South African Teens Are Socially Pressured, Entrepreneurial, and Believe in the Power of the Internet
Youth have played an important role in shaping and influencing South Africa’s politically-charged history, from the 1976 Soweto Uprisings to the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests. What is life like for today’s South African teens?
Viacom’s global youth research project, My Teen Life, interviewed teens (ages 12 to 17) in 32 countries, including South Africa, to understand how they’re approaching life in the Digital Age. These are some highlights of what we learned about our country’s teens:
South African teenagers face a host of pressures, both age-old and modern. Among South African teens, 68% admit they are concerned about their appearance and 66% worry about being excluded by their peers. The proliferation of digital platforms has introduced new forms of stress. South African teens say they use social platforms 55 times a day, which is an indication not just of how much social media is integrated into their lives, but the likely pressure it places on them. In addition, 68% of South African teens (versus 61% of global teens) report that they feel pressured to respond to a message within 30 minutes.
Teens in South Africa report a high rate of bullying in real life at 54%, higher than the global average of 42%. Nearly 1 in 5 (17%) say they have experienced online bullying. With the high propensity of social pressures online, it can be a lot harder for teens to escape harassment.
They believe in the power of the internet and distrust public institutions. Teens in South Africa spend long hours online. We believe that this state of constant connection influences the fact that 92% describe themselves as curious about the world, and 84% describe themselves as someone who “shares and connects with others.”
South African teens are far more likely to share something funny online as soon as they find it – 83% versus the global average of 73%. This trend could be indicative of a form of comic relief therapy stemming from living in a tense or uncertain political climate.
Nearly two-thirds of South African teens (65%) say they believe the internet is more powerful than any government. A recent election survey by MTV Base discovered that 64% of South African youth describe politics as being “corrupt,” reinforcing this idea.
South African teens are entrepreneurial, empathetic, and willing to take risks. A majority describe themselves as “entrepreneurial” at 85%, compared to a global score of 67%. This could, in part, be due to the fact that the current youth unemployment rate (ages 15-24) in South Africa is at 55.2%, according to STATS SA 2019 Q1.
South African teens are also more concerned than their global peers about living up to their potential, at 74% versus 61% internationally. They believe in trying and making mistakes rather than not trying at all, with 93% viewing this as a good thing.