Memes, Gifs and Communicating with Generation Z

The goal of the Help @ Home project is to help parents become better connected with their student’s digital lives. This week’s installment is centered around some of the ways that Generation Z prefers to communicate.


In researching the content for this email, I read through quite a few articles, posts, and studies that dealt specifically with how Generation Z communicates. One of the most interesting ideas that existed across all of the text was that Generation Z does not see much of a difference in their life online vs. offline. The online world has always existed during their lifetime, and because of that, their online persona is a huge of part who they are It’s not an extension of their physical lives the way older generations perceive it.


Social media, for example, provides some insight into the difference in perception. Generation Z views social media in an entirely different light than older generations do. We see social networks as a supplement to our physical lives. Older generations consume on social media much more than they create. When we do create, it is typically just posting pictures and little bits of our lives, mainly using it to share for others to see. We’re also guilty of being lurkers. Lurkers look at everyone’s posts but rarely post themselves. It’s almost the exact opposite for Generation Z. They see social media as a primary form of communication, not an afterthought. “For Gen Z’s, social media is a major way of engaging with his or her community, as opposed to just being a digital broadcasting platform.”


Social media is just one form of communication though. Regardless of the mode of communication, Generation Z prefers to use visual imagery as opposed to simple text. Emojis, gifs, snaps, memes, and pictures are essentially an evolved version of texting. Think of this as texting evolved, texting 2.0. You’ve probably seen plenty of these “memes”, but just in case you are unsure, here’s the definition. Memes are pictures with words overlayed on top to express a joke or an idea. Need a visual? Here’s a link to 26 memes that any parent can relate to.  Gifs are a similar concept but are typically animated.


What does that mean to parents?
Communicating with your children can take many forms. Not every interaction needs to be a face to face conversation. To be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with good ol’ fashioned face to face conversations. In fact, a survey done by indicated that growing up in a world of messaging and texting has taught Gen Z the value of a face to face conversation. I am not suggesting that parents stop talking to their kids. My point is that as a parent, it is important to be aware of how your child communicates with the rest of the world so you can interact with them in a relevant way.

Parents should consider using memes, gifs, and short videos as a way to reach kids on their level.  For example, when you’re sending a simple text, consider using a gif or meme instead of a traditional text message. There are apps for your smartphone that can integrate a searchable database of 1000s of memes and gifs into your texting app (Giphy is a great option). These apps give you some creative, unique ways to say simple phrases like “Thank You,” “Congrats,” and “Good luck.”

I’ve seen some fantastic examples online of parents who have used memes or internet jokes to make a point with their children.  These often center on doing chores around the house. My personal favorite is this one with a list of chores taped below it.


What does that mean to educators?
Just like parents, educators need to learn how to use imagery to connect and communicate with Generation Z.  Teachers have begun to incorporate imagery such as memes and gifs into assignments, presentations, and even their websites for that exact reason. It allows them to connect with the students on their level.
Some educational software companies have taken this into account as they are designing applications for the classroom. Quizizz, an online application that turns traditional games into multiplayer competitions, uses memes after each question a student answers. If the answer is correct, students see a comical meme encouraging them. Incorrect answers may an image suggesting they had a “duh” moment. The concept is working. Quizizz has been listed as one of the most popular tools in the educational technology world right now.


Get creative and make a meme! There are plenty of sites and apps that allow you to do this. I prefer to use an app on my phone because the website often display recent or popular memes on the front page. The language used on these may not be appropriate for young children. The apps on your smartphone do contain those offensive images in their galleries but are less likely display them when you open the app. Search the app store for “Meme Generator” or if you’d prefer to use a computer, here’s a list of ten sites you can choose from.




Do you want to receive a weekly email with information about parenting in a digital age? 
Help @ Home is free and is available to anyone. While the project is currently being sponsored by the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District, you DO NOT have students in the district to sign up for this weekly communication.