Meet Gen C, the Covid generation

Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT) March 11, 2021

(CNN)Natalie Sanchez heard it in her children's voices when their birthday parties were canceled and saw it on their faces when they couldn't play with friends.

It was more than just simple disappointment. It was fear that the world they once knew might have changed forever.
"I think that it's something that's going to kind of scar them. I don't think that they'll forget," says the mom of three in Little Rock, Arkansas. "In our life, there was a before and an after this."
When the novel coronavirus started spreading, many of us hoped the surge of widespread shutdowns would turn out to be short-lived -- little more than a blip on our collective radar. Now, a year into a worldwide disaster that's upended our society and left more than 2.6 million people dead, the conversation has changed.
The moments when it seemed like all of this could be momentary slipped away long ago. It's no longer a question of if this pandemic will shape an entire generation. But how.
Some experts have started to use a new term to talk about seismic changes they're seeing -- changes that could cause ripple effects in children's lives far into the future.
They've given a new name to the world's newest generation: Gen C, or Generation Covid.
"Covid is such a big mega-event in human history," says Haim Israel, head of thematic investing for BofA Global Research, who described Gen C in a widely cited report last year. "It's going to be the most defining moment for this generation."

Who's in Gen C?

The term Gen C first started popping up in media reports early in the pandemic. More recently, investment analysts like Israel and children's rights advocates have taken to using variations on the phrase.
Defining a generation isn't simple. The names we use to talk about groups of people born in any given period can change over time -- sometimes because what seemed to be a defining event later turns out to be less influential than other forces at play, sometimes because a different term gains momentum and sticks.
How we define recent generations

Defining a generation isn't easy, and sometimes the names we use change over time. Here's how generations have been defined over the past century:

The Silent Generation: Born 1925-1945

Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964

Generation X: Born 1965-1980

Millennials: Born 1981-1996

Gen Z: Born 1997-? (no endpoint set)

Gen C: ?*

*While some experts are using the term "Gen C" to refer to the coronavirus pandemic's impact on children, scholars in different fields so far have different definitions of when this generation begins and ends.

Israel's definition of Gen C includes children born from 2016 to the mid-2030s -- because, he says, the changes we're witnessing are so dramatic that even kids born years after the pandemic ends will still see it shaping their lives.
"They're going to be different," Israel says. "They're being defined by a completely new world."
Asked who comprises Gen C, experts in other fields shared different guidelines with CNN.
A senior adviser at the United Nations Children's Fund said all children should be included -- especially those who've had points of transition in their lives disrupted. A sociology professor said college students shouldn't be left out. A mental health expert noted children aged 7-9 are particularly vulnerable.
Axel Stirton, 2, visits his neighbors in Ventura, California, on April 3, 2020.
Everyone agreed that we need to keep a close eye on what's happening to kids -- and that children born during the pandemic and living through major developmental milestones right now are an important part of this generation.
"The first 1,000 days are so critical in development," says Jennifer Requejo, a senior adviser for health and HIV at UNICEF. "While countries are focusing on a response to this pandemic, it's important they don't lose sight of these vulnerable time periods in children's lives. There are some very important issues that can't be set aside."

How the world looks to this new generation's youngest members

A baby stares wide-eyed at the camera as familiar music plays.
It's the tune of the classic children's song -- "If You're Happy and You Know It." But the words in this TikTok version are different.
"If you're a pandemic baby and you've been in quarantine your whole life so you get overstimulated by everything 'cause all the strangers that you see have masks on, and you've never really had a playdate in your life, clap your hands."