Generation Y's vital role in improving society
Today's young people value "bottom-up social action over top down politics"
A recent report has found that volunteering encourages young people to get active and play a vital role their communities, which is in turn revealing the social value of giving back to society.
National disability charity Vitalise, which provides opportunities for thousands of young people to volunteer, commissioned a survey which indicates that 90 per cent of volunteers between the ages of 16 and 25 believe that offering their time for free has "left them feeling more confident and well-rounded and inspired them to play a greater part in society".
Over 99 per cent of respondents said that volunteering had improved their understanding of people with disabilities, while 84 per cent said their attitudes towards different cultures had also been changed for the better.
The statistics are a welcome change from the usual tabloid-slurs that suggest teenagers are lazy, apathetic, drinking more than ever and spending all their time on social media rather than contributing to society.
Research from think-tank Demos similarly found that 80 per cent of teenagers believe they are unfairly represented by the media in this way. A report entitled "Introducing Generation Citizen" challenges these "harmful perceptions" and reveals that young people in the twenty-first century are actually more engaged with social issues than those of past generations.
As part of Demos research, both young people and secondary school teachers were polled. When the latter were asked to describe the teenagers they knew, the most commonly used words were "caring", "enthusiastic" and "hard-working". These stand in stark contrast to those most used in the media, which are "yobs", "crime" and "binge-drinking".
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Jonathan Birdwell, Head of the Citizenship Programme at Demos and author of the report, says that today's young people are characterised by their determination to make a difference, and propelled by the belief that they can do so. He argues that the rise of social media has a significant role to play in this positive shift.
"Teenagers are motivated to make a difference in their community but the approach they take is radically different to previous generations," 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."
Chief Executive of Vitalise Chris Simmonds agrees with this assertion: "This current generation of young people has a thing or two to teach the rest of us when it comes to making the world a better place.
"In our view, society will be in safe hands with 'Generation Y' coming through, so we think it's high time we stopped demonising young people and started singing their praises instead."