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Despite being digital natives, Gen Z consumers have started to exhibit some self-awareness and are questioning if all-encompassing tech usage is good for them. New Mintel research indicates that while 51 % of Gen Z Canadians (aged 13 – 17) cite a desire to integrate more tech into their lives, nearly the same percentage (47 %) also agree that social media and large amounts of tech usage have a negative impact on their mental health. In fact, 47 % say they are trying to limit their social media usage.

When examining the platforms that Gen Z uses, all of them rely heavily on visual interaction: Mintel research shows Gen Z Canadians engage with YouTube the most (77 %), followed by Instagram (75 %), Snapchat (58 %), and TikTok (52 %).

Michael Lloy, Senior Technology Analyst, Mintel Reports Canada, said: “Our research shows that due to significantly more time spent on these platforms, a portion of Gen Z has become more aware of their mental health and are exploring ways to reduce their usage of social media. This indicates that there is growing discontent among younger consumers about the negative effects that social media has on their lives, which may prompt radical behaviour shifts away from social media as they age. This will require brands to think strategically about how and where they market to Gen Z consumers as they age in order to develop and sustain an engaged and loyal audience.”

Reduced screen time in favor of better mental health

Gen Z consumers use of social media is a behavioural trait that sets them apart from other demographics. They are a heavily plugged-in generation with 51 % saying they are on the hunt to find technology to make their lives easier, more efficient, or more exciting. What’s more, 64 % say they engage with social media more than TV/movies.

However, nearly half of Gen Z (47 %) agree that social media has a net negative effect on their mental health and nearly all (95 %) agree that mental health is just as important to maintain as physical health.

“Gen Z reducing their screen time due to mental health concerns presents an opportunity for brands to lean into the visibility of their values in order to be seen to support causes that Gen Z cares about. Both Millennials and Gen Zs are heavily plugged-in generations, but there are a few, notable differences when it comes to social media. First, while Gen Zs are digital natives, most Millennials are not, and this informs the speed at which each generation adapts to new technology. Life stages are another piece of the puzzle. Millennials are a split generation. Some Older Millennials are married, homeowners, have children, or some combination of the three, while some Younger Millennials are closer to Gen Z in their life stages. These key differences will be important for brands to remember as they market to Gen Z consumers moving forward.”

The metaverse fails to make an impact

Since its launch in late 2021, the metaverse has been a popular topic for brands but has made less of a splash among consumers. Mintel research shows only 3 % of Canadian Gen Z consumers actually use the metaverse and 26 % have never heard of the metaverse before now.

“As many Canadian consumers are getting back to their pre-pandemic lifestyles, including in-person gatherings, the lack of eagerness to interact with the metaverse has been evident. Overall, only 15 % of consumers, on average, can even envision a world where they interact using the technology, meaning brands that currently or plan to leverage the metaverse in their marketing strategy have some work in front of them in order to convince consumers of the metaverse’s usefulness and applicability to their daily lives,” concluded Lloy.