Want to get to know Gen Alpha? Meet their (mostly) millennial parents.

“Saying Gen Alpha is digitally native is like saying they breathe air," Joanna Piacenza of business intelligence company Morning Consult tells Yahoo News.

Gen Alpha is known for being a generation of "digital natives." (Catherine Falls Commercial via Getty Images)

Move over, Gen Z — Gen Alpha is the newest, youngest generation that people of all ages are desperate to study and understand.

They’ve been described as “feral,” “doomed” and confident to the point of being delusional. We’ve heard that they’re wreaking havoc in Sephora, ruining culture with their nonsensical slang and melting their brains with iPads.

But how much do we really know about the generation of kids who are largely still in elementary or middle school? They’re typically defined as being born between 2010 and today making them 14 years old and under, but since there’s no scientific basis for a clear generational divide, those definitions may vary.

Joanna Piacenza, head of industry intelligence at Morning Consult, gave a talk at the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) about the findings from the Gen Alpha report, which defines the generation between the ages of 0 and 10. The business intelligence company collected data from the parents of these kids, not the kids directly, because they’re too young to do so accurately.

“If you want to know Gen Alpha, you have to understand their parents … who are mostly millennials,” Piacenza said in her talk. According to the Morning Consult report, 73% of Gen Alpha’s parents are millennials.

In a phone interview after SXSW, she told Yahoo News that members of Gen Alpha are an “active generation” — extremely young and thus constantly changing. Not only did Morning Consult’s research include actual outreach by asking their parents to respond to questions, but they also had to examine the lifestyles and habits of the parents to understand what long-term impact they might have on their kids.

How millennial parenting impacts Gen Alpha kids

So, what do we know about millennials as parents? Other than notorious stereotypes about how they destroy everything from marriage to chain restaurants, they are so obsessed with buying avocado toast that they can’t afford houses and so on, of course.

Millennials are notoriously “financially anxious” — they have been through a recession, historic inflation and a global pandemic. Piacenza said that Alphas notice their parents making practical financial adjustments, like switching from premium to store brands and planning budgeted vacations, and in turn, millennials teach their kids to build wealth and how to spend money. The kids are likely to carry those behaviors into adulthood when they might become more financially independent.

Piacenza explained that millennials include their children in family decision-making more often than their parents, often Baby Boomers, did. For instance, they might ask Alphas where they want to go on vacation and take that into consideration, opening up a larger conversation if that’s not something they can afford. As a result, we might see brands targeting Gen Alpha with vacation destination advertising more, because even though they don’t have disposable income, they’re influential to their parents.

One thing is for sure about Gen Alpha — they’re ‘digital natives’

Though what we know about Gen Alpha might not necessarily lead to predicting their future, research undoubtedly paints a picture of an extremely plugged-in generation. The Morning Consult report found that half of Alphas stream video daily, including children under the age of 4. Tablets are the most popular device, and 49% of Alphas own one, but they spend most of their time on desktop computers and VR headsets. YouTube and Disney+ are their favorite platforms. Around 29% use slang that their parents say isn’t familiar to them (“bet,” “GOAT” and “sus” were the most popular), and those terms originated online.

Piacenza said she felt confident enough in the research to say “Gen Alpha is going to be more online than Gen Z.”

“Saying Gen Alpha is digitally native is like saying they breathe air,” she said. “Maybe they were handed an iPad at age 4 to give their parents a break … but what’s important for us to figure out is how their relationship with devices is going to shape their relationship with tech and brands when they come of age.”

Lately, parents, psychologists and onlookers have sounded the alarm about how online and obsessed with technology children now are. The recent release of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s book The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness sparked intense discussion about how digital technology is harming younger generations.

“My claim is that the new phone-based childhood that took shape roughly 12 years ago is making young people sick and blocking their progress to flourishing in adulthood,” Haidt wrote in an essay for the Atlantic ahead of his book’s release. “We need a dramatic cultural correction, and we need it now.”

Technology isn’t the only major influence on Gen Alpha

Though there’s no denying their impact, there’s more to consider when discussing youth right now than just their attachment to devices and social media. According to Morning Consult, many members of Gen Alpha have forged friendships online, but 73% of them would still rather play outside than in front of a screen. There’s still so much we don’t know about how being digitally native as a child might impact a teenager or an adult.

Piacenza pointed out that it’s not just the internet and technology shaping Gen Alpha right now, either — many of them were in their early educational years when the pandemic hit, taking them out of the classroom while their social skills were developing and keeping them inside their houses with their stressed and anxious parents.

“I talked to a lot of early education experts about the impact those years will have on Gen Alpha,” she said. “They missed out on these years in school and spent them in a bubble of stress and uncertainty … that’s something generational experts will be keeping an eye on.”