Maybe We Aren’t Crushing the Spirit or Future of the Young Millennials After All

MTV has unveiled the results of a new survey focused on young millennials, aged 14 to 17, based on surveys of 3,100 individuals including youths, parents and siblings. When I saw the headline, I braced myself for some pretty dour results. After all, we have helicopter parents, participation trophies and cell phone screens replacing interpersonal contact on one hand, and high levels of student debt, unemployment and government nonsense on the other.

macgyverTwo of my kids happen to fall into this demographic, and I have spent more than a little time worrying about the prospects and challenges they will face when they finish their education. I don’t doubt my kids’ abilities but I have questions about whether they are entering an environment anywhere near as constructive as the one I entered 25 years ago. Nor do I doubt their ambition but I am well aware of the number of highly educated fast food workers and baristas out there, not that there is anything wrong with fast food workers or baristas.

A quick look at the highlights of the survey, from my perspective:

The negatives

  • 60% believe their generation will be worse off than their parents’ generation
  • 51% agree with the statement, “If I want to do something, no one is going to stop me” vs. 71% in 2010
  • Over one third are worried about their safety in public places

The positives

  • 69% say “I put more pressure on myself than others put on me”
  • 84% say “I know why I shouldn’t do something, because my parents explain the consequences to me”
  • 84% say “It’s really important to always be prepared and have a plan”
  • Over 70% avoid cruel videos, people mistreating others and videos about violence online
  • 70% claim to have learned how to do something from a YouTube DIY video

It is worth noting that 70% say they have the freedom to go anywhere on the internet that they want. Other recent research indicates that parents aren’t exactly aware of this, or think that it isn’t happening, but you can trust the young kids on this one.

What do the results tell us? If we’re lucky, we may be raising a generation of MacGyvers. If they find themselves in a difficult situation, they may have the wherewithal to get out of jail. They have at their disposal a suite of technology that didn’t exist when we were their age. Far from being intimidated by it, evidently they are learning to use it to their advantage, when they want and how they want. And they understand that they are responsible for the outcome.

Contrast that can-do attitude with the results of a Gallup Poll on workplace attitudes out this week, in which 70% of workers admit to not being engaged at work.

The young millennials will be the next generation of the workforce. Employers, faced with the choice between keeping an older, checked out employee and hiring a young, eager self starter would be crazy not at least consider upgrading to a younger employee.

It’s true that we don’t tell 15 year olds to go outside and play any more. They may be staying inside and teaching themselves something more valuable.


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