Teens continue to put their stamp on culture and push forward new ideas and attitudes that spread to both their younger and older counterparts. Having monitored their habits in 2015, there are several trends that we predict will spread and take hold in 2016. These include changing interests in entertainment, a fresh approach to education, and a revised image of social media.
Tell The Real Story
The last installment of “The Hunger Games” hit theaters in the last quarter of 2015, and it signals the closure of the chapter of dystopian entertainment. While Young Adult literature (and film) has focused on this genre for some time, teens are beginning to look for a new type of story—a realistic story—to thrill them in the coming year. They’ve reached a tipping point with the negativity and disillusionment that is inherent in dystopian tales led by overdramatized characters saving the world. Instead, they are looking to be inspired by stories of everyday, average people who become heroes by doing the extraordinary. Such characters feel relatable and represent an achievable ideal.
Moment Of Truth
Teens not only want their entertainment to be more real but also want their social media accounts to reflect their true selves. In the past, they’ve been wont to treat their profiles as aspirational depictions of their lives, showing their best side. But it’s increasingly important—for teens and brands alike—to have authentic profiles because an embellished profile will be quickly found out. In addition, they are noticing that when they create an exaggerated online image, it can be hard to live up to. Australian teenager and popular Instagrammer Essena O’Neill made headlines when she quit the platform, admitting that many of her posts were contrived, paid for by brands, and didn’t represent who she was. More teenagers are making an effort to ensure that their posts are true to who they are. And even if they aren’t quite ready to do this with their primary Instagram account, they’re being themselves and not worrying about how they look on secondary accounts, called Finstas, that they share with their closest friends.
Include Every Body
Teens are starting to have a better perception of body image, and this will continue to progress in the coming year. They have been fighting to get media to include more accurate portrayals of the broad range of body types that they see among their peers. The marketers that have been on the forefront of responding to this desire are also the ones that are winning with teens’ wallets. They have a lot of respect for American Eagle’s Aerie brand, which no longer retouches the photos that it uses in advertising. This is as true among girls as it is among guys. Brands that present an unrealistic standard—think Abercrombie & Fitch—no longer resonate with youth. As this movement grows, the brands that help teens peers feel confident in who they are and included regardless of how they look will be the ones to which they gravitate.
Not too long ago, teens felt a great deal of pressure to be the best in school so that they could get into the best college and, eventually, land the best job. However, today’s teens are highly aware of the student debt crisis and don’t want to end up saddled with debt before they’ve even begun their adult lives. As a result, they are less interested in the most prestigious education they can buy; rather, they are looking to get the most for their money when it comes to college (and their current education). They believe they can get a high-quality education even if they don’t attend an Ivy League school. Just as this is affecting their future expectations, it is also shifting their current approach to education. They are pragmatic about school, seeking to identify their personal skills and hone them rather than simply striving to get the highest GPA in the class. They believe that doing so will set them on the course to future success.
On The Rebound
While teens are generally characterized as rarely looking up from their mobile devices, in fact, they are giving rise to a resurgence of analog activities. This is a rebound from their vastly digital lives. In response, they are glorifying tactile experiences, holding them up as being cooler than their digital versions. Much like their older peers, they have taken to using coloring books, reading print magazines, and happily toting around physical novels. Digital experiences have become increasingly harried and stressful, and, in comparison, offline experiences feel calming and rejuvenating. They know that when they pick up a book, they won’t be interrupted by ads, notifications, or even messages from their friends. They’re learning to appreciate this time as an escape from the pressures that digital media presents and their engagement in analog activities will grow in 2016.