Generation Y are individuals born between 1981 and 1998. Members of this generation are often referred to as the Net generation (Martin, 2005). This generation is also the largest demographic cohort since the Baby Boomers.
Societal Context Shaping Generation Y
The perspectives of this generation are significantly shaped by different kinds of terrorism and 24-hour access to information (Patota, Schwartz, & Schwartz, 2007). This generation is said to be uniquely different from all the generations that have gone before because of the influence of advanced technology in their lives. The four most controlling factors dominating this generation are crime, the media, economic issues, and the changing shape of the family (Rainer, 1997).
Generation Y was referred to as “Generation 9-11” in Newsweek, due to the terrorist attacks that created a crisis marking the end of a peaceful era (as cited in Kantrowitz & Naughton, 2001). Several writers (Arhin & Johnson-Mallard, 2003; Billings & Kowalski, 2004; Martin, 2005; Murray, 2004; Nussbaum, 2003; Rodriguez et al., 2003; Zemke et al., 2000) have attached such nicknames to Generation Y as the Millennials, Nexters, the MTV Generation, Echo Boomers, the Internet Generation, the Digital Generation, the Net Generation, Generation Next, Generation WWW, Generation E, N-Gens, Nintendo Generation, Generation Why, Generation Y2K, and Generation O (Obese).
This generation was the first generation to be born during the Information Age (Pendergast, 2011). Rainer (1997) also described this generation as the first to be forced to cope with increasing broken families, since almost one-third of Generation Y were living in single-parent homes (mostly fatherless) in 1993. Half of the members of Generation Y experienced separated or divorced parents. They enter their adulthood angry and suffering from an inferiority complex, as by 1987 almost 70% of mothers left their school-age children at home while they worked outside (Rainer, 1997). This is the reason why Generation Y prefers mothers to stay home (Codrington, 1999). Murray (2004) described Generation Y as possessing positive attitudes and moral values different from preceding generations. Identified moments that are associated with Gen Y-ers include September 11, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and rapid technological advancement (Arsenault, 2004).
Rainer (1997) stated that the top ten powerful factors shaping Generation Y are technology-driven rapid changes resulting in ignorance of stability and tradition, lack of support from the surrounding community, excessive media information, the first generation growing up without guidance, vanishing demarcation of gender roles, and devaluation of life. The Million Man March, Promise Keepers gatherings in Washington D.C., Desert Storm, Power Rangers, the O. J. Simpson trial, and MTV are some of the childhood memories of Generation Y. Robert Pittman, the founder of MTV, said that babies of this generation can watch TV, do their homework, and listen to music all at the same time (Rainer, 1997). Abernathy (1999) argued that Generation Y is also influenced by the Internet. Abernathy (1999) stated that one has to consider the cognitive styles of a generation raised on MTV and Nintendo. They subconsciously integrate and internalize the Web into their lives.
Gen-Y’s early adoption and mastering of digital technology has created a generational power change (Zemke et al., 2000). Surpassing Generation X, who grew up as digital technology was being developed, Generation Y were the “first to be born into homes that are already equipped with computers and were weaned on video games” (Zemke et al., 2000, p. 137).
Characteristics of Generation Y
When the societal context, patterns, and behaviors that are predicted from the cyclical nature of generations are considered, there are core traits that can be attributed to Generation Y. According to Howe (2006), there are seven primary core traits characterizing Generation Y. As a cohort, they are (a) special, (b) sheltered, (c) confident, (d) team-oriented, (e) conventional, (f) pressured, and (g) achieving.
Generation Y members regard themselves as special because they are the first generation to be born in a digital age. They are proud of their digital capabilities. Most of the Generation Y individuals are members of families with fewer children. Members of this generation are often assigned to high expectations. According to Howe (2006), Generation Y members are sheltered in a way that there are policy initiatives in place to keep them safe. They are mandated to wear bike helmets and seat belts, while other initiatives such as pool fencing were put in place that focused on the health and well-being of the individuals. These laws apply to all people, but were implemented during the formative years of Generation Y. They are also concerned with security issues such as school violence, crimes, and terrorism.
Generation Y members are confident. They accept uncertainty and have experienced a sound economic base. Even the recent economic fluctuations have not influenced the confidence level of Generation Y members. For these individuals, the only thing that is certain in this world is uncertainty. Individuals in this generation are exposed to more team activities during their early years when compared to other generations. In fact, schools and universities foster activities that would have them work as a team or a group. However, even if they are team-oriented, it does not necessarily follow that they are effective team members. Generation Y-ers have relatively conventional aspirations like career, work-life balance, and citizenship. These aspirations are in response to the former generations, who were often more committed to their work than to achieving family balance. Generation Y members are regarded as always pressured. Most of the parents of Generation Y individuals have high expectations of them. They spend their day with formalized activities and extracurricular activities.
Howe (2006) stated that this is the most education-minded generation so far. Many members of Generation Y equate success with education. In addition, it is during this generation that alternative and progressive teaching strategies and approaches were implemented. This is not the only list of characteristics of Generation Y. These seven characteristics are based on the propositions of Howe (2006).
这一代的想法主要受各种恐怖主义和全天候信息影响(Patota、Schwartz & Schwartz，2007年)。由于技术发达，他们跟上几代截然不同。这一代的四大特点是罪案、媒体、经济问题和家庭规模转变(Rainer，1997年) 。 由于恐怖袭击频生，和平时代终结，所以《新闻周刊》称Y世代为“911世代”(摘自Kantrowitz & Naughton，2001年) 。几位学者 (Arhin & Johnson-Mallard，2003年；Billings & Kowalski，2004年；Martin，2005年； Murray，2004年；Nussbaum，2003年；Rodriguez等著，2003年；Zemke等著，2000年)称Y世代为千禧世代、新世代、MTV世代、回声潮世代、互联网世代、数码世代、网络世代、次世代、WWW世代、E世代、N世代、任天堂世代、为什么世代、Y2K世代和O世代(肥胖世代)。 Y世代是在信息时代出生的第一代 (Pendergast，2011年)，Rainer (1997年)也指这一代是最先被迫面对破碎家庭问题的一代，因为在1993年，接近三分之一的人都属于单亲家庭(大多没有父亲)。 近半Y世代经历父母离异。在1987年，近七成的母亲会把学龄子女留在家里外出工作 (Rainer，1997年)，因此子女长大后往往倾向愤世疾俗和自卑，这也说明了为什么Y世代希望母亲能多留在家 (Codrington，1999年)。
Rainer (1997年)提出塑造Y世代的十大因素，包括科技带来的急速转变使人变得不重视安稳生活和传统、缺乏社区支持、接触过多媒体资讯，并成为首个在成长时缺乏管教的一代，性别角色越来越模糊，而且轻视生命。美国华盛顿的百万人示威和守约者聚会、沙漠风暴、金刚战士、辛普森案和MTV是Y世代的童年集体回忆。MTV始创人Robert Pittman表示这一代的子女能一边看电视，一边写作业、听音乐 (Rainer，1997年)。 Abernathy (1999年) 认为Y世代也受互联网影响，指出应该思考由MTV和任天堂陪伴成长的这一代人独特的认知方式，因为他们已在不知不觉间把互联网融入生活。 Y世代迅速适应并掌握数码技术，使不同世代的力量出现转变 (Zemke等著，2000年)。数码技术在X世代尚在发展当中，而Y世代“出生时家里已有电脑，在年幼时已经玩游戏机” (Zemke等著， 2000年，第 137页)。
通过考虑按照不同世代的周期特质推测的社会背景、模式和行为，可以归纳出Y世代的主要特质。Howe (2006年) 提出Y世代的七大特质为(a)与别不同、(b)备受保护、(c)充满自信、(d)重视团队、(e)传统、(f)压力大且(g)力争上游。 由于Y世代是数码时代最先出生的一代，所以认为自己与别不同，以科技才能而自豪。大部分Y世代的兄弟姐妹不多，长辈对他们的期望甚高。 Howe (2006年)也指出Y世代受多项政策措施保障，例如法律规定他们必须佩戴头盔、安全带，而游泳池也设有围栏，保障他们的健康和安全。虽然这些法例适用于所有人，但全部都在Y世代的成长阶段推行。另外，他们也关注校园暴力、罪案和恐怖主义等治安问题。
Y世代充满自信，对变数处之泰然，并拥有良好的经济基础，即使近年经济波动，也无损他们的自信。他们深信变幻才是永恒。 与其他世代相比，Y世代小时候参加更多团体活动，而大中小学也会举办不同的团体活动。尽管他们重视团体生活，但不代表他们是理想的队员。 Y世代追求的目标比较传统，例如稳定的事业、工作与生活平衡和公民身份等，与上几代人重视工作多于家庭的态度形成反差。 社会普遍认为Y世代经常面对压力，因为父母大多对他们期望甚高，除了应付课堂的学习，还要参加校外活动。
Howe (2006年) 指出Y世代是迄今接受最多教育的一代，许多人认为教育是成功之道。另外，不少另类和渐进式教育方法也在这一代推行。 Y世代还有其他特质，上述七大特质只根据Howe (2006年) 的观点归纳而成。