Youth Activism: A current trend in Youth Culture

Youth Activism: A Current Trend in Youth Culture 

By Darshanaa Varne

In this 21st century, a large part of the youth culture comprises of acts of activism and advocacy by adolescents who strive for social change in their respective community. Youth activism can be defined as activities that youth consisting of pre-teens, teenagers and young adults participate in with the ultimate goal of bringing change in a specific cause. According to Taft, an associate professor at UC Santa Cruz, there is a striking increase in the number of youths campaigning for causes like climate justice, racial equality, LGBTQ rights, abortion rights, gun violence and gender equality globally today (McNulty, 2019). Youth activists take on the roles of researchers, planners, social workers, advocates, teachers, and decision-makers in activism. 

Significance of Youth Activism

This new trend in youth culture is important as it could be a vital component for adolescents to capture the attention of adults towards matters affecting children that needs to be publicized. This is because youth can provide an alternative perspective on issues that adults aren’t aware about. For example, a powerful idea disseminated by a 17-year-old school student, namely Ain Husniza Saiful Nizam, sparked one of the most important events of 2021 among Malaysian youths, known as the #MakeSchoolASaferPlace campaign. In a viral Tik Tok video the student activist expressed concerns regarding her teacher’s rape jokes (Tong, 2021). Consequently, this prompted others to share similar experiences in school. Despite criticism from conservatives, Ain’s case has served as a catalyst for raising awareness about this toxic school culture among adults. For instance, Stephen Isaac, an all-boys school biology teacher made a point to educate his students about the issue at hand (Alhadjri, 2021).  Activism also provides an opportunity for young adults to lead in the real world which enables them to network with like-minded individuals from different backgrounds with the same passion to be part of the greater good. In an aim to close the gap between policymakers and the youth, a social movement called, UNDI18 with the forefront of Malaysian youths who care about the nation’s political well-being has strived for a change by amending the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age to 18 (Lee, 2021). The approval of this bill would create a society in which youths can independently think and act on issues concerning their life. The movement has also captured the attention of the previous Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who expressed his confidence in the youth’s ability to contribute to the nation’s progress (Tirtayana, 2021). The result of the successful advocacy of the bill could be seen in the recent Johor state election where the many 18-year-old beneficiaries voted for the first time in history (Tee and Razak, 2022).

Technology as the backbone of Youth Activism

Contrary to past advocacies or protests, the modern youth movements are accompanied by the use of technology. The invention of the internet has revolutionized communications by increasing connectivity among the community. #HeforShe, #WomensMarch and #BlackLivesMatter are some of the online hashtags that have changed the world for the better. Technology and the use of electronic media has redefined the conduct of youth participation in activism globally with popular social media applications such as Instagram, Twitter and YouTube providing platforms to amplify the voices of these movements. This has in some ways created tension among adults as young people views are often well-informed and well-researched in comparison to their limited perspectives of the issue channeled through television or newspapers. Associate professor Hava Gordon at the University of Denver explains that, the wildfire-like characteristic of the movement that grows online could possibly alienate older generations as their deep-rooted values and views on a certain cause are challenged by teenagers (Morgan, 2020). 

Conclusion

Ultimately, it is evident that this element of the youth culture is vital to the comprehensive progress of society. Although many countries are hesitant to include youth in decision-making, there are also adults who recognize and encourage young activists. Former US President, Barack Obama took to Twitter to make his stance on the issue saying “…watching the heightened activism of young people makes me hopeful. And if we can keep channeling our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, this can be the moment when real change starts”. 

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