Study: Youths’ technology, social media fears


ViacomCBS, parent company of MTV, has released a study, Youth Decoded, which it says is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive global study that provides a foundational understanding of Gen Z and the youth experience today.

Many aspects of teen life are timeless and familiar across generations. However, the digital world has transformed the way today’s young adults communicate and see the world, making them pioneers of a new teenage experience.

Youth Decoded analyses the first truly digital-native generation, those who were born between 1997 and 2012, covering topics including stress, loneliness and mental health; privacy and safety concerns; the ever-changing impact of technology and the evolving concept of work.

Key takeaways include: 

Tech is the Lens Through which they See the World. Gen Z is one of the most educated generations ever. And their appetite for knowledge, coupled with their fluency in technology is opening up new worlds.

  • 9 in 10 say the Internet is a basic human right
  • 7 out of 10 agree being connected to the Internet is as much a part of everyday life as eating and sleeping
  • Nearly 8 in 10 say the first thing they do when waking up is look at their smartphone

The Digital World is Increasing Feelings of Stress and Loneliness. Even though Gen Z is constantly connected through social media and technology, youth today still struggle to build deeper connections, and feel stress is magnified by a constantly “on” digital world.

Social Media Causes Gen Z to Feel “Always On”, leading to:

  • Over 60 per cent say they have more anxiety than someone should at their age
  • Nearly half often feel lonely
  • 3 in 4 say their social media just shows the best parts of their lives
  • 55 per cent admit they spend too much time on social media  

Thanks in part to the digital era, stress is a global epidemic, as:

  • 2 in 5 say they don’t think their mental health is very good
  • 2 in 3 describe themselves as “stressed”
  • 70 per cent worry about what other people think of them

When coping with stress, digital unwinding and creativity using tech are important, as:

  • More than half have used an app to aid relaxation
  • Nearly a quarter have digitally detoxed in the last couple months
  • Over a third have used an app to spend less screen time 

Gen Z Takes Calculated Risks. When it comes to technology, finance and social life, young people today are more in-tune with the real-world risks that are present in everyday life, with nearly 90 per cent describing themselves as cautious.

Data Privacy and Online Caution

  • More than 90 per cent agree the right to find out what information companies are holding about you is a human right
  • More than 8 in 10 worry about the information tech companies are collecting
  • More than 60 per cent agree it’s fine for a company to collect their personal data if the companies are open about what they are doing with it
  • Nearly 3 in 4 have adjusted privacy settings in the last year

Financial Caution

  • Nearly 90 per cent say they always research in advance to make sure they are getting the best price when buying something new
  • 55 per cent say they feel guilty about spending money
  • Where they learn to manage money varies, with the top sources as:
    • Family (Nearly 70 per cent)
    • School/college (Nearly 50 per cent)
    • Friends (20 per cent)
    • YouTube (Nearly 20 per cent)
    • Financial Apps (More than 10 per cent) 

Social Caution

  • Nearly half have not had sex (respondents in the 16-24 age range)
  • But it’s not because they’re more conservative…
    • 80 per cent agree it’s ok for people to live together before marriage
    • 70 per cent agree it’s ok for people who are unmarried to have children together
  • While smoking is on the decline among today’s youth, vaping is becoming more common among this generation:
    • More than 30 per cent have ever vaped/smoked an e-cigarette
    • Nearly 60 per cent say they tried e-cigarettes because they wanted to try the taste as opposed to only 45 per cent saying the same for tobacco cigarettes
    • 3 in 5 believe e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco
  • Similarly, attitudes towards cannabis are more relaxed among today’s youth
    • Over 1 in 2 believe cannabis use should be acceptable in society today
    • Nearly 3 in 5 agree cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol 

The Experiential is Championed Over the Material. Despite the rise of social media influencers and YouTube “swag” unboxing videos, young people still value experiences and see value in traveling the world – not just viewing it through their screens at home.

  • Nearly 90 per cent describe themselves as curious about the world
  • 9 in 10 agree that going to shared experiences is one of the biggest things they can do to create lasting memories
  • Nearly 90 per cent agree that the experiences they have are more important than the things they own

Top Sources of Happiness Include Other People

  • Spending time with family (Nearly 60 per cent)
  • Spending time with friends (Nearly 50 per cent)
  • Being successful (More than 30 per cent)
  • Having lots of free time for fun and relaxation (More than 30 per cent)
  • Going away on holiday (More than 30 per cent)

Forging New Futures: The combination of being well educated and switched on to technology is making Gen Z a forward-thinking, future-focused generation. To ensure success, this demographic is redefining the concept of work, as it’s viewed as more than just a paycheck for most.

A new entrepreneurial spirit is emerging among Gen Z

  • Nearly 70 per cent want to start their own business one day
  • Nearly 90 per cent say they can accomplish anything through hard work

When it comes to job satisfaction, soft values are prized over cash

  • Top factors considered ‘very important’ to job satisfaction
    • Nearly 8 in 10 say being treated fairly
    • More than 70 per cent say doing something enjoyable and a healthy work environment

But Gen Z still understands the importance of money

  • Nearly 80 per cent agree it’s better to have a job paying a basic wage than to have no job
  • Nearly 80 per cent feel under pressure to make enough money in the future




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