Social Attitudes of Young People

A new report from the UK Government Cabinet Office sets out to explore the social attitudes of young people, with a KMi contribution on changes in technology and in particular social media and social networking. The report comes fresh from the Horizon Scanning Programme which has also recently analysed critical emerging technologies such as Big Data and the demographic changes in emerging economies.

The Cabinet Office team explore how sustained changes in the attitudes of people in different generations may lead to long-term, changes in societal attitudes. They draw upon survey data to see whether there are differences in the attitudes of today’s young people and the attitudes of older generations when they were young. The work offers a very interesting analysis of challenging topics such as privacy, and what young people’s understanding of, and feelings about ‘private data’ may mean.

Particulary to be commended, the report puts fearful and over-hyped press reporting of topics around possible negative impacts of technology change and ‘risk taking’ etc into the context of the evidence and presents a thoughtful reflection on what the real changes may mean to our future.

It also presents a very good review of the evidence around changes to: values and personal autonomy; attitudes to society and government; aspirations; and of course the touch-stone of ‘wellbeing’. The report also explores the how young people’s circumstances may change over the next 10 years and evolve over time.

The conclusion is actually pretty positive. Despite concerns "…for instance around declining mainstream political engagement, low levels of social trust and the potential negative impacts of digital technologies", there are some very positive stories to tell about the next generation: 

"For example, a range of risk behaviours and negative outcomes are declining amongst young people, such as drug taking, teenage pregnancies, drinking, smoking and crime. Also, the high levels of aspirations amongst young people, emphasis on personal responsibility and community engagement provide good reasons for optimism about social change over the next 10 years". 

A recommended read for the kick-off of 2015.

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