Whiz-kids 'add to pressure on the young to succeed'

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The Independent Online

An alarming picture of young people struggling against ever-increasing pressures to make the most of their lives is painted in a report out today.

An alarming picture of young people struggling against ever-increasing pressures to make the most of their lives is painted in a report out today.

The report says that today's youngsters, so-called Millennial Kids born between 1978 and 1993, have far more opportunities than previous generations and, in general, are more affluent, confident and ambitious.

But the expectation to succeed is also far greater, with teenagers under huge pressure to do well at school, at college and in the job market, the report for the Salvation Army by the Henley Centre says.

The emphasis on young celebrities, who achieve fame and fortune in their late teens and early 20s, also encourages teenagers to have higher aspirations, according to the report, called The Burden of Youth.

But while the world appears to be at their fingertips, with more choices, more chance to travel and the trend towards delaying marriage and parenthood, the report warns that the outlook is bleak.

"Whilst the growing opportunities available to young people might suggest that everything is 'up for grabs', there is actually little for them to grasp hold of. With few anchors in their lives, young people are searching for absolutes, in terms of identity, lifestyle and morality. On this basis the future scenario seems bleak," the report says.

The gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" is likely to grow rather than narrow, the research warns. Half of all teenagers now achieve five or more GCSEs, 60 per cent have a computer at home, 73 per cent are confident on the internet and 52 per cent have a television in their bedroom.

But more than 500,000 young people can be categorised as "have-nots". They include one in 16 pupils who leaves school without any qualifications and with little prospect of a decent job, and 27 per cent of teenagers who have failed to master new technology.

Traditional forms of religion and spirituality are also failing to appeal to young people, they are cynical towards the mainstream political process and are becoming "increasingly judgemental" in their view of society.

The success of contemporaries who make huge sums of money, such as the singers Britney Spears and Charlotte Church, the footballer Michael Owen and the entrepreneurial whiz-kid Shawn Fanning, suggest that fame and fortune are attainable. "Young people grow up believing that this kind of success is no longer the preserve of older people who have progressed to this level following many years of effort."

Unless the problems are addressed, the "potential outcomes are extremely worrying", the report says. "One scenario is that Millennial Kids will pursue a strategy of 'self-interested altruism' in which they expect to see tangible results in return for their contribution to society."

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