Stephen Bell has been there for young people for over 40 years. As CEO of Youthline he’s in a unique position to share the biggest challenges facing young people in New Zealand today. I sat down with him to find out what he thought were the biggest challenges for New Zealand’s future.
Lack of future-orientation
When people feel secure about the future, they invest in the future.
“With so many people (not just young people) living day to day we’re seeing more and more people disenfranchised by society.”
It’s too easy for people to get credit, which is causing a massive credit burden amongst young people.
“It’s hard to buy a house, hard to rent even with a decent salary so what sort of future can people build? We are seeing more children staying at home (not necessarily good for the child or the parents) and, on the flip side, sleeping rough in crowded flats/on the couch.
Even with a degree, graduates are struggling to find meaningful work
“We have 21st century learners being taught by 20th century teachers, in 19th century institutions. Too many people leave school without serious qualifications. We need to create more flexibility and alternative education pathways.”
The elephant in the room that no-one is talking about.
“We have come a long way as a society to accept and celebrate sexual diversity. There is still a lot to do. Young people are being exposed to pornography in a way they never have before in another era. We don’t know what all of the potential consequences will be but we’re already seeing addiction, confused reality and shame. We need to talk about this issue.”
Lack of community
We need to shift away from treating the problem to building our communities.
“We need to create more opportunities for young people to engage in citizenship. We can do this by creating places where they have meaningful involvement in community, making it easier to travel around, giving them opportunities to lead and influence policy and provide relevant resources and information.”
So what can we do to help the young people in our community?
“It’s not rocket science. It’s about doing the fundamentals well and consistently. Find ways to get young people involved in different activities whether it’s sport, volunteering, gaming, part-time work, dance or music. Show them where to go for help. Give them the tools to help their friends. Let’s create opportunities for young people to become leaders in their own way. We all benefit if we make this happen.”