Today’s American teens supposedly invest most of their screen time on social media (such as TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram), followed by other activities such as video gaming, streaming films and TV, and messaging family and friends.
While some parents and adults might stress over social networks taking Gen Z’s time far from more “efficient” activities with family and friends, there’s at least one reasonable reason for it: Social media is the place where Gen Z feel they can find the most genuine and varied material, according to our current research study at the Center for Scholars & & Storytellers.
On the other hand, motion pictures and television programs usually targeting American adolescents are often made without a committed consideration of their point of views. It’s not a surprise that standard television and film material just doesn’t feel very authentic to teenagers.
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To resolve this significant gap and make teenagers’ voices be heard by Hollywood content developers, our research team surveyed 662 teens (ages 13 to 18) across the United States and directly asked what subjects they wish to see in home entertainment media.
American teens now want to see Hollywood material with genuine, inclusive, and positive storytelling that better shows their real lives and families. Specifically, when asked about what they want to see represented in the programs and films they watch, these are the topics they discussed.
Hopeful, uplifting stories about people beating the chances. Who does not like a good story of overcoming difficulty? Many existing portrayals of teen life emphasize the unfavorable happenstances of their life experiences and the resulting problems that arise from them, such as The Hunger Games. Instead of seeing media that harp on trauma and suffering, teenagers are wishing to see stories inspiring hope and support with characters beating the chances that are piled versus them.
Stories about people with lives unlike their own. This type of content was connected for many popular amongst the teens in our research study. After all, the teenage years are a phase of discovering oneself and finding out more about other individuals and the bigger society. Storytelling in media– with engaging visuals and sounds– grants the ideal opportunity to inform and let the audience engage with those genuine and differed stories.
For example, the media offers a cisgender, heterosexual individual a safe and pleasurable channel to learn and hear more about the life of somebody who recognizes as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It offers them with insights they may have trouble discovering in other places.
“Even nowadays, many motion pictures or tv shows consist of extremely few people of color. If there are individuals of color they are generally portrayed very stereotypically,” stated a 16-year-old female participant of Asian background.
“I wish to see stories of various ethnic backgrounds who live various lives than I’m used to seeing,” said a 15-year-old female respondent of Middle East/North African background.
Superheroes. Superhero content, such as that found in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (shoutout to their current strides in representation), continues to captivate teenage audiences. From boosted and proficient characters to ethically gray opponents, these stories captivate teenagers in fantastical ways, while still having impactful undertones that connect to genuine experiences.
Mental health. Psychological health is critical for teen life. The current stats find that over 1 in 10 youth in the U.S. are experiencing anxiety, which has severely impaired their social life; and that 11.5% of youth (or over 2.7 million) are experiencing extreme significant depression. For their 3rd top option of subject, teens are wishing to see mental health concerns portrayed and resolved in what they see.”A great deal of movies/TV shows depict teens as moody, horny, ill-mannered, self-absorbed, or completely addicted to their phones. This is a horrendous generalization of an entire age group based on a few people that fit the stereotype,” said a 17-year-old nonbinary, white respondent. “The truth is that a great deal of teenagers deal with depression, anxiety, pressure from their moms and dads, and/or even abuse in the house or school.”
Domesticity. Society frequently makes the presumption that teens are striving hard for autonomy and do not desire much to do with their families. Although family might look different for various teenagers, a majority of our respondents ranked family life as their 4th wanted topic in the media. There is a growing wish to see their family units and relationships reflected in what they see. Even if short lived, moments of parents or caregivers having worthwhile and intimate conversations with teen characters can be impactful.
Furthermore, when asked whether they ‘d choose to see escapist or more true-to-life films and television shows, teenagers throughout all demographics resoundingly rejected aspirational material that valorizes fame and financial gain that Hollywood used to popularize in the early to mid-2000s. This consists of programs like Gossip Lady, iCarly, and Hannah Montana.
Rather, more teens selected enjoyable and escapist material (37.8% of participants), real-life concerns that impact society (21%), and relatable material (19.6%).
Teenagers’ rejection of aspirational material signals a substantial shift in their definition of success and their worldviews, which differ from previous generations one or two decades earlier. Maybe the current increase of social networks plays an important function in improving teenagers’ perceptions and taste.
These findings are telling us that contrary to stereotyped concepts of teenage angst and self-absorption, specifically in our existing complex socio-political landscape, adolescents are leaning toward stories that offer hope and understanding of others while also remaining enjoyable and genuine for their age.
Taken together, our findings highlight teenagers’ visible desire for media experiences that show a world identified by diversity, genuineness, and uplifting experiences– a need that has actually seemingly not been fulfilled by existing Hollywood content, nor been considered alongside the popularity of social networks.
Stories have the power to knowingly and unconsciously form our thinking. Stories can drive conversations and influence us to inquire about crucial topics. For instance, in one of our previous studies, 88% of surveyed teens discussed psychological health topics, and 92% reported searching for psychological health info after enjoying the popular television show 13 Reasons that.
But, most notably, stories require to be relatable and authentic to real individuals and real lives.
As Hollywood considers their next big hit for teen audiences, the primary step must always be listening to what teenagers need to say.