Recognise the diversity of youth

The label 'youth' can hide the many differences between 16 - 24 year olds. Although they may have an age in common, young people face many different opportunities and challenges, have diverse interests, and engage with technology in many different ways.


  1. Digital technology supporting young people

    On behalf on the Nominet Trust, we have been working on to explore key messages on how digital technologies can support young people to engage socially and economically with their communities. You can find the latest blog posts from the project here. From an initial online crowd sourcing process and a roundtable workshop at the RSA in April 201210 key messages were drawn out.

    This storify seeks to curate key online content on one of these messages - using real-life examples, linking to research and providing insights for action. 

  2. Youth culture is diverse

  3. Channel 4's UK Tribes project has carried out research to identify over 23 youth cultures, from Mainstream and Aspirant, to Urban, Alternative and Leading Edge. The tribes website and research offers insights into what different groups of young people might be into - from entertainment interests to technology and media consumption.
  4. (Use the password 'iblametheparents' to get into all the details on the UK Tribes website). You can also find a range of insights in a 2009 publication by Xtreme Information market researchers
  5. Technology and diversity: does the Internet support diversity?

    Online communities can support young people to express their true identity, but they can also constrain and limit. @sparkandmettle told us about the Young Foundation's Plugged In, Untapped report that explores the problem of digital homophily among young people, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
  6. The internet has the potential to allow a wider range of expression - and to let diverse groups express themselves: but that doesn't happen automatically. Whilst many early uses of the Internet focussed on it's ability to connect people across boundaries, now when we go online with social networks, we often take our existing networks, and the boundaries they might create, online with us. Eli Pariser has highlighted how people might get caught in a 'filter bubble' that doesn't show them the diversity of content on the web.
  7. Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles" | Video on
  8. (In fact, as we were putting together this list, we realised we were struggling to find diverse views from young people searching Google: we were just getting pages of content from people we already knew about because Google was customising the results based on our social networks. We had to turn to a search engine that doesn't 'bubble' - DuckDuckGo to get alternative search results and input)
  9. Young people have diverse experiences

  10. One of the messages suggested in our April workshop was "Find young people's truth and reality: understand the diversity and individual experiences of young people". Take a few minutes to watch two or three of the different videos in the MediaBox gallery to hear from different young people sharing their experiences. Going direct to listen to young people gets beyond marketing categories, to find the real lived stories of young people.
  11. With the diversity of youth, does the label 'Young people' really make sense at all? As one workshop contributor put it: "One of the problems is calling them ‘young people.’ The range and difference in life styles amongst that age group is huge - some are builders, finance execs, students, live at home, GCSES, Masters, workers, etc. We need to call them what they are. The diversity is as huge as we recognise with adults. Need to recognise the diversity."
  12. Using the label 'youth' could be counter productive if it leads us to ignore the connections and commonalities that 16 - 24 year olds have with other age groups, as this discussion of youth at the Internet Governance Forum explores:
  13. Who are you trying to reach?

  14. As @owl_food and @hi8ussouth reminded us: "Within the diversity of ‘young people’ it is key to recognise specific differences between age groups, and craft conversations, consultations, and design of initiatives accordingly.  For example, 16-18yr olds in Poplar are potentially v different to 18-21yr olds in Peckham … certainly when considering motivations / needs."
  15. and the Office of National Statistics can be good place to look for demographic data on the 3.8 million 16 - 24 year olds living in the UK and for statistics on key youth issues in the areas where you are planning to operate. But nothing beats getting out and talking to people too...
  16. Working with a recognition of diversity

    Recognising the diversity of youth might lead to projects that focus on the long tail or that identify and target particular populations of young people. Recognition of diversity might also drive projects that are built around personalisation. Alternatively, your innovation might be focussed behind the scenes in ways that let other people contextualise it for particular groups of young people, or by working peer-to-peer you can reach people with a wide range of experiences. 

    Leave a comment if you've got another way of responding to the diversity of youth when developing new digital innovations...
  17. Shape this story

    What are we missing? The clips and snippets above are designed to help someone new to the idea of MESSAGE (e.g. co-design) to think about how it might apply to their work. We know there are lots more links, video clips, slide shows and photos out there we could include here, and other lines of this story we could expand upon. But we need your help to find them. You can tweet us @alexjamesfarrow, @timdavies or @davidwilcox with ideas, or drop in your comments below.