Jan 19, 2024 - News

How Generation Alpha is growing up in Colorado

Saliyah Taylor, 7, celebrates her first day of school at Jewell Elementary School in Aurora in 2023. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Children born between 2010 and 2024 — dubbed Generation Alpha — are grappling with tension from a climate crisis and a pandemic while growing up as the only generation born fully in the 21st century, writes Axios' April Rubin.

Why it matters: The cohort now makes up roughly 15% of metro Denver's population, according to an Axios analysis of 2022 American Community Survey data.

Details: In Colorado, children from this generation are more likely to pay attention to climate change, prompting higher levels of climate anxiety, the distress caused by its impact on our world, University of Denver assistant psychology professor Jenalee Doom tells us.

  • Doom notes that over the past three years, the state has experienced devastating wildfires and droughts, increasing the likelihood that kids can be exposed to their aftermath.

State of play: The overall well-being of this generation remains a high concern, as rates of poor mental health were already rising for young people before the pandemic, which only made them worse, Doom says.

By the numbers: Mental health-related emergency department visits by people in the state under 18 more than doubled between 2016 and 2021, according to a 2023 report by the Colorado Children's Campaign.

Yes, but: Unlike previous generations, kids today are far more likely to be comfortable talking about issues like their mental well-being, and in turn, are more likely to be more open to receiving treatment.

  • They're also more likely to feel okay with openly discussing their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • "I see that as being a real positive that they don't feel like they have to hide their identity like in past generations," Doom, who has a two-year-old child, tells us.

Zoom in: Joe Hanel, spokesperson at Colorado Health Institute, a public health nonprofit, has two children in this generation, aged 8 and 7.

  • Hanel, 50, said there are similarities between how his parents raised him — stuff like reading time, playing with toys like Lego — but there are differences, too.
  • Like many Gen Alpha children, his kids use iPads for entertainment and communication.

What they're saying: "It's weird getting a text from my 9-year-old in the middle of the work day," Hanel tells us.

Between the lines: While volunteering at his children's school, Hanel has now witnessed — twice — something he never experienced growing up: Lockdown drills for school shootings.

  • "It's the saddest thing," Hanel tells us, saying those drills are a "consequence" created by adults that falls on children.
  • Hanel says his children are attuned to larger issues like climate change, something they frequently talk about at school and at home.

Go deeper: "A landmark generation": Introducing Gen Alpha

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