Our assumptions about young people are wrong. It’s time to Listen Up!

Our assumptions about young people are wrong. It’s time to Listen Up!

Our teenage years may be lost in the mists of time, but they are certainly not forgotten. It doesn’t take much to bring it all back. Good times. We all had strong views, deep feelings and high hopes.

So why, as we reach our ‘middle’ years, do we feel so detached from today’s young people? Are they really that different?

Youth charity the Jack Petchey Foundation has just launched a truly compelling report. Entitled ‘Listen Up!’, it’s a rare chance to really hear young people. Almost 6,500 11-25 year olds took part in the research, which is both challenging and moving.

If you think all kids want is fame and fortune (without having to work too hard for it!), you might be surprised to learn that tiny numbers think becoming famous is important. Many more are impressed by determination and dedication than by wealth.

If you think all kids are rude and violent, you might be interested to know that almost half say a stable, loving family is their number one priority for the future. And the vast majority regularly volunteer or help other people.

The problem is that almost half say they are misunderstood by adults and think politicians do not genuinely care about them. Similar numbers believe a lack of self-confidence might prevent them achieving their goals.

Nirosa, a 15-year old who took part in the research, says: "I’m not deterred by the many negative views of young people floating around because, to me at least, they are not true and do not represent the reality of British youth…we are the future generation and everything will be shaped by us…"

If you can remember what it was like to be young, you’ll know that most young people are compassionate, clever, motivated and generous. Many have Nirosa’s determination. But not all. Society’s negative perceptions and attitudes are in danger of undermining young people’s ambitions and their ability to achieve them. That’s the challenge for us all.

Get the Listen Up! report at www.jackpetcheyfoundation.org.uk .