Young Britain: The teenagers who worship the god of mammon

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The Independent Online
They are the generation who have everything. Trainers with the right label, home entertainment systems in their bedrooms and mountain bikes in the garage. A picture emerges from the 2020 Vision survey of a young nation more materialistic than any before.

Gillian Meade, 15, from Hadlow in Kent, thinks peer pressure lies behind her generation's materialism. "We are judged on everything. What clothes we have, what trainers we wear, even what walkman we have and that's why we are so materialistic," she says.

"But I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, because it makes us realise that you've got to do something to earn enough money so you can then go and buy what you want."

Jo Gardiner, campaigns director for the Industrial Society, agrees saying: "Young people can be classified as materialistic because they buy a lot of things, but it's probably not as straightforward as that.

"What we actually see is them purchasing a badge of belonging. If they don't own a stereo, for example, they are switched off from youth music culture. To belong they have got to go and buy a stereo. This ends up becoming a necessity not a luxury."

The young also hanker after high-tech accoutrements - more own a television set (83 per cent) than a book (80 per cent). Nearly a quarter want a computer - if they don't already have one - while a Playstation or Sega Megadrive is fourth on their wishlist

Eleven-year-old Michael Berliner, from Bedfordshire, is saving up to buy the latest must-have computer game for his Playstation.

"I'm going to buy Tomb Raider II as soon as it comes out," he says. "It going to cost about pounds 50, which is a lot, but I've been saving up for it. And I would rather spend my pocket money on quality things because there's no point in wasting it on sweets. I might as well buy the best."

Although having the latest gadget might be a necessity for teenagers, those in their twenties have a different story to tell. Claire Wilkinson, 22, works in the tourist industry. "When I was a teenager," she says, "I had lots of spare cash to spend on CDs or clothes. Now things are different. I've just moved into an unfurnished flat so all my money is going to be spent on basic things, like buying a bed ... compared to my teenage years, I'm fairly impoverished."

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