According to Pew Research, 51% of the world’s population is under the age of 25 and is more racially diverse than other generations. Known as post-millennials, young people born after 1995, are a generation who have lived through a great recession and have never known a world without technology. They are global citizens, have a high BS metre, and care deeply about social causes and authenticity.
There are a number of misconceptions about this generation of trailblazers, and most of it relates to their apparent lack of civic engagement. This misunderstanding stems from the fact that over the last couple of decades there are declining levels of youth participation in electoral processes around the world. This does not mean that they are apathetic or not civically engaged.
So whether you are an educator, parent or employer, here are four things you need to know about this generation and how they actively participate in democratic life.
They Are Change Makers
Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard of the exploits of one of the poster children of this generation, Greta Thunberg. Like Greta, this generation of technology natives is using tech to make a difference today, not tomorrow. From UK activist, Amika George whose #FreePeriods campaign secured government funding for free sanitary products in all English schools, to the Parkland teenagers who started NeverAgain.com, a student-led political action committee for gun control, whose efforts have been credited for influencing Florida legislature in 2018 on gun control. Unlike the activism of previous generations, it feels like there is a real sense of urgency, and a pessimism about the future and the world they have inherited. How are these young people able to do such incredible things? They use technology to rally their troops and spread their message. The reach of their online presence is powerful, cheap and extensive. In fact, one study found that one-fifth of 12 to 15-year-olds use social media to express support for causes by sharing or commenting on posts, and one in ten signed petitions on social media.
They Are Global Citizens
This is a generation that engages with their global peers with greater fluidity than other generations. As this generation has always been online, this is really no surprise. Global citizens are by nature politically active. They are interested in global issues, and have an interest in making the world a better place, even if they feel that greater knowledge about how to get involved and make a difference would mean they could potentially do more.
They Are Social Entrepreneurs
It’s predicted that nearly half of the post-millennials will become entrepreneurs. But it’s social entrepreneurship that has really captured their imagination. A movement driven by younger entrepreneurs, a third of start-ups today aim for social good. Social entrepreneurship creates wealth: for the entrepreneur, for the people that are employed and for the local economy. More importantly, it demonstrates empathy and a desire to engage in the communities in which they live.
They Like To Donate To Social Causes And Volunteer
A generation who are known to be careful with money, post-millennials care about social issues. They are interested in giving money to different causes, more than millennials and baby boomers, and volunteer, more than the generation that comes before them, millennials. If this is not an indication of civic-mindedness, I’m actually not sure what is.
But Why Are They Not Voting?
Although democratic life is so much more than elections, it’s worrying that more and more young people in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe are not voting. This is worrying because they are the generation who are most affected by the decisions that are made by referendums and leader elections. A study by the London School of Economics found that young people are not bored by politics, but believe that those who ‘do’ politics are not representing or care about them.
What Does This Mean For Educators, Parents and Future Employers?
- Adults, we need to start listening. I mean really listening. These guys are telling us they are worried about their future. They’re worried that politicians care little about the issues that mean something to them. We need to support them, really supporting them by listening to and demonstrating to them that you are by supporting their schemes and causes by lobbying policymakers and those in power to make decisions that will positively affect them and the things they care about.
- Give young people opportunities to use their voice. They have lot’s to say, they have enthusiasm and drive, let’s start encouraging them to speak up. But it’s more than that. It’s helping them develop a voice that others, I mean adults will listen to. The education system has a key role here. The more opportunities we provide young people to develop key skills through active learning opportunities the better. And most importantly, this is achievable across all levels, across every subject area. As a former secondary school curriculum coordinator, this is possible. It’s just a mind shift change, and not a seismic one either.
- It’s time for us all to truly develop a partnership across the generations. It really isn’t helpful to continually label generations and point out how we are all different. Let’s focus on the things that unite and are common to us all: shared humanity, a desire to flourish and continue to survive. In order for us to work together to create a world that is sustainable we need to remember we’re all in this together, so let’s start acting like we actually are.