For many youth cultures have changed over the generations, for parents and teens, the gap has grown even wider to some. Young people have faced similar challenges to each other, but each generation is unique and experiences situations that shape their attitudes and behaviors. However, when entering into any particular culture, although influences exist, it is still usually a conscious choice. A useful way to examine influences, on young people over time, is that of Strauss and Howe in their book the fourth turning. Each generation is labeled, to offer the reader an understanding. According to Strauss and Howe, the silent “generation grew up with the harsh realities of war and a depressed economy.’ This group of young people was at a crossroads, too young to be a hero’s of the war, and yet too old to be young free adolescents, they paved the way towards civil rights, and the rock and roll era.
The next generation was to be known as the baby boomers, growing up with idyllic views of life, accepting the notion of “father knows best” (www.health.org) They engaged in a culture of free-loving, urban riots, and unrest, and as this generation was to mature, idealism allowed the introduction of materialism; hence the word “yuppie” (www.health.org) arrived. Generation X was born into an era of high divorce rates, and an increasing rise in the number of single-parent families. These young people entered the labor market when jobs were scarce, and youth crime and disorder soared, the aids epidemic was rampant. “Their outside status helped spawn the angst-filled grunge movement and they also fuelled the hip-hop explosion.” (www.health.org). The cultures in the youth have changed so much over time and the change shows.
The next generation Y/Millennials were born into both good and bad influences at the same time. At the top of the national agenda is child welfare, although negative school violence and drugs are at the forefront. Computerization and technology are ever-increasing, and equipment is predominately digital. The Y generation, is a representation of today’s teens where surfing the internet is the norm, and emailing is as common as using the telephone. This era is much more multicultural than it was when their parents were growing up, and images containing sex and violence are common themes that surround them daily. To an extent “the Vietnam war and the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm x, Medgar Evers, and Dr. Martin Luthur King, Jr, are ancient history”. The speed at which cultural objects and ideas are transmitted globally today is a significant factor in the number of youth subculture groups that are identified. A major change with regards to counter-cultural groups today is the large number of them around. For example, in the sixties it was common to be classed as a mod or a rocker, you tended to be one or the other. Today youth can align with many other groups because there is such diversity. The mass media has a large role to play in encouraging the formation of sub-cultural groups, by helping young people to see and identify which role models represent what groups.
Perhaps more fundamentally, youth culture has become more accepting and accommodating of different groupings within the community. There are groups on the fringe of society who may be counter-cultural in orientation, like punks, goths, etc.. by large now there seems to be a strong sense of tolerance for difference and a feeling that diversity may even be positive. Media targeting of young people is all too common, with the hunt for consumer money on. Advertisers view teens in particular, as uniquely profitable, they buy themselves, influence parents to buy, and indeed will be future adult consumers. Consumer advertising through the media is highly influential on young people, especially when they use popularity by association: Product advertised by famous people. Although, adolescents I work with are sometimes quite cynical to this approach, seeing it as someone who gets paid for a job, without actually believing in the product.
Media advertising uses signifiers to appeal to different groups, “visual and verbal elements are combined to produce particular meanings and effects”. If we look at an advertisement for the chocolate bar bounty, the light blue packaging denotes the product as food. Related visual images of a sunny desert island, give connotations of youth, freedom, and happiness. The music can be powerful in giving the feeling of energy, and pleasure. This example is to illustrates how powerful semiotics and the use of signs in the media can be. The media uses semiotics in portraying fashion and beauty items and has done it over time. Clothes are an important indication of social interaction, and media images even in the sixties helped to determine what groups young people engaged in,” clothing fashion both sprang from and had an influence on the various youth culture groups of the time which diverged and evolved as the decade progressed”. The “teddy boys” dressed in Edwardian style clothing, Hell’s angels wore leather, which was symbolic of their brotherliness and motorcycling ventures. This code of dress although sub-cultural, was mainly to facilitate their mode of transport as opposed to a fashion statement. This dress sense may have been influenced by films of the time such as the wild ones.
With youth cultures today they are more into social media than anything else. There has been a huge difference with past youth cultures due to the technological advancements that have been upheld by the youth today. It is an easier way for today’s youth to be able to get around and see more without actually going anywhere they can stay in their homes and see all the different things around them with the help of social media. 20 years ago youth was just getting involved with so much of the technology that now youth has it has been a life-changer for so many.