Even more on youth and happiness

Even more on youth and happiness

MTV / AP / Social Technologies release landmark study: The future of youth happiness

Washington, DC 20036-1907 August 27 2007

What makes 12-24 year olds happy? That was the question MTV executives hired the futurist consulting and research firm Social Technologies to answer earlier this year.

The important new study led to surprising findings.

“We knew friends and technology would be important to this demographic, but going in we also had the preconceived notion that 12 to 24 years olds were slightly indifferent, self-serving, and perhaps even a bit apathetic,” explains Andy Hines, Social Technologies” director of custom projects, who led the study. “The biggest thing we learned was never to judge a book by its cover.”

Here’s why.

The findings

“Youth will continue to perplex adults in their pursuit of happiness,” according to the report’s executive summary. “They will exhibit a careful mixture of idealism and aspirations, tempered with a grasp of realities and practicalities.”

1. Transitional Tradition

BFF. Friends are and will continue to be the most important relationships contributing to youth happiness. 80% of the youth polled said that having lots of close friends is very or somewhat important; 23% said that when they go out with friends, they stop feeling unhappy.

Parents Needed. Despite minor annoyances, youth will continue to depend on their parents as a vital source of security and happiness. Nearly half of the respondents mentioned at least one of their parents as a hero.

Religion êÑÔ_ la Carte. Youth will increasingly seek happiness via spirituality and faith. “I”m not religious, but having spiritual life is important,” said Steven B., 21, of Atlanta. “There needs to be a purpose for life. If I didn”t have it, I don”t know where I”d be.”

My Family Commitment. A resurgence of interest among youth in traditional family structures will gain momentum. 90% of respondents said they think it is likely they will be married to the same person their whole life.

2. All About Me

No Body’s Perfect. Body image and traditional routes to good health will be important aspects of happiness for many youth. “At my school, skinny is what everyone’s trying to be,” said Vanessa A., 13, of Philadelphia. “People make fun of fat [but] also of the skin-and-bones look.”

Money Matters. Money is increasingly seen by youth as a means rather than an end. Relative wealth and status are more important than absolute. 73% said the kind of stuff they have makes them happy. 69% said they want to be rich-but 51% said it is not at all likely or not too likely that they will actually be rich.

Almost Famous. Youth, especially younger people, fantasize about fame, but are savvy enough to know it is unlikely, and most will settle for a good career. “I want to be famous or a skater or a basketball player, but I don”t think it will happen,” said Nik O., 12, of Phoenix. Zachary G., 13, of Philadelphia said: “In the future, I want more peace and just a better lifeê¢__‘Ô_ a good job, and to take care of the kids.”

3. My Life, My Time, My Way

Take Control. Youth will take control of their own happiness. 91% said they have goals for the future (81% have career/work goals, 64% education, 62% family, 63% money, 48% travel, 17% sports, while 12% hope for fame).

No Challenge Too Extreme. Youth see few obstacles in their pursuit of happiness that they cannot overcome. Concern for the future causes stress for only 20% of the 13-17 year olds polled, but 40% of those 18-24 years old feel concern.

Unplugged Meltdown. Technology will stress youthê¢__‘Ô_ only when it’s unavailable. “I”d be stressed if I didn”t have a cell phone,” said Cole M., 15, of Atlanta.

Uniquely Generic. Growing youth individuality and self-expression will be tempered by the need to fit in, rather than rebel. 83% said they”d rather be their own person than fit in with their peers. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they are happier in a group. We sensed a rebellious streak, but it was clearly not too far outside of peer group or family norms.

4. Virtual Community

Tech Me. Technology will be important for staying in touch as well as for the pleasure of the moment. 37% of the youths polled said they play videogames to stop unhappiness. 61% said technology helps them make new friends. In the 24 hours before the survey, half of the respondents said, they sent a text message; 71% said they received one.

Virtual & F2F. Youth will make little distinction between face-to-face and virtual friendships. They will have many friends they may never meet in person. 62% of youths polled have used social networking sites like MySpace and FaceBook; 53% have created their own profiles on such sites; 33% said they have friends online they”ve never met in person.

Happiness Analyzed

The bottom line is that today’s youth define happiness differently than previous generations did, the Social Technologies team determined.

“The characteristic that will most shape their current and future pursuit of happiness may be a deep-seated pragmatism,” explains project manager Traci Stafford Croft, who traveled to three cities (Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Atlanta) with MTV’s staff to interview about five dozen 12-24 year olds. In the study’s next phase, the Associated Press surveyed another 1,200 youths to further flesh out the findings.

In the end, the research showed that it is a popular misconception that today’s youths are self-absorbed or indifferent to social issues. Instead, any apparent indifference “might reflect the fact that they have a good grasp on reality and are simply being practical about what they get upset about or involved in,” Croft explains.

Hines adds: “No, this generation is not likely to march in DC to protest the war in Iraq. But they do care about the country, the environment, and the planet. They are just showing it in a way that is different from their parents and grandparents.”

As for today’s so-called helicopter parents, notorious for hovering protectively around their offspring in this generation, well, the respondents” views of this parental behavior were the finding that most amazed the Social Technologies team.

“We thought the kids would really resent having their parents come in and make a fuss at school or on the playing field, but the youths didn”t feel as if that was an obstacle to their happiness,” Croft concludes. ‘sure, it was a little embarrassing for them, but ultimately they said they appreciated that their parents are looking out for them. And if you think about it, that’s just good common sense.”

For more information

To view the MTV press release visit: http://www.mtv.com/thinkmtv/research/.