Oh! Isn't she a genius at five?"
So how do you raise this generation that is not the ‘yes-mum’ kind, especially as a millennial parent, born in the 80s to late 90s and brought up under strict discipline; where a mere look of disapproval could signal imminent punishment as your helicopter parents closely controlled almost all aspects of your life including social circles, education, clothing choices and media consumption?
"Alpha children" are a unique generation by the mere circumstance of being born in a “fully digitalised world where they heavily rely on technology to discover the world around them," says Myriam Bachihanage Mumanya, a child therapist and child development specialist.
The co-founder of Furaha Childcare Kenya, an integrated daycare, kindergarten and child therapy centre in Nairobi says the children have a big sense of self-awareness and self-identity. They are also confident, fearless and resilient.
“Gen Alpha can be very independent, self-sufficient and self-determined. They are very resilient and adaptable to change. They experienced Covid 19 changes while young so they can adapt better than previous generations. They are also realistic and practical; something has to make sense for them before they accept it. They also have a sense of mindfulness so they enjoy living in the moment,” says Ms Mumanya.
Medina Zuberi, a mother to a "fearlessly independent and questions anything and everything” eight-year-old girl has learnt to parent differently.
To encourage independence and self-sufficiency in her daughter, Ms Zuberi introduced weekends as the time her daughter could make her own decisions, and face the consequences of not following through.
“Learning to nurture her Gen Alpha characteristics is a learning process for me as a parent. You want to shelter your child but that could also cripple them. So, you try and nurture them. My daughter is fiercely independent and that can be jarring because when you are independent, you think you know and can handle everything. They want to do stuff for themselves because they see mum or dad doing things for themselves," she says.
On weekends, she came up with the idea of her daughter making all her decisions; what time she wakes up, does her homework, and finishes her few chores.
"I then ask her what strategies she used to finish one thing and didn’t use to finish the other. This helps her learn slowly what she would do the following weekend,” says Ms Zuberi.
Allowing her daughter to make her own decisions, enables the eight-year-old to understand consequences. At one point, the girl had to go a month without screen time for not doing what she was supposed to do.
Fred Amoke, a father to three Generation Alpha children, between the ages of three and 14, says his role as a father has now extended to being an educator.
“Nowadays, the modern preschool child goes through not just the stages of socialisation in society, but digital socialisation. They’re spending more time online," says Mr Amoke, the founder of Hanka Education Center, one of the largest community schools in Mathare slums with a current headcount of 500 pupils, all in generation Alpha.
"Gen Alpha babies will grow up to be smarter, richer and healthier in terms of knowing when and how to seek help in times of mental health issues; and will obtain the highest level of formal education in history. They will become more entrepreneurial because they will have had more access to information, people and resources,” he adds.
Technology has played a big role in shaping their lives.
Jackline Mwende, an Early Childhood Education (ECDE) teacher at St Bakhita, a Montessori school in Nairobi says Generation Alpha children thrive better than those in previous generations because of easy access to computers, phones, tablets and digital television sets. Teachers therefore have to keep upgrading their skills to avoid being caught off guard.
"To avoid being challenged, I have to research before class on how best to teach them and make the information relevant," she says.
"These children are majorly enrolled in private schools fully equipped with the internet and computers. Another thing I have noticed is that they learn best with hands-on activities and games such as puzzles, and online games. They also learn best when they are in small groups of two learners,” she says.
Of importance, Ms Mumanya, is for older generations to keep up with Generation Alpha children to prevent instances of them feeling misunderstood.
“Know the current trends, and what they are interested in. The more you are in their lives, the more they will engage you in their lives. As much as they are more aware and strong-willed, there is a need for adult guidance," she says.
On the flip side, some Generation Alpha characteristics such as being daring, quarrelsome and challenging the status quo, rules and customs of everyday life can present life challenges.
“When explaining to her anything, she will put it in reference and context of how I live my life and what she’s seeing. They will always ask why something is happening, and why shouldn’t something be a certain way. What we need to do as parents is just be prepared for that disruption,” adds Ms Zuberi.
For Mr Amoke and Ms Mwende, one of the greatest challenges they face is managing their use of technology.
Although beneficial, some children have a shorter attention span and this has interfered with their education.
“The constant access to the internet and social media has interfered with their attention span. Parents say they do their homework quickly so that they can get their electronic devices. This has greatly affected their learning,” says Ms Mwende.
"I set up appropriate boundaries and guidelines for device use, and monitor the content my children are exposed to because Generation Alpha children are more technologically literate and globally connected than previous generations,” adds Mr Amoke.
Hiring a nanny for these children also comes with fresh challenges.
Caroline Mwangi, a manager at Max Childcare, a nanny service in Kilimani's Nairobi says parents have had to request nannies with additional skills such as childhood development education and proficiency in certain foreign languages, musical instruments and sporty as part of helping them do extracurricular activities. This is a shift from previous years.
“In matching a nanny with a family with Generation Alpha children, the first key thing is patience. Then they have to be sharp-minded, firm yet soft. The nanny must be exposed and able to explain things to the child," says Ms Mwangi.