'Glass Generation' struggling with information overload, psychologists warn

'Glass Generation' struggling with information overload, psychologists warn
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A new term has been coined to describe children born after 2010, as educational psychologists are calling them the "glass generation" because they are both more transparent but also much more fragile.

These children who are now, at the most, 12-13 years old, have experienced and are still experiencing new things: a pandemic, a war in Europe and anxiety about the future of the planet, while also living in a space that is fully digitalised.

These realities are making them a more reflective generation; one which asks itself many questions about life and about the place they can have in the world, but one which is necessarily more anxious too. The amount of information they receive and how they process that information is also adding to their insecurities, educational psychologist Bruno Humbeeck at UMons told RTBF.

"Thanks to the overwhelming access they have to screens, these children are better informed," he said. "Consequently though, there may be deficits in scholarship, that is to say in the ability to process this information. This is especially true for adolescents who, at the neural level, have more grey matter but less white matter."

Humbeeck explained that they capture a lot more information but cannot make the necessary connections. "This explains why they throw themselves into conspiracy theories: they very quickly place knowledge on what has been pre-formatted for them."

Transparent, but fragile

As a result of this, educational psychologists are exploring ways in which pedagogy can adapt to the specificities of this generation and how young people can be taught to better process and cross-check the information they receive.

“The principle that should be taught to children and adolescents is to go deeper into this knowledge and understand the context,” Humbeeck added. “New pedagogies will have to go in this direction: not to denigrate the multiple sources of information that young people use but to check each time where they come from, where they are going and what they are.”

Psychologists like Humbeeck believe that parents and teachers can help this generation feel more secure in themselves and in their world.

"This generation, like glass, is transparent, but it is fragile," he said. “Parents should be careful not to reject the information given by their children, but rather invite them to dig into it. This is a generation that needs to be viewed positively, to be considered, to be asked for their opinion."

“That is why the school system needs to evolve,” he added. “We can no longer teach one generation in the same way as another. We must systematically adapt our ways of doing things and ask students, for example, what they know about something and build, from their information, a world of knowledge.”

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"Children are information sensors and every teacher should know that they have an absolute competitor in online sources such as Wikipedia," Humbeeck said. "They must teach children to think beyond what they are told, to develop in-depth knowledge, by digging, by checking the sources, by validating this information."

This generation of glass is also affected by what psychologists call "infobesity," an oversaturation of information. Children gorge on research out of fear of not knowing the information that others know. But at the same time, they perceive this race for information as something very destructive and very tiring.

“They are saturated with negative messages,” Humbeeck concluded. “So we must necessarily also feed the information with positive elements, because we must also nourish hope, in a balanced way between one and the other.”

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