‘Beyond Z: The Real Truth About British Youth’
Last week, we had the fantastic opportunity to travel to Central London to attend Channel 4’s Beyond Z: The Real Truth About British Youth event. This event arose from Channel 4’s landmark BeyondZ insight study and aimed to take a deep dive into the commonly held beliefs and misconceptions associated with Generation Z.
The report set out to identify generational issues and traits, aiming to challenge, validate, and develop many of the broader brush characterisations associated with our young people. Channel 4 worked with young people and their families to better understand how young people think, how they feel, what they do for fun, and how they live in the digital realm and real life. Key questions were posed, such as “What do you want from your future?" and “How do you feel about the future?” and much more.
The event would bring together a selection of key speakers, representatives from Channel 4’s media industry, and, at its heart, our Generation Z, comprising individuals aged 13 to 24. The goal was to gain a better understanding of what it's like to be young in Britain right now.
The common understanding of this generation is that they live in a far more connected world, fuelled by the rise of social media and immersive technology. The adverse effect is that their lives are now more complex, multifaceted, uncertain, and perplexing when compared to previous generations such as the Millennials, Generation X, the Baby Boomers, and the Silent Generation.
Channel 4’s commitment
Channel 4’s connection with young people is, and always has been, crucial to its mission as a public-service media outlet. Over four decades, it has engaged with different generations of people, and with that comes different generational requirements and perspectives. As a result, there is a constant need to adapt and change.
Channel 4’s commitment to supporting young people has brought forward many exciting youth-oriented projects, such as 4Schools and 4Skills. Each of these projects is committed to inspiring and supporting the next generation of creative practitioners in the TV and broadcasting industries.
The work that we do aspires to help young people bridge the gap between their school studies and prospective careers through interactive and informative in-school and virtual sessions.
While the programme seeks to continuously develop and improve the support provided to our young people, we, in alignment with Channel 4, also need to work toward gaining a better understanding of who our young people are, what they require, and how generational, social, political, and societal factors shape their day-to-day lives.
Opening talks & introduction to the Beyond Z panel
The event was launched by the host, Sam Thompson, who set the scene by gauging which generations were present in the room. The event was attended by a few Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Z, with the vast majority of the audience being from the Millennial Generation.
Then, we met the BeyondZ Panel, which was made up of young people who helped with the Beyond Z project. On the panel, we had Georgia, Erin, Charles, Hugo, Amelia, Holly, and Ruben. Their place in the event was to provide immediate responses to topics posed by various presenters throughout the day.
Alex Mahon, who is the CEO of Channel 4, then gave us an introduction to the study and talked about some of the most important data. Click here to read more from Alex Mahon.
Throughout the day, topics such as cancel culture, social media, climate change, LGBTQ, politics, mental health, employment, and young illiberal progressives (YIPs) were highlighted.
Don't mind the generational gap
Despite what we’re often led to believe, Gen Z doesn’t mind the generational gap, according to this insight. The intergenerational conflict that we read about is a myth. 59% of Gen Z’s role models are their parents, 24% are their grandparents, 22% are their teachers, and 21% are sports stars and online influencers.
When looking at current social concerns, Gen Z doesn’t look at these as inherited problems, but rather they feel that there needs to be a collective response on big topics such as gender inequality, climate change, human rights abuses, and an increase in mental health issues.
The rise of YIPS (Young Illiberal Progressives)
It was incredibly interesting to hear that the social and cultural attitudes of Gen Z are more similar to those of older generations than our stereotype judgments suggest.
We then looked at the young illiberal progressives, also known as YIPS. This group can often be perceived as more progressive when compared to older generations. For example, 48% of YIPs believe there are just two genders (compared to 68% of those over 25).
They can also be perceived as being more progressive on topics such as multiculturalism. However, young people could be said to be less liberal because they are less tolerant of the views of others. One-quarter of Gen Z said they have very little tolerance for people whose views are deemed harmful.
The new stress, just like the old stress
Another focus of this event was looking at the stress in today’s society. Of course, the most prominent factor is the cost-of-living crisis, which was deemed the biggest source of stress for our young people. This was followed by the uncertainty of what the future will hold regarding jobs, pressure to be successful, body image, finance, and a lack of affordable housing.
The digital divide
Mental health issues were another topic discussed at length. It was interesting to hear that, despite living in a technologically advanced era, Gen Z, the first digitally native generation, does not see social media as a major contributor to poor mental health, as older generations have. This is the biggest intergenerational issue that Channel 4’s study uncovered. 50% of adults over the age of 25 believe social media is the primary cause of mental health issues in young people, compared to 35% of Gen Z.
At the event's conclusion, we heard from Jo, the Chief Executive of the British Youth Council, an organization that aims to empower and support young people in our community. Chloe, who specialises in working with young people, was also on this panel. Chloe has a popular podcast and has talked to more than 10,000 people from Generation Z. She also writes a weekly column for the Telegraph about family and teen life. On stage, they were prompted to share their predictions for the next generation. They believe that youth have "a lot on their shoulders," with health and well-being the top priority.
This has an enormous impact on how they view their futures. They go on to say that young people are very frustrated because the current political and environmental climate is hindering them from having the kind of future they want and that they need to address these issues before they can have a future.
However, not all young people are the same. From the Gen Z panel, we heard from an individual who doesn’t view these political and environmental factors as a priority. Their primary concern is putting food on the table, heating their home, and surviving in the current climate. Young people who may face multiple disadvantages in their early lives will be thinking different things about where they are now and where they see their future heading.
Numerous important topics were discussed throughout the event, all of which challenged our initial perception of Generation Z, the challenges they face, and the factors that truly concern them.
It was truly inspiring to hear how passionate these individuals are about these important issues and to gain a better understanding of what they face on a daily basis. By learning more about our young people, we can try to give them the tools they need to do well in the world they live in now.
To learn more from this inspirational event, you can view the Beyond Z live recording by clicking here for part one and here for part two.