Trends and Media
Young people's lives are shaped by digital, mobile, and social interaction. If there had to be one symbol for the young generation, it would probably be the smartphone.
Young people have always defined themselves through what is in and out – by being involved or not. And the Internet has made this dichotomy even more pronounced: Like or thumbs up if you like it. No Like or thumbs down if you don't. The Youth Barometer looks at trends taking place online as well as offline. Anything to do with smartphones is considered to be in. They are the number-one trend mentioned by young people in Singapore and the US and in second place in Switzerland. WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube are also considered trends – all of them platforms that can or have to be used as smartphone apps.
YouTube has edged out TV – except in the US – and young people only mention three non-digital things when asked about top trends: "Going to the movies" (Brazil), "vacationing abroad" (Switzerland), and "getting together with friends" (Brazil and Switzerland). A quick look back shows how short-lived these trends are. Switzerland's “in ranking” looked very different as recently as 2010: 1. texting, 2. Italian food, 3. email, 4. vacationing abroad and 5. being yourself.
Nowadays mobile phones without Internet service and landlines are out – these are both obvious. But drugs, smoking and performance-enhancing substances are also out. Parents are probably happy about that. However, various social associations like youth organizations and political parties are likewise unpopular, especially in Singapore and Switzerland.
The declining importance of traditional religion is another key finding. Asked which religion they belong to, between 22 percent and 34 percent of the young people in the four countries surveyed describe themselves now as agnostic/atheist/unaffiliated with any religion. Just two years ago it was between 5 percent and 13 percent.
Young people use a wide range of different media. Take Switzerland as an example. Free newspapers are still the most important source of news for 62 percent of those surveyed. But 75 percent chose this answer in 2010. The main reason for this relative drop in popularity is likely competition from online news sites and news apps. In the case of "20 Minuten" and "Blick am Abend", the two major free newspapers in German-speaking Switzerland, it is just a matter of switching channels: Instead of reading a print newspaper, people read the articles online.
Not surprisingly, television has lost popularity over the last six years. What's interesting, though, is that in Switzerland, the popularity of radio has also declined for the first time. For years, around half of those surveyed in Switzerland answered that they listened to the radio. Now only 42 percent do. One explanation could be the rise of streaming services that allow people to put together their own music channel. A similar trend was not seen in the other countries, but radio never had the same importance in those countries as in Switzerland.
Facebook is increasingly becoming a news channel: In 2010, only 35 percent of young people used it for that purpose. That figure has risen to 47 percent.
Readily available media products like free newspapers are popular among those surveyed. This does not mean, however, that young people are indifferent to the quality of journalism. When asked which media sources they trust, national Swiss television SRF, as well as paid newspapers "NZZ" and "Tages-Anzeiger" top the list. Digital-only channels are at the bottom of the list: YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.