The mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month has led to unprecedented action among American teens to fight for stricter gun laws. Inspired by a group of students at the school where the massacre took place, teenagers across the country are joining the #neveragain movement on social media, getting politically active, and participating in events like last week’s national school walkout and this weekend’s March for Our Lives.
The events highlight how teens in America have become increasingly skeptical of the government and motivated to make the world better. In fact, our research has found that between 2012 and 2017, teens became more likely question authority, to be outspoken about their beliefs, and not take “no” for an answer. Here’s what we’ve learned about them:
1. They think everyone deserves to be safe.
Nearly all teens (93%) agree that all people should have the right to live in a safe community – up from 88% in 2012.
93% of teens say all people should have the right to live in a safe community.
2. They’re skeptical of the government.
Less than 10% of teens say they trust the government and politicians. They’re also more likely than teens five years ago to say that everyone should have the right to question the government (86% 2017, 79% 2012).
8% of American teens say they trust the government and politicians.
3. They believe in the right to speak out against injustice.
Virtually all teens think everyone should be able to stand up for their beliefs – a sentiment that has risen over the last five years (95% 2017, 87% 2012). Teens today also really like to share their opinions (92% in 2017, 77% in 2012).
95% of teens think everyone should be able to stand up for their beliefs.
4. They look to the internet as a source of great power.
American teens today are almost 50% more likely than in 2012 to say the internet has changed the way they think about the world (86% 2017, 58% 2012). The percentage who believe that it’s introduced them to things they would not have discovered otherwise has also increased (87% 2017, 77% 2012). And the scale of what they think can be accomplished online has changed significantly – they’re 60% more likely than five years ago to believe that the internet is more powerful than any government (75% 2017, 46% 2012).
75% of teens believe that the internet is more powerful than any government.
5. They see themselves as determined and unstoppable.
Today’s American teens are more likely to describe themselves as ambitious (93% 2017, 80% 2012), action-oriented (92% 2017, 82% 2012) and empowered (79% 2017, 65% 2012). They’re almost 20% more likely to say that if they want to do something, no one can stop them (75% 2017, 63% 2012).
75% of teens say that if they want to do something, no one can stop them.
6. They believe they can make a difference in the world – and they’re willing to break the rules if they have to.
This generation of teens in the U.S. is more likely than their predecessors to think their age group has the potential to change the world for the better (83% 2017, 74% 2012). And if necessary, they’re open to creating a new playbook – 59% say they don’t mind breaking rules if they’re not fair.
83% of teens think their age group has the potential to change the world for the better.
For more insights into the beliefs and behaviors of teens around the world, check out Viacom Global Insights.