Why teens are more powerful than ever before

Why teens are more powerful than ever before – and why gen Y can’t stop looking back

Miley gets classy for Marc Jacobs

Maria BervanakisNews Corp Australia Network\

IF you find yourself wishing you were a teenager again, you are not alone.

Teenagers are more powerful than ever before – cue Lorde, One Direction, and Miley Cyrus who all found fame before they turned 18. And lets not forget the app designers and internet whizzes of the world too young to shave.

Everything from the shows that you watch on TV to the music that you hear in your car and your choice of mobile phone are influenced by our youth.

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Mark McCrindle, director of McCrindle Research which specialises in social and generational issues, said the world was increasingly a place dominated by young people.

«They’ve got this asymmetrical power. They’ve got power beyond their numbers and beyond their years and even beyond their economic influence. We are talking about a generation that has yet to start their earning years and yet if you look at the marketing that takes place, if you look at companies and brands and who they’re trying to connect with, it’s actually a younger demographic, which is a big shift from the traditional approach,» he said.

«It used to be that the older people had the power and the influence and the authority and that’s where the focus was but in this down-ageing era everyone is trying to be younger, everyone is trying to sort of be cool and be on the cutting edge.»

Singing sensation ... British-Irish boy-band One Direction is making a killing.

Singing sensation … British-Irish boy-band One Direction is making a killing.Source:AFP

Teenagers are driving advancements in technology – and with it clinging to power and influence. All generations have access to technology but the younger generations have integrated technologies into their daily life.

«If you look at technology and what grows the technology it’s the young people that are the early adapters of those – I’m talking social media, apps and just the new technologies of today. In this digital era, it’s the young people who work out how they operate and end up helping parents understand that and get across that. They’ve got the time to explore some new technologies,» Mr McCrindle said.

«In a technology-dominated era comes power and through social media comes network and influence and again it’s the young people that have got that.»

Today’s teenagers were born at a time when Australia experienced the lowest birthrates ever recorded (2000, 2001 and 2002). Yet despite their smaller demographic numbers and despite the fact that they are earning money later in life because they’re staying in education longer in life they are actually more influential and are more focused on by companies and brands than ever before.

With love, from Canada... Justin Bieber is one of the richest teenage entertainers in the world.

With love, from Canada… Justin Bieber is one of the richest teenage entertainers in the world.Source:AP

«If you look at the interest that a lot of brands have it’s not the personal spending but the influence they have on parental purchases. Never before has there been a generation with so much influence on parental purchases. They help parents choose their next car, holiday destination, technologies in the home and the clothes they are going to get. They have more influence just because they are more connected with what’s happening, they can do their research more than was the case in the past,» Mr McCrindle said.

«It’s that influence that they have on categories even outside their target which is of interest to the brands, even if they aren’t the traditional buyers of a product.»

Aaron McNeilly, entrepreneurial operations executive officer at the Enterprise Network for Young Australians, said he was increasingly seeing more teenagers since the network started in 2003.

«I have seen a trend of more teens going into their own business, especially in the last five years,» he said.

«A lot of this is due to the barriers of entering your own business and studying at the same time becoming less and less.»

Another important factor is the creation of crowd-funding and the Kickstarter websites which allow young people to pitch their ideas and get the financial backing to make them happen.

«Banks are also becoming more lenient in the way that they are lending,» Mr McNeilly said.

Movies like The Social Network and The Wolf of Wall Street have also inspired teenagers to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

«I suppose in that age bracket they are so caught up in the romance of being an overnight success story, there is a lot of hype around that,» Mr McNeilly said.

«We give them a reality check to say there is a lot of hard work involved in getting that. There is a various array of reaction – some people are stirred on by the challenge and some people go back to the traditional career progression of high school, university and job.»

Perhaps the biggest weapon teenagers hold is that they have nothing to lose.

«Their untarnished and unbiased perspective of the world should be used more because the boundaries are endless,» Mr McNeilly said.

«That teenage group when they are finding their character they get quiet passionate.»

The rise of the teenager has inevitably taken its toll on gen Y (generally those born from 1980 to the early nineties, but there is no precise start and end). The new opportunities have raised expectations and in turn performance anxieties.

«They’ve (gen Y) had a great start in life, they’ve been given more education than any other generation and more technology than ever and they’ve been more financially endowed and supported in their formative years than any other generation ever has. They are the most material supplied generation ever. I think with the global connections, with the opportunities that they have, with new careers emerging, with new tools at their disposal, and with just a sophisticated, supportive society, they’ve got a good start going for them,» Mr McCrindle said.

Facebook hype... A scene from The Social Network which has inspired teenagers to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

Facebook hype… A scene from The Social Network which has inspired teenagers to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.Source:Supplied

«But I guess with all of those opportunities that they’ve been given there is a sense of expectation that they place on themselves, maybe society and parents do as well, that they will live up to that and achieve more than other generations. I think that can create some performance anxieties in terms of what they are going to achieve and how they can make the most of this and self-actualise.

«That is I think the challenge, that’s why we see issues emerge like the quarter-life crisis instead of the midlife crisis. The twenties are wondering, ‘Have I done everything I wanted to do?’. It’s a consequence of what great opportunities present, it is that people can feel like they are not measuring up, not everybody is going to be a celebrity.»

But don’t feel too bad gen Yers – it’s not all sunshine for today’s teens. Research has found teenage obsession with technologies has setbacks. They are more visual than literate; their social skills are delayed or diminished because they hide behind technology rather than interact face-to-face; and the gamification of education is reducing self-determination and resilience because everything has to be entertaining.