Published on February 22nd, 2014 |
by Bill Burton
Image © wordpress.com 2013
Teenagers, a new hope?
This past Sunday the think tank Demos produced a study assessing the attitudes of teenagers between the ages 14 to 17. Not an age where we are considered our most respectable or thoughtful, but the study showed they have a great deal of understanding and empathy towards societal problems. Four out of five people polled said they were concerned about social issues such as poverty and education. 66% of teachers asked agreed with this, with the most common phrases used to describe students being ‘caring’, ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘hard working’.
Impressive figures, and the answers were not merely empty sentiments. More than half of the students asked had raised money for charity while 37% had undertaken volunteer work. This generation are also better behaved, drug and alcohol use is falling and so are levels of crime. When asked who they admired Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama were the most common answers.
The Devos study illuminates that the common negative portrayal of teenagers is a misinformed cliché, and one that the students are very aware of. 81% felt they were poorly portrayed in the media with it having a negative impact on their quality of life. A worrying statistic for not just newspaper owners but society as a whole, showing the anecdotally driven conjecture that permeates coverage of young people in the press has tangible effects. The media must do more to engage young people, by providing content that interests them contributed by people of their age. Pick up a national newspaper and look how many comment articles are by anyone under the age of 30. It will not be many. The Times’ latest signing of professional hate spewer and Israel apologist Melanie Phillips seems unlikely to tilt the scales back the other way.
The internet has placed immense pressure on all traditional media outlets, mainly due to providing choice. Choice to watch what you want, read what you want and do what you want. It has placed the consumer at the fore. Such exposure to different sources has likely lead to increased understanding of issues and greater scrutiny over the validity of facts. Outright lies from politicians will be quickly picked up on twitter, liberal use of fallacies from writers will be found. The days of reading one paper and the TV being the source of news are over, and certainly not coming back. As such the rise of digital platforms may have played an important role in explaining the results of the Devos survey. With information being more plentiful and available than at any point in history, understanding and tolerance of issues seems a reasonable outcome. Despite the omnipresent doom and gloom about all and sundry, the future of our society may be more promising than most of us think.
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