Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and other global challenges, children and youth are almost 50% more likely than seniors to believe the world is getting a better place, results show of a historical intergenerational study. poll released Thursday.
The international survey was conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Gallup, the global analyst and advisory society, and was released ahead of World Children’s Day on November 20.
The Change Childhood project is the first poll of its kind to ask generations about their views on the world and what it’s like to be a child today.
Part of the solution
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, said that despite many reasons to be pessimistic, children and young people refuse to see the world through the dark prism of adults.
“Compared to the older generations, the young people of the world remain full of hope, much more open to the world and determined to make the world a better place”, she added.
“Young people today worry about the future but see themselves as part of the solution.”
More than 21,000 people in 21 countries participated in the survey, which was conducted among two age cohorts – 15-24 and 40 and over – and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hope, not naive
Nationally representative surveys have been carried out in countries in all regions – Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America – and all income levels.
The results revealed that young people are also more likely to believe that childhood has improved and that health care, education and physical safety are better today compared to their parents’ generation.
However, despite their optimism, young people are far from naive. The poll showed they want to see action to deal with the climate emergency. At the same time, they are skeptical of the information they consume on social media and struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety.
This generation is also more likely to see themselves as citizens of the world and are more willing to embrace international cooperation to tackle threats such as the pandemic.
Aware of the risks
The survey also found that children and young people generally trust national governments, scientists and the international media as sources of accurate information.
They are also aware of the issues the world is facing, with almost 80% seeing serious risks to children online, such as exposure to violent or sexually explicit material, or bullying.
Young people want faster progress in the fight against discrimination, more cooperation between countries and that decision-makers listen to them.
Almost three-quarters of those polled who are aware of climate change believe governments should take important steps to address it. The share rises to 83 percent in lower and lower middle-income countries, where climate impacts are expected to be greatest.
21st century citizens
In virtually every country, a large majority of young people said their country would be safer from COVID-19 and other threats if governments worked together rather than alone.
They also demonstrated greater support for LGBTQ + (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) rights, with young women at the forefront for equality.
The survey also revealed a strong alignment between the two generations, including on issues of climate, education, global collaboration, although some of the deepest divisions occurred around optimism, global spirit and recognition of historical progress.
“As this research paints a nuanced picture of the generational divide, a clear picture emerges: children and youth embody the spirit of the 21st century much more easily than their parents,” said Ms. Fore.
“As UNICEF prepares to celebrate its 75th anniversary next month and ahead of World Children’s Day, it is essential that we listen directly to young people about their well-being and how their lives are changing.