Gen Z students having fun together with smartphones.

Does Gen Z value a degree over a digital connection?

A study analyzes Gen Z's connectedness and its implications for the future

Internet, or education? If you ask Gen Z, the internet wins: an astonishing 64 percent of Gen Z would rather have unlimited internet access and no college degree than a college degree and no internet access, according to a new study.

According to Reality Bytes: The Digital Experience is the Human Experience, it seems the internet and being connected are absolutely necessary for Gen Z-ers. The study, conducted by The Center for Generational Kinetics and commissioned by WP Engine, is a follow-up to a 2017 study.

“Gen Z is the first generation to view the digital and physical worlds as one,” the study’s authors note. “For Gen Z, being digitally connected is an essential part of life.”

This is the first generation to view the people who manage or build the internet as more important than political leaders around the world, with 54 percent of Gen Z reporting that belief.

An internet-dependent generation

Gen Z remains the most internet-dependent generation–55 percent of Gen Z can’t comfortably go more than four hours without the internet, while 22 percent of Baby Boomers can go a week or more. Twenty-seven percent of Gen Z can’t go without the internet for more than an hour without becoming uncomfortable.

This near-dependence on the internet may be due to the fact that Gen Z strongly associates the internet with social media (85 percent) and entertainment or content websites (81 percent)–the internet is an extension of their lives, and this generation doesn’t distinguish between “online” and “offline” in the way other generations do. In fact, many educators are trying strategies such as using social media to engage Gen Z in class, while others are turning to experts for advice on the best ways educators can reach Gen Z.

Laura Ascione