Research today pinpoints 38 as the average age at which adults begin to lose touch with young people and no longer understand them. The new research commissioned by Think Big, O2’s innovative youth programme, also revealed that almost a fifth (19%) of adults aged over 30 say they never have contact with young people outside their own family.
The O2 study highlighted an ever growing divide between young people and older generations. Over a third of those questioned (38%) said they believed that the generation gap is bigger now than ever before, while a further 42% thought the gap between older and younger generations was getting worse all the time.
When asked why, after a certain age, they increasingly lose touch with younger generations, adults revealed what they believed to be the biggest barriers:
‘ A belief that young people wouldn’t be interested in talking to someone their age
‘ A fear that young people would think they were being nosey or intrusive if they asked questions
‘ Embarrassment about looking old and out of touch
Sabian Muhammad, a youth activist from London who last month launched the O2 backed Why Do campaign which aims to help older generations understand young people through an innovative free online Q&A service, said: ‘It’s obvious from the research that there is a genuine need to connect the generations. Too many adults have very little, or no regular contact with young people, which only serves to fuel misperceptions and misunderstanding between the generations.
‘Older generations might be reluctant to engage with young people simply because there is a perception that young people wouldn’t be interested, but that’s not the reality. Why Do allows you to ask questions direct to young people, in an anonymous environment ‘ it’s a great way of staying in touch with young people and finding out what they think and feel.’
With over 70,000 visits since launch, whydo.co.uk has proved there’s a huge appetite for understanding young people amongst older generations. However, young people’s expectations of what adults wanted to ask and the reality are not always the same.
Based on questions from the Why Do website, this latest research reveals some surprising similarities and differences between the questions adults really want to ask young people, and young people’s perceptions of what adults would like to ask them:
‘ Both young and old generations alike agree that adults have a lot to learn about the digital age, with questions about social networking sites Facebook and Twitter appearing high on both their lists
‘ Celebrity culture struck a chord, with both generations identifying young people’s obsession with celebrity figures like Wayne Rooney and Jordan as a point of intrigue
‘ Older generations showed their genuine concern for young people with their top question ‘ what worries young people most about the future’ Young people, however, have less faith in adults’ compassion, with the same question only just scraping into their top ten
‘ Young people anticipated that adults would want to ask them about their perceived political apathy, but in reality this wasn’t a priority for older generations
‘ Some things never change, with fashion, slang and music tastes featuring in both generations’ top questions
Bill Eyres, Head of O2’s Think Big youth programme, said: ‘The results underline that the gap between young people and older generations is a real and growing problem. The danger is that the less adults understand young people, the greater the chance that negative stereotypes grow. The response to Sabian’s Why Do campaign shows older generations aren’t apathetic to young people, but are, in fact, eager to explore new ways of engaging with the youth of today.
‘Sabian’s success in creating and launching the Why Do campaign is testament to the impact young people can have when given the right support and backing. Through Think Big, we’re proud to be supporting Sabian and hundreds more young people, like him, who are running projects and campaigns that will make a tangible difference to local communities across the UK.’
Funded through O2’s Think Big programme, Why Do is a completely unique free online Q&A service, which aims to combat misunderstandings about young people and build a bridge between older and younger generations.
The brainchild of 22 year old Londoner Sabian Muhammad, the Why Do website allow adults to find out anything and everything about young people. Questions can be trivial or serious. From music, fashion and everyday trivia, to the big issues that impact young people today, adults can go onto whydo.co.uk and quiz youngsters at the click of a mouse.
To find out more about O2’s Think Big youth programme visit www.o2thinkbig.co.uk