Today's young people more socially aware despite harmful stereotypes, says Demos

By Laura McCardle

| 19 February 2014

Young people believe they are more socially aware than previous generations in spite of their frequently negative portrayal in the media, according to research by think-tank Demos.

young people taking part in a social action project

Think tank Demos is calling for a new narrative around today's young people and their engagement in social action. Image: vInspired

The report, Introducing Generation Citizen, was based on a survey of a thousand 14- to 17-year-olds in England and Northern Ireland. Eighty-one per cent of respondents felt they are unfairly represented in the media, and of those, 85 per cent claim that negative stereotypes affect their employment prospects.

But 80 per cent believe their generation is more concerned with social issues than previous generations of teenagers, a view shared by 66 per cent of teachers.

The report claims the current generation’s approach to tackling social issues is different to that of previous generations and often goes unrecognised.

The vast majority of young people (87 per cent) said that social media is an effective way of gaining momentum behind social issues, while 29 per cent reported using sites such as Facebook or Twitter to raise awareness of a campaign.

Jonathan Birdwell, author of the report, believes the current generation is more socially aware than ever before and is keen to make a difference in their community.

He said: “They do not rely on politicians and others to solve the world’s problems, but instead roll up their sleeves and power up their laptop and smartphone to get things done through crowd sourced collaboration.

“They value bottom-up social action over top-down politics, and social enterprise over government bureaucracy.

“Some have referred to the next generation – after Generation Y – as Generation C because they are the most ‘connected’ generation in history.”

Sophie Livingstone, co-chair of youth social action partnership Generation Change, has welcomed the report and called for greater support for young people.

“The next generation will have to face climate change, an ageing population, entrenched inequality and economic prospects that are worse for them than their parents.

“Far from being disinterested, today’s findings show that young people are more concerned about these problems than the generation before them and they want to take action.

“We have a responsibility to help equip them with the skills to create real change by creating structure, high quality opportunities to take action and volunteer in communities.”

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