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  • CHLOE COMBI: Thank you very much for having me.

  • Yes, my name is Chloe Combi, and I'm

  • here today to talk to you about my book,

  • "Generation Z, Their Voices, Their Lives."

  • And to reiterate, it was a strange kind

  • of genesis, this book, because I'm not originally a writer.

  • I was a school teacher.

  • And I was a schoolteacher straight out of university,

  • and I taught in quite challenging

  • inner London schools.

  • And there, I started my own education charity

  • called Write Club, which got quite a lot of media attention.

  • And because of that, i started writing for newspapers,

  • sort of darkly humorous pieces about the realities of teaching

  • life.

  • And then from there, I started writing features

  • about, I guess, the grittier aspects of teen life,

  • so on grooming, and busing, and gangland

  • culture, and dog fighting.

  • And yes, those did get quite a lot of attention.

  • I think they were well timed as well.

  • And what became very clear was that there

  • was this real need for this window into teenage life.

  • So Generation Z was born.

  • And the concept, I suppose, was simple enough.

  • it was gonna take about 3 years to research and write it,

  • and I'd already kind of started.

  • And the aim was to interview 2,000 teenagers, which I hit.

  • So it's a big sample of teenagers.

  • And this isn't a book just about gritty teenagers.

  • It's from the most kind of normal teenage experience

  • to the most extreme, because you have to get the whole range.

  • And so I think it's a good insight

  • into who teenagers in the UK in the 21st century are.

  • So who are Generation Z?

  • Well, we're already talked a bit about this.

  • And actually, originally, and I wanted

  • to call this book Generation I. I

  • didn't want to call it Generation Z,

  • but we'll go back into that later.

  • And the small i, because I thought

  • the I for the narcissistic I, which

  • is a quality that this generation are accused

  • of a lot, the i, which obviously is

  • a sort of sly nod to Apple, which most teenagers are

  • completely enthralled with, I'm sure you know.

  • And obviously, i for information,

  • which is a real quality of everyday life

  • that we're all into.

  • But there was a fear that people would

  • assume that it was a book about technology,

  • and it's not at all, because I'm not a tech expert.

  • So many things.

  • So it became Generation Z.

  • And actually Generation Z was more of

  • understood as a sociological label than I realized.

  • Because we've all heard of Generation X.

  • That was a real thing, and there was books on Generation X.

  • But Generation Y, which I'm guessing most people in here

  • fall into, kind of fell through the cracks?

  • And they were sometimes called the millennial generation,

  • and sometimes called the post-baby boomer generation.

  • So on a very simple level, Generation Z

  • are the children of Generations Y and Generation X.

  • And some of them probably actually

  • have grandparents now who are Generation X, which

  • is a bit terrifying.

  • And for me, for my purposes, they were teenagers.

  • Everyone who I interviewed in this book

  • and who is in this book is between the ages of 13 to 19.

  • But for some people writing about Generation Z,

  • they widen that cohort a little bit,

  • and they're probably more 12 to 22 year-olds.

  • And currently there's a lot of scare pieces about how

  • the oldest of Generation Z are about to enter the workplace,

  • and ill-equipped they are, and how they can't talk properly,

  • and don't write properly, and they write in text speak,

  • and speak in text speak.

  • But for my purposes, they were teenagers.

  • On a much more complex level, they were as complex

  • as any big group of people.

  • They're as complicated, and as strange, and as multifaceted,

  • and as normal, and as likable, and a unlikable,

  • and as difficult to define as any other large group.

  • But there were themes, and they were coming up again,

  • and again, and again.

  • They became quite predictable, and they

  • formed the natural chapters of the book.

  • And not in any order, and I can't never

  • remember all of these, but they are sex, of course,

  • and body, of course, school, family, friendships

  • and relationships, crime, gender, class, race,

  • the future, and technology.

  • And technology particularly I wanted to focus on a bit,

  • obviously, considering this audience.

  • But also because it is interesting

  • for this generation, because this is the first generation--

  • this is the thing that differentiates this generation.

  • This is the first generation that have grown up

  • with the internet.

  • They've grown up with social media.

  • They've grown up with mobile phones,

  • and they've never known a world without those things.

  • The rest of it's probably can remember a world when

  • we didn't have those things, but this generation has never

  • known world without them, and it's massively

  • influenced who they are, and how they've evolved,

  • and how they think.

  • And on the way, I actually met a few kids,

  • several who spring to mind, and I'm

  • gonna read you a very short piece, who

  • didn't realize that the internet used to not exist.

  • And they actually thought I was pulling their leg,

  • and they had to go and google this fact, which obviously

  • in ironic in and of itself.

  • And I'm going to read you a very short piece from the book.

  • Now this is a trigger warning.

  • There's swearing.

  • And if you do end up reading this book,

  • there's lots of swearing, and there's

  • lots of quite grim stuff in it.

  • There's lots of really funny and happy stuff as well,

  • but there is swearing.

  • And I'm not going to give you the whole description,

  • but these are three boys, and basically

  • them describing their relationship every day

  • with technology.

  • And these three boys have never read a book,

  • except "Holes" by Louis Sachar, because they were made to,

  • and "Romeo and Juliette," because they

  • were made to at school.

  • And they figured that they probably

  • accrued individually, probably about $250 a week

  • online in some way, like gaming and so on.

  • And these are three different boys.

  • One's called Raj, one's called Abdi, and one's called Jouad,

  • Do you know what I found out the other day?

  • That the internet used to not exist.

  • I didn't know that, and my mind was all like, the fuck.

  • And this is the next one.

  • You're such a fool.

  • Of course it didn't used to exist.

  • Mobile phones used to not exist.

  • That's jokes, man.

  • Can you imagine no mobile phones?

  • How would you even talk to people?

  • With your mouth, you dickhead.

  • But no, man.

  • The world would be so shit without all the stuff we have.

  • The teachers are all negative about it

  • and say it's sucking our brains up, but that's bullshit.

  • I was gaming with this sick guy in Columbia the other day.

  • He told me the shit about Colombia

  • that I didn't know from geography lessons.

  • That's educational.

  • And he told me he gangbanged my mum and sisters as well.

  • But that's just gaming, isn't it?

  • You cuss each other to the max.

  • It's psychological banter, isn't it?

  • You want them to get all pissed off with you so that they lose.

  • And it goes on.

  • So that leads on to my next question, which

  • is do teenage boys and girls engage with and get treated

  • by the internet differently?

  • well, that piece obviously referenced gaming quite a lot.

  • And I'm not gonna go into gaming today, because I don't game,

  • and I don't really know enough about the logistics

  • and the politics of it to really go into in detail.

  • What I do know is that it's a real red button

  • topic at the moment, particularly

  • to do with gender, because there's

  • this whole thing about how it's a traditionally male thing,

  • and more and more girls want to game.

  • But thumbs up to teenage boys.

  • I will say that I met very few who seemed

  • to have a problem with that.