Viacom Global Insights recently undertook research into how youth around the world perceive power, how power is shifting among the next generation, and how they believe they are capable of leveraging the power they have to change the world.

As part of this study, more than 11 000 interviews were undertaken amongst young people between the ages of 13-25 in 8 countries, including South Africa.  The interviews were all conducted online and therefore represent the online youth universe of all the respective countries.

Local youth believe they can make a difference. One of the key findings among South African youth surveyed, is that they strongly believe they can affect change for good.

When asked whether their generation has more ability to affect positive change than previous generations, 67% of local youth believe that this is something they are capable of doing. This score is higher than their global counterparts, which is at 61%.

Similarly, more South African youth than international youth expect to be leaders in their respective fields someday, with 78% of local teens believing they can have a successful career, compared to a global average of 72%.

What is most interesting to note is that local teens are much more entrepreneurial than their global peers, with 81% hoping to own their own business someday, compared to a global average of 68%.

This finding correlates with one of Viacom Global Insights’ previous studies on South African youth, My Teen Life, which found that 85% of South African teens would like to be their own boss someday.

Being digital natives plays a role in how the youth experience this shift in power. Today’s youth has never lived in a world without mobile phones or social media. As such, 65% of local youth believe that social media gives them a voice, compared to 62% globally.

The youth wields the power that social media gives them collectively, with 57% (globally) believing that power should belong to everyone. As such, they often use this power to create what is termed a “cancel culture”. Put another way, “cancel culture” serves to shut down or reclaim narratives that have been shaped by institutions or powerful media companies, and which conflict with this generation’s collective values.

This correlates with their view that the power of the future leverages technology and social influence in a collaborative fashion to make an impact or change for the better.

This generation cares deeply about issues and thinks brands should too. One of the key takeaways for brands from this research, is that the youth expects them not to be neutral when it comes to concerns around social justice.

This generation believes they can use their power to make a difference, particularly using the social media platforms available to them, and they expect brands that they love to do the same. What is worth noting is that this age group is not against institutions (66%) but they do expect institutions, such as Facebook and Amazon, to affect change.

The youth expects brands to take a stand on issues. Two out of three youths globally believe that brands should play a bigger role in global social issues, and seven out of ten say they respect brands that take a stand on issues they are concerned with.

This powerful, educated youth are looking for brands that will act as collaborators, cheerleaders, builders and promoters of causes close to their hearts. It is the role of brands in the 21st century to amplify issues and engage the youth on their social concerns, while providing a space for dialogue around topics they consider to be important.