Explaining myth of teenage apathy

There seems to be a common stereotype that youth are apathetic, crazy, out-of-control, irresponsible, and self-indulged cretins.

Eve Kennedy
Year 13
Logan Park High School

The generalisation that today's young people are apathetic; uncaring, unenthused, and not concerned with world issues is simplistic.

Youth are most commonly characterised as apathetic because of their apparent lack of interest in politics; and the voting statistics of young people are poor throughout the western world.

This is possibly because youth don't feel the necessity to vote, combined with the overall societal decline in voter turnout.

The culture of young people has changed and continues to change in many ways - one of which being the "qualification inflation" with more youth attending tertiary institutions.

According to the Ministry of Youth Development, in 1991 fewer than 10% of people aged 25-34 had a tertiary qualification at a bachelor's degree level or higher. This had increased to 27.6% by 2006.

In conjunction with this, the likelihood of young people having children has dropped from 49.8 per 1000 women aged between 15 and 19 in 1976, to 25.5 births per 1000 in 2002.

The average age of a woman having her first child has shifted from 23.9 years in 1962 to 30.5 in 2009.

People are having kids when they're older, and more people are staying in tertiary education longer.

Perhaps this has resulted in youth facing stereotypical "adult" issues when they're older; such as a mortgage, marriage, and having children.

Youth are less likely to care about adult and common political issues, than their previous generation counterparts, as they affect them less.

Perhaps the issue lies not with youth being too apathetic but that the medium of expressing one's opinions has changed.

We have been brought up in a culture that has changed dramatically from our parents, with the embrace and rapid development of technology.

We are the first "digital natives".

Technology is much more natural to many youth compared with those who remember a functioning society without internet and cellphones; hence it is the current generation of youth who use technology most.

Today, we utilise social media and the internet for polls, distribution of ideas, publicising websites/events/nearly anything we deem important, to a network of people; mostly peers, to also peruse.

Society must learn to engage the nation's youth in the way the youth have become acclimatised to, and use mechanisms like the internet more effectively.

Authoritative organisations have a responsibility to accustom themselves to the way the media landscape has been fertilised by the general population and to adapt to the continuous cultivation and sculpting of the media and also society by the present and future generations, or else risk the possibility of a disconnected and disenfranchised youth.

Whether or not young people are apathetic is one question.

Why they are, or are not, is a much more important one, and ultimately harder to answer.

Socrates is attributed as saying in 400BCE: "Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannise their teachers."

A perfect example that although society continues to evolve and change, the attitudes of one generation towards another do not.



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