Confident Youth

Levels of confidence in teenagers are at an all-time low. Phoebe Trimingham explores the potential role of the media in unlocking self-confidence in young people...

We spend a lot of time at Crowd DNA hearing the hopes and fears of teenagers all over the world. We’re rooting for them, so we were particularly struck by the latest Youth Index from the Prince’s Trust, which states that 54 percent of young people in the UK believe a lack of self-confidence holds them back and 33 percent think it’s the biggest challenge to them pursuing a career.

While this is clearly a problem – levels of confidence are at their lowest since the index began in 2009 – there’s plenty that the media, brands and society can do to tackle reported low-confidence in young people. What’s more, the picture may not be as bleak as it seems. We’ve gathered together some of our recent global insights to explore a different side to the confidence issue and provide starters on how brands might help solve this challenge. 

Permission To Fail

With self-comparison constantly available at their fingertips, it’s no surprise that teens often feel pressure to succeed. Most we speak to are worried about not achieving their full potential or living their ‘best life’. Yet, young people also tell us that they don’t see failure as the end of the road. In fact, most teens think it’s better to try and make mistakes than not to try at all. 67 percent consider themselves to be entrepreneurial and 82 percent describe themselves as adaptable and flexible (Viacom 2017, My Teen Life). Is there a way of tapping into this spirit by promoting alternative, bumpy-road success stories? Or highlighting failures and the small steps that allow for adjustments along life’s journey?

Mosaic Identities

Last year saw us travel around the world talking to young men about attraction, relationships, and everything in between, on behalf of Lynx/Axe. Obviously, confidence has a huge role to play in the tricky game of teenage love. The majority we spoke to felt that confidence was gained by assembling their own mosaic of attractive features. For them, everyone has their own unique ‘offer’  to discover, which develops alongside their sense of identity. There is definitely an opportunity to help teens figure this all out. Not only by helping them develop skills and their own sense of self, but assuring them that being different is okay by celebrating diversity and the widening mosaic of modern masculinity.

Empowered Storytellers

The vast majority of teens we speak to think that everyone should have the right to stand up for their beliefs. They think that everyone has a story, everyone has a right to tell their story, and that everyone can learn from others’ stories. Young people are adept at seeing the world through different eyes and speaking out about what’s important to them. There is clearly an empowerment opportunity here to help more young people feel able to voice their beliefs; the key being to reassure them that there’s space and appetite for a whole range of stories to be valued, heard and shared.

The relationship between young people and confidence is definitely something to keep an eye on. But, by digging into the attitudes of teens around the world, the media can play a clear role in youth empowerment, promoting alternative success stories, and showing that being different is not just celebrated – it’s often the key to unlocking confidence.