Dialogue Youth Barometer: Welcome to the World of Digital Natives

Youth Barometer: Welcome to the World of Digital Natives

Four countries from different cultures, one target group researched, a wide variety of views, and one common denominator: Young people "tick" in real time.

Legend has it that the term "digital natives" was first used at the 1996 World Economic Forum in Davos. The speaker, an internet activist, issued a passionate plea for a free internet, claiming that parents – he called them "digital immigrants" – were calling for its regulation simply because they knew nothing about it.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants.

John Perry Barlow, “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” Davos, February 8, 1996

Today, nearly 20 years after this much-cited term was coined, we have conducted a scientific study of the species known as "digital natives" (mostly referring to people born after 1980). They have meanwhile grown into young adults and in Credit Suisse's sixth Youth Barometer study, they tell us about their lives, values, goals, work, and opinions.

The internet is pervading more and more areas of people's lives – especially those of the digital natives. So, what is life like in the digital universe? The answers are surprisingly diverse. Because young people between the ages of 16 and 25 don't automatically dismiss everything that is offline as "out."

Digital, mobile, and social interaction molds the zeitgeist of young people. Trends and media (this year's core issue) are closely linked. If we were to choose a symbol to represent today's youth, it would have to be the smartphone.

Which economic sectors are of greatest interest to young people and what matters to them about an employer? The current generation of 16- to 25-year-olds has clear ideas about jobs, finances, and careers.

In some cases, young people's ideas about politics, society, and values differ significantly in the US, Brazil, Singapore, and Switzerland. Unemployment, corruption, an aging population, and foreigners – these are just some of the issues that concern young people.