Taking the ‘Youth’ out of Youth Culture

Taking the ‘Youth’ out of Youth Culture
Jeff Squires
  • 3 february 2009

One of the ideas that came up last week during the youth panel at our Good Ideas Salon in London, was that the term ‘youth,’ when referring to an entire generation (or two), is a massive oversimplification.

No more can you generalize the varied actions of adults as being part of an ‘adult culture’ can you generalize the behaviors of youth as being reflective of a ‘youth culture.’  Where adults are given any number of demographics to fit into, based on age, class, gender, race, or lifestyle, young people are predominantly still dumped into the graffiti-lined bucket of ‘youth.’

While the desire to have a nice and neat framework for discussing young people is understandable, the sheer number of socio-economic influences, coupled with young people’s ability to access niche subcultures through the web, makes establishing a single label very difficult – if not condescending.

This article by a 17-year-old Canadian on “the truth about teen culture” seemed to reinforce this idea:

“Teenager” is defined as “a person aged from 13 to 19 years.” This is an age range, not a cultural distinction. While all teens do share some characteristics that are developmentally related, adults do as well — just different ones.

It’s unfair to attribute personality characteristics to an age group. Even saying that Canadians are polite is considered generalizing, and that’s a group of about 33 million people. With 1.5 billion teenagers in the world, it’s gross stereotyping. When I had my photo taken with the other three new teen columnists, we were placed in front of a graffiti-covered wall downtown.

I thought it was a funky backdrop, but at the same time, it might well be perpetuating a misperception of teens as troublemakers.

I know teens who volunteer at the food bank, organize fundraisers, raise awareness about land mines and generally give of their time and energy to better the world.

We’re just as varied a demographic as small children, adults or the elderly, and yet the concept of a teen culture, created by advertising media, corporations and brands in order to market their products, has been blindly accepted by the public, including teens themselves.

The truth about teen culture and the tooth fairy


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