Updated: Jul 29, 2022
In this opinion piece on society's perception of youth, Abhishek Kadiyala points out how negative stereotypes about youth voices and comprehensions blunt the truth of the matter - that today's youth are increasingly informed and expressive about issues in the contemporary world, and that they deserve to be taken as legitimate opinions.
"Your article has been selected," the voice spoke on the other side of the call. "It will be published on the coming Tuesday" the voice concluded, as a sense of shock spread through me - this shock soon transitioned into happiness. This happiness was not about the fact that I was going to get my writings published in The Print's Campus Voice segment, but rather about the validation that my thoughts and writings on a political issue received.
When I started reading on issues of politics I was too young to comprehend the authenticity of the information that I received. I read news, books and watched documentaries not because I wanted some authentic information but just because I was a curious kid. And as I grew up into the first generation that had this never before- never ending access of information of issues that were earmarked for adults, I slowly began realizing the gravitas of the information I had through all what I had curiously read and watched, but one fear remained, the fear of the larger society accepting my knowledge of all this, of all the things that were effectively ‘off limits’ for my age.
"Are my thoughts right? Are my opinions right? Is my understanding right? Is my research right?" These were a few questions that had been haunting my mind, and a single phone call from the Print cleared all of it- It validated my research, writing and reasoning skills on Macro issues, and in the process helped me confirm the authenticity of my world view.
'The Campus Voice' as the name suggests, asks young students from schools and colleges to talk about their fears, excitements and inspirations as a student in relation to what all happens around them. And in the past year, this segment must've provided validation to numerous students like me, who had been insecure and shy about expressing themselves, especially on political issues, with the fear of being wrong in this highly polarized world all this while. Here, it's important to note that The Print is an online news platform, made up of new age news broadcasting methods away from traditional TV- News paper formats; it is built primarily on the Social Media platforms and online columns. Such platforms have been growing in the past decade due to introduction of smartphones and cheaper high speed internet, and yet, majority of the population, especially in India, rely on the traditional news outlets for their day to day information. Thus, despite the boost given by the new age online news outlets for the lives, issues, perspectives and thoughts of the young, it is important for us to also understand how these traditional news outlets treat ‘the young’ of this country and point out the many problematic perceptions such outlets offer about the children of this generation.
The first such perception lies in the very basic view that the traditional news outlets have of the youth. Owing to the types of stereotypes and language used for the youth in these outlets, it can be understood that these organizations view the youth with the same intellectual and moral standards as the youth of 1980s and late 70s. We are expected to be agreeable, respectful to unjustified authority coming from age and office and above all, keep our distance from being connected socio- culturally to the members of our generation. Social media activity, access to the internet and related electronic devices such as mobile phones, our exposure to often controversial yet vital political information, and our active participation in discussions over such issues are all considered a taboo.
Openly calling protesting students anti nationals, pointing to the outfits and academic performances of students to judge their characters are a few examples of the open display of their perceptions towards us. Back in the day, a student’s only mode of information was through boring old newspapers and radios, and a student’s mode of expression were even more limited, restricted just to maybe a lucky column in a local newspaper, that too, only if matched the moral stance of the paper, and was neutral in many ways. In today’s time, with access to the internet and new modes of social interaction and networking students are exposed to, our knowledge has improved and our perceptions are no longer those under informed opinions that students would form 40 years ago. Considering this, students and their perspectives are to be taken seriously by traditional journalists.
Secondly, the lack of awareness about issues children of our era face and labeling our issues as us being ‘weaker’ than our ancestors is also something that is problematic. Taking the example of youth suicide cases caused due to social media pressure, in the forms of insecurity and fears of missing out, the traditional media takes these cases as a opportunity to moral police the victims, making calls for parents to be more strict towards their children, disrespect their privacy and constantly monitor their behaviour, and blame the phones for their ill effect on children, this case has been repeatedly seen, a rhetoric that ignores the real problem and its suitable solutions, and brings the parties out of context to match the victims to moral standards of the past and present their bigoted views. No traditional journalist talks about how the modern era's parenting methods owing to the hectic schedules of their parents leave children emotionally vulnerable, making them open to sudden stress from many of the social media related activities. Cases such as this are an example of the perception these news houses have towards the youth of today. The youth of today have complex and deep problems, and are in many ways, as complex as the problems of their adult counterparts. The journalism of today's traditional media houses, owing to their vast reach, has the responsibility of treating the problems of the youth, not as the responsibility of their parents alone, but as the responsibility of the state and society, in other words, they should treat the problems of children, youth and the students like they treat the problems of the adults.
“At your age we used to climb mountains to go to our school” is a statement that I have heard a lot many times in my life from an adult trying to guilt trip me for all that I have, but today when I look back it sounds like a cry for help from a generation with a scarcity of authentic knowledge, resources and sources of information during a stage in their life when they needed it the most. But, today, the times have changed, and the youth are learning more, and are learning fast. We have learnt to extract necessary information out of all the polarized content on different mediums, and understand the factually accurate ones. We are exploring every avenue at our disposal and are reaching new heights in understanding complex issues, developing opinions on them, and not only expressing them but if necessary, amend them and correct ourselves. With the rapidly changing social fabric of the world, it is challenging for the traditional media houses to adapt as well, but the effort should be made. Just like the idea of an ‘ideal citizen’ was dropped after the Indira Gandhi era, the idea of an ‘ideal child’ should also be dropped. Children are not to be viewed as the product of their parents, but as members of the state, and here is where the real inclusion of the youth of this country would start. Our voices, our views, our words and perceptions would have a real value in a world where our social stature and moral requirements would be at par with the adults, especially while expressing ourselves.
Abhishek Kadiyala is a student of Bachelors of Arts in Journalism, International Relations and Public Policy from St. Joseph's College Bangalore. Abhishek is also the author of a nonfiction novel titled 'Expeditionary', with publications on various news platforms including 'The Print' on various Socio- Political issues. He firmly believes in the power of expression of one's thoughts and aspires for a career in diplomacy and policy making in his future.