By UCL Global Youth, on 11 April 2018
A guest post by Hanaa Almoaibed, PhD Student at UCL-Institute of Education
Podcasts have become an increasingly popular and innovative way to discuss contemporary issues, and in this blog post I want to highlight the range of episodes and series that focus on youth and young people. While this list is far from comprehensive, the podcasts mentioned below allow us to reflect on some of the difficult issues young people are faced with today as they navigate their transitions into adulthood. To listen to a podcast on the issues that are discussed below, simply click on the highlighted text in the relevant section.
Podcasts capturing everyday and extraordinary experiences
Many of the podcasts that are currently available are first person accounts of the daily lives, struggles, and joys of young people. Two good examples of this are Majd’s account of her experience as a young woman transitioning into adulthood in Saudi Arabia, and Melissa’s story of being a teen mother. Similarly, the Campus series is a collection that sheds light on the ‘life-defining’ experiences of young people (although it tends to focus on students).
Other series are more detailed and topic specific. For example, the Youth Element series focuses on the issues faced by youth in East Asia, while Multicultural Youth Radio presents the voices of Sudanese migrant youth in Canberra as they reflect on their daily experiences as migrants.
Education and Employment
We know that transitions related to education can be particularly challenging for young people, and there are a range of podcasts that discuss the associated challenges such as: the choice of specialisations; type(s) of degree and associated fees; and entrepreneurship, skills and how to bridge education and employment (including these podcasts by McKinsey). Another frequent theme in these discussions is that these transitions are not straightforward, and that the challenges that youth face can be more pronounced depending on variables such as gender, race and class.
Education, Development and the Global South
Education is often seen as a key development goal for youth in the Global South, as large youth populations are often seen as both a threat and an opportunity. As a development issue, education is not only seen in light of access as a matter of social justice (often needed in response to sometimes outdated embedded assumptions about race and gender) but is also debated as a solution to high unemployment rates, linking the issues of education and employment very closely. Issues of skills and technical training for youth employment are often the centre of conversations such as in the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs’ episode related to political stability through employment opportunities for youth in the Middle East. Similarly, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ podcast episode on ‘The Promise of Youth in Africa’ hosts several experts who discuss creating more opportunities for skills and fostering entrepreneurship and technical training in Africa, as does this International Monetary Fund discussion.
Issues of gender identity are explored in a multitude of ways, and we can listen to discussions about these experiences in Gender Identity and Youth Culture and How Millennials think of Gender. The United Nations Gender Focus also has several episodes related to gender issues in general, and youth and gender in specific. Many of these episodes explore issues of sexuality and stigma (see here also on youth and homosexuality in Russia) and how this affects young men and women in their ability to find meaningful life arrangements and work, exploring the issue from the perspective of violence, public policy, human rights, religion and cultural relevance.
Health and wellbeing
While navigating through the challenges and opportunities of early adulthood, many young people struggle to reconcile a myriad of health issues that may complicate transitions. Mental and physical well-being are pertinent to the transition experiences of young people around the world, and the risks they face such as violence and substance abuse. In light of this, the first Season of the In Sickness and in Health series is dedicated to youth, social justice and mental health, and discusses several youth well-being topics such as mental health, depression, LGBTQ youth, media and technology.
The Healthy Mind Matters podcast devotes an episode to looking at the question of whether technology and social media can exacerbate mental health (and sometimes even increase suicidal thoughts) among young people. This podcast episode on Youth and Gang Violence on Social Media focuses on a more specific sub-group of youth, but provides more universally-applicable insights into the intersection of online and offline meanings of belonging and self-worth. The episode looks at ways qualitative research methods and mechanisms can be used to unravel socially-constructed dimensions of identity related to class, race, and political status, and their impact on experiences of trauma, violence and well-being. This opens up a necessary conversation about how to work with young people to develop more effective research to understand the meanings of being young, and developing policy capable of mitigating risks and obstacles to youth well-being and development.
Security and political engagement
Young people often negotiate risk and marginalisation through political engagement and participation. For many, this is a matter of security, for others, it is a way of achieving improved access to their rights and opportunities. Youth can engage in political activism through innovative ways both online and offline (such as these youth in Denmark or the youth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, and the women who pushed for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia).
For young people in areas of conflict or political instability, many of the issues discussed above are aggravated by fears of safety, security and future stability. For some, this can be due to being part of a minority under threat (such as the so called “Dreamers” in the USA), and for others it can be the daily realities of living in a country destabilised by conflict, such as for many young people in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. In addition to their fears, many of the young people are bored and discontent, which in turn ends up being a concern for global security.
And while some young people do turn to violence, others find the pressures of modernity and transitions so overwhelming that they close up and isolate themselves, such as the Hikikomori in Japan.