Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Not So Happy Campers

MTV International (yes, that MTV) has just released a major study into global youth culture to reveal...That there isn't one! Well, not exactly, but their findings do highlight persistent differences in the way that young people from developed and developing countries experience the world, culture, how they feel about personal safety and above all their sense of wellbeing. The TV giant surveyed kids and teens from 14 countries, supplemented by in-depth interviews and other qualitative research methods. One of the main goals of the study was to test their newly developed "Wellbeing Index," which seeks to measure "perceived overall wellbeing" based on a variety of interrelated factors. Their general conclusion? Kids in the developed world have a lower perceived sense of wellbeing that kids in developing nations. I really don't see that kind of clear-cut pattern in the reported results, however, which seem to show the opposite - 5 of the top 6 are developed nations after all. Anyway, they state:
"The country where young people had the greatest perceived sense of wellbeing was India, followed by Sweden with the USA coming third. The full list runs in the following order: 1) India, 2) Sweden, 3) USA, 4) Denmark 5) France 6) UK 7) Argentina 8) Indonesia 9) Germany 10) Japan 11) South Africa 12) Mexico and 13) Brazil (China was not included in the Index as not all questions were able to be asked)."

The Wellbeing Study's other main findings include:

The Future
"Kids in developing countries were more positive about their future than those in developed nations. A majority of 16-34 year-olds in developing nations expected their lives to be more enjoyable in the future, led by China with 84%. [...] In contrast to developing nations, a majority in every developed country expected to earn less than their parents."

Globally, only 43% of 16-34 year-olds said they were "happy with the way things were." Younger children aged 8-15 were slightly happier (57% on average). It is important to note, however, that "developed nations dragged down the averages. Young people in developing countries were at least twice as likely to feel happy as their counterparts in developed nations."

"Young people in the developing world were more religious, and there was a correlation between youth who were actively religious and happiness levels."

Youth across age groups and in every country report feeling pressure to succeed. "More than half of 8-15 year-olds worry about getting a job. By comparison, only 34% were concerned about fitting in at school and only 25% worried about looking cool." Furthermore, many kids are handling their stress through media consumption: "65% of 16-34 year-olds chose listening to music as their main form of stress relief, with television (48%) their second choice. For younger children, watching television (59%) was slightly more popular than music (58%)."

Terror and safety
Kids and teens are much more afraid of parents dying, cancer, AIDS and being robbed than they are of terrorism (which came in 10th in the list of fears among 8-15 year-olds). The report goes on to note that "Personal safety is a major issue for young people in the developing world," though they don't really clarify what "major issue" means. However, they also found that "the more news media young people watched, the less safe they felt."

School and bullying
In 12 out of the 14 countries, over two-thirds of 8-15 year-olds reported "getting good grades in school" as their top priority.
The study also found that bullying happens everywhere, especially in Argentina (where 72% of kids had been bullied), the USA and the UK (where 56% of kids had been bullied).

They also asked questions about new technology, which they are obviously hoarding for their own projects, as their key reported finding was simply that "Digital technology and media is changing kids behavior." No kidding!

Check out a press release of the study here.

The findings are interesting, but hardly ground breaking, and seem to be interpreted (in the press release at least) with just a tad bit of bias. The company is planning to use the findings to develop new "initiatives," i.e. commercial programming and advertising. Oh well.

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