From education to employment

New study reveals British teens re less optimistic about the future than teens elsewhere in the world

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Key research findings

  • While they are likely to feel deeply cared for by those around them (48 per cent), only 15 per cent of UK teens feel optimistic for the future.
  • British teens seem to be less embedded in or comfortable with their communities
  • British teens lean towards generational leadership. They have high expectations for their peers to champion global change.
  • They are justice oriented, and they feel government (69 per cent), politicians (67 per cent) educational institutions (55 per cent) and individuals (47 per cent) should play a major role in addressing issues of injustice.
  • Global climate change emerges as the top concern for teens in the United Kingdom (44 per cent). Mental health follows close behind (42 per cent) as well as extreme poverty (34 per cent), though British teens may feel unable or even uninterested to affect these problems.

Barna Group has today released a United Kingdom edition of The Open Generation Global teen study, a first-of-its-kind international research study to understand the identity, values, and views of teenagers in the United Kingdom.

The study reveals that just over one-third (35 percent) of British teens agree they have the potential to make a difference. They seem less optimistic about the future when compared to their global peers (15 per cent vs. 29 per cent) and seem to lack confidence that change is possible.

On a community level, British teens are less likely than global teens to report community satisfaction (20 per cent vs. 29 per cent). While they feel cared for by people around them (48 per cent), they seem a little distant from their communities and possibly looking for a deeper connection to reassure them that their presence and positive influence matters within their community.

“The data in this report reveal that teens in the United Kingdom are in a formative and precarious season of life,” said David Kinnaman, CEO of Barna Group. “We see they have a strong desire and motivation to address injustice and make an impact for good in their world. But we also notice most teens lack the confidence and commitment to do so, perhaps in part to their lack of community support. Our goal for this study is to help faith leaders, parents, and other influencers working with teens in the UK engage and support this rising generation as they enter adulthood.”

The Open Generation includes responses from nearly 25,000 teens aged 13-17 across 26 countries. The survey was sent to a cross section of teens, nationally representative of each country, regardless of their faith background or leaning. The study was developed and conducted by Barna Group, in partnership with Alpha, Biblica, and World Vision, with additional support from Christian Vision, Bible Study Fellowship, Christ In Youth, and the Association of Christian Schools International. For the UK, the survey was conducted across 1,000 teens aged 13-17.

Many of the leaders that young people might have looked to for inspiration may have let them down; 41 per cent of British teens do not trust the leaders of today. Meanwhile, they have high expectations for their peers to step up as leaders. They also seem to care deeply about injustice and place responsibility on the government and its politicians, schools and educational institutions to play a major role in addressing injustice.

While global climate change (44 per cent), mental health (42 per cent), and extreme poverty (34 per cent) emerge as top three concerns for teens in the UK, they feel unable or uninterested to act. This suggests a pressing need for adults and mentors who work with teens to study their motivations more closely and maybe address the need for them to realise their own capacity to act against these issues in order to make a difference.

“Unsurprisingly, the Open Generation report depicts the majority of UK teens as being justice motivated,” said Simon Gibbes from World Vision UK. “However, we also find that many lack the confidence and commitment to follow through their motivation with action, rather deferring responsibility to governmental bodies. This report reminds us of how a healthy support network can contribute towards a young person’s confidence to engage with the issues they see in the world around them and of the encouragement they need to realise their hopes of making a positive change in society.”

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