By Claire Rampen, Telefonica Millennial leader
When ‘influence’ is discussed in the media, talk often turns to its negative impacts; the focus is on children who are growing up too quickly, or an epidemic of violence and sexualisation in young people. And what about the root of these influences? More often than not, we are quick to identify key reasons, in the form of products or media channels, and vilify them. Sometimes it can feel like we are fighting a never-ending fire.
So what about when we analyse ‘influence’ in the neutral sense of the term? What about if we could look at influence as a key enabler that we can disrupt, and then leverage to implement wide-scale positive change? What if educational initiatives (in the many forms that they do and will take) could take that top spot?
The Telefónica Global Millennials Study 2014 reveals some useful insights on the topic of influence; family and friends have a significantly higher influence on Millennials (77%) than the educational institutions that they attend, particularly in the US and Western Europe.
The important thing to remember is that we cannot assume that this influence from family and friends is necessarily beneficial to Millennials or the generations that come after them. Certainly, parents can help instil a sense of responsibility or accountability in their children; they can guide them into ‘useful’ further education courses; they can inspire them to achieve greatness. But as Millennials face entirely different working conditions, aspirations and environmental challenges, it is safe to say that the age we are navigating is one without precedent.
So that begs the question; are we playing a dangerous game if families and friends continue to have a leading role in influencing these generations? What about those whose parents are not fully aware of the challenges their children’s generation, Millennials or otherwise, face? We are currently preparing students to work in jobs and markets that don’t yet exist. To what extent are we limiting these students if education cannot or does not have the impact it needs to?
If we want to open up the possibilities that the future holds for us, rather than perpetuate the imbalanced social structure of our current society, we must ensure our education systems are up to the task of educating everyone for the future and influencing young people to seek innovative solutions to the unforeseeable challenges we will no doubt be facing with the rapid pace of technological development.
So here is our challenge, and one that we can all contribute to: increase and promote the accessibility and relevance of educational channels and, in turn, their influence.