Are young people worse off today than previous generations?

As I spent time speaking about the sick condition of this world with my granddad and how the young people of the world were caught up in it, I started to think about whether the youth of today are worse off than previous generations.

The response to this would never be straightforward, because of the significant changes that have taken place from generation to generation.  In many ways, young people are not worse off today than previous generations, yet in many ways, they are.

With the constant increase in knowledge over time, there have been numerous developments in travel, methods of communication and other areas of our everyday lives.  In fact, many of these changes and developments have taken place, because of the revolutionary thing called technology.

The use of technology allows us to complete a number of tasks using faster, simpler and more efficient methods.  It is now easier for us to communicate with other individuals from around the globe  than ever before, leading to an increase in opportunities.  The Internet gives us easy access to an ocean of information and there is entertainment in abundance with access to televisions, computers, games consoles and mobile phones.

Image by blickpixel and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by blickpixel and used under Creative Commons License.

In many ways, technology means that we have a lot more variety than the young people of previous generations, as there is so much at our fingertips.  You could say that we’ve been privileged and spoilt for choice.  However, this also comes with a price.

Technology can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse.  It comes with a whole set of new problems that generations before us did not have to contend with.  There are the issues of sexting, hacking and cyber bullying, amongst others.

The ease of cyber communication has also messed up the ability for many young people to physically communicate with others, whilst the obsession with gadgets has dampened the imagination of some young individuals.  Instead of creating new games or creating scenarios with their dolls, they would rather play around with an iPad or XBox.

The divide in class – which is continuing to widen due to the economy and actions of the Conservative government – has had a very negative effect on the young people of this generation.  It has led to an increase in disruptive youth who are trying to gain the same sort of status or earnings as the class above them.  This also leads to lawlessness, knife crime and gun crime.

This is also a generation of young people who have grown up amongst the constant reports of gang culture and the issues that come with that, particularly violent crime and involvement with drugs.  They will be drawn into this, as they mimic the actions of others before them and try to gain their social standings.

Photo by cheifyc and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by cheifyc and used under Creative Commons License.

It does not help that there is a blatant lack of disrespect for life and authority.  This effects all young people, whether they are embroiled in “gang culture” or not, because a life could be taken for the silliest little thing.  Respect is something that has become extremely distorted in our society, specifically among the young generation.

The issues regarding economy and finance are also major factors in making young people worse off today than previous generations.  Those going to university now have to pay a large fee and leave in a pile of debt, unlike previous generations who were able to attend university for free.  And to make matters worse, there is a constant push for young people to attend university, which will lead to debt, without there even being a promise of a job afterwards.

Graduates struggle to find work like the many other unemployed young individuals and when they do eventually find work, many of them are forced to work in menial jobs with low pay and the unlikelihood of promotion.  In fact, an older individual I was speaking to told me that it is a lot harder for young people to find work now than when they were younger.

The struggle to find well paid work combined with the soaring house prices also means that this young generation will struggle to purchase a property in the future, which I think is unfair and unacceptable.

All of these issues do not help with the issue of increased pressure in our society, as we live in a time that is extremely competitive.  This pressure, mixed in with the points I raised earlier, has led to an increase in mental health problems among young people, including stress, self-harm and suicide.  It is also not helped with the constant images being pushed down our throats by the media, which affects the self-esteem of so many young individuals and leads to a number of body issues.

Image by johnhain and used under Creative Commons License.
Image by johnhain and used under Creative Commons License.

There are many different obstacles facing young people, and it would seem that they are worse off than previous generations, despite the increases in technology and all that comes with it.

Young people are facing issues left, right and centre in a sick world that shows no signs of getting better.  They are fighting to get ahead, which does not always lead to positive results.  Their parents are striving to give them the best possible life, which leads to an increase in working hours and a decrease in family time, which also has an adverse effect on young people.

However, we need to find a way to make the best out of a bad situation and rectify some of these problems.  It is just about finding the most effective ways to do this.  How do you think we can make the young generation better off?

We need to find a way to stop the cycle

I am currently reading One Blood: Inside Britain’s Gang Culture by John Heale, and it is constantly opening my eyes and helping me to realise why young people are in the state that they are.

I’ve desperately wanted to understand why young people have resorted to violent crime to resolve their problems, or why there has been a surge in knife crime, or even why they want to be involved in the gang life.  Reading the first four chapters of this book is already making it a lot clearer to me.

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Although everyone has the ability to make their own choices and choose their own path, these young people have been let down by society, the system and even their own communities or family time after time.

Their elders neglect them, ignore their problems, talk down to them, abuse them and the list goes on.  They turn to this life, because they see it as somewhere to belong, with the opportunity to earn a lot of money and be associated with people they can look up to.

The divide between upper and lower class seems to have played a significant part in creating the lawless young people that we see today, yet the government would like to cut their benefits and there are many of them being forced to work in jobs with low pay.  I’m not saying that I agree with it, but is it any wonder that these young people take to the streets to sell drugs?  They will gladly run the risk of being convicted, because they will be making a lot more money this way.

However, the issue of violence is a little different.  The current generation of young people have grown up surrounded by this gang culture, with the regular reporting of stabbings and shootings.  In a way, they are used to the violence, so they start to become desensitized to the violence.  As more and more young people begin using knives, more of them begin to feel unsafe, so they then start carrying knives and the cycle continues.

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Although gang culture may not be entirely relevant anymore, the issues of violence and selling drugs is incredibly relevant in our society.  Young people feel like they have something to prove, as they demand respect in a society where their voices are so often ignored.

We need to listen to young people; interact with them, get them engaged and help them to understand the value of human life.  If not, we’ll lose them forever and who wants to think about what our future may be like then.

Are young people out of touch with the older generation?

In our current society, there is frequent discussions about whether young people are out of touch with the older generation, or if it is the other way around.

You will always get different view points or perspectives, but I think that it goes both ways.  These two generations have gotten extremely out of touch with each other and there is a generation gap, which I think will be difficult to rectify.  However, it is not impossible.

Photo by  Fabio Mascarenhas and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Fabio Mascarenhas and used under Creative Commons License.

While attending a community event, it was interesting to hear a teenage girl say that she thinks the youth have a problem with being able to communicate with the adults, and that the youth need to get more on the adult level.  These are comments that you usually hear from older individuals rather than younger ones, but everyone has their own opinion and I respect that.

Nevertheless, I did not entirely agree with the comments she made.  Although there is some truth to what was said – some young people do need to get on a more adult level and learn how to effectively communicate with them – there are some adults who need to get more on the youth level.  I’m not saying that adults should start using all types of slang words and begin slacking with their grammar, but they need to understand how to speak to young people effectively without making them feel as if they are being patronised.

Sometimes it seems that the older generation fail to understand that we are living in a very different time to them, especially with the emergence of technology and everything that comes with it.  Young people also find themselves needing more support in an age when there is so much added pressure from various avenues.

Photo by dcondrey and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by dcondrey and used under Creative Commons License.

However, I think that the younger generation tends to forget that their elders have a lot more life experience than they do, which means that they have an abundance of wisdom to share.  We may be living in a different time, but they can definitely share their insight on similar things that may have happened to them in the past, and more than that, they can lend a listening ear in a bid to gain understanding.

Lending a listening ear does bring up another issue though, because just as so many young people are unwilling to hear, there are a whole host of older individuals who are also unwilling to listen to them.  Too many times, the older generation only hear what they want to hear or they refuse to hear, because of their personal prejudices or feelings of shame.  There are also the older individuals who feel that they do not need to listen, because in their eyes, why does the word of a young person matter?

Photo by NomiZ25 and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by NomiZ25 and used under Creative Commons License.

This is an issue that goes hand-in-hand with the issues that young people have with the government.  Many of them feel that their voices are not heard or do not matter to those in power, so they simply stop using those voices.  Why do you think it is so hard to convince young people to vote?

The government is extremely out of touch with the young generation and they spend a lot of time putting them on the back burner, which leads to problems.  I don’t think they have properly considered the subject of benefits and unemployment, because I doubt that cutting benefits will automatically push young people into employment.  This is delusional thinking, which will probably lead to further issues in the young community.

Yet as I said earlier, it is not impossible to rectify this problem.  Yes, there is a generation gap, but there is a way to bridge that gap.  The most important factor in all of this is our community – we all need to be interacting with members of our community more and engaging in the various community events or activities that are available.  This will allow the young and older generation to spend time together in various spaces, leading to conversations and possibly future relationships.

Photo by reverent and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by reverent and used under Creative Commons License.

However, it is not enough for us to just talk to each other, but we also need to really listen to one another, as listening allows us to gain perspective and understanding on the person in front of us.  Genuine, in-depth conversations between the older and younger generation would probably work wonders in our community and society.

I know that there is every possibility to bridge this gap, because I regularly see it in action, especially when spending time with the charity Lives Not Knives.  I have met some amazing individuals from the older generation who are definitely in touch with the young generation.

Watching Monique Rebeiro and Ian Willard interact with young people is a beautiful thing – they make so much time for them and speak to them on the same level that they would speak to anyone else.  On the other hand, the younger individuals working there are also in touch with the older generation – I think that Eliza Rebeiro can interact well with a person of any age.

I think that it is a shame that there is a lack of understanding between the two generations, because we can learn a lot from each other.  There are many interesting conversations to be had, useful connections to be formed and great relationships to build.  We just need to listen to each other and take the steps towards bridging the generation gap.

Why cutting benefits is not the solution for youth unemployment

Although reported youth unemployment figures have decreased over the past two years, it is a recurring problem that needs to be effectively addressed.  The Conservatives are continuously making cuts, that not only affect young people but also wider society, and they now want to cut benefits for unemployed 18 to 21-year-olds.

These cuts could have a seriously negative effect on young people who are unable to find a job after a certain period of time, resulting in a struggle to meet their needs and perhaps leading to poverty.  Not all young people find work with ease, even those with university qualifications.  Cutting their benefits will not necessarily reduce youth unemployment, but rather increase poverty, with the possibility of pushing charities to the brink.

There is also the problem of young people being forced to work in “low rate” jobs for very little pay, as these are the only types  of jobs that will accept them, and others being pushed into any job role available, even if it is not their chosen career field.  I believe that young people should be encouraged to chase their dreams and pushed into jobs (even menial jobs) that will bring them a step closer to that dream.

Lack of support from the Jobcentre also seems to be a major issue, as they are supposed to be a source of help towards the young unemployed finding work.

It seems that the Jobcentre would rather you find  any job just to pass the time, whether you like it or not, which I don’t believe is right.  This life is too short and already overrun with pressures to spend time doing a job you despise.

Youth unemployment is an issue and I understand the struggle as an unemployed young person myself, but I don’t think that these benefit cuts are going to make a positive change.  There needs to be more opportunities created and more meaningful job roles that will pay young people a slightly higher wage.  What are your views on youth unemployment and benefit cuts?

Photo by Cmglee and used under Creative Commons License.
Photo by Cmglee and used under Creative Commons License.