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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 March, 2004, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Teenagers becoming 'more aware'
Teenagers on a street demonstration
Modern teens put ethical values above financial value
Teenagers are among the most politically active and socially aware ever, according to research.

Six out of every 10 value brands highly but 85% said they should be "socially responsible", putting ethical values above financial value.

Teens are also having twice as much underage sex as teenagers 10 years ago, London Future Laboratory suggests.

It quizzed 2,000 teens in Manchester, London, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and 11 cities elsewhere in Europe.

Co-founder Chris Sanderson told BBC News Online the researchers were "very surprised" by how much teenagers seem to have changed since the mid-1980s.

Blog effect

"Broadly speaking, most of them are incredibly optimistic, responsible and forward thinking in their outlooks," he said.

"They are pro-active about ecological and political issues on both a local and a global scale."

The internet and other communications like mobile phones had been "pivotal" in galvanising this awareness, Mr Sanderson said.

Teenagers had been motivating each other through web contacts and blogs, he said - citing teenager Kierra Box and her Hands Up for Peace team who motivated about 3,000 people to turn up at an anti-war demonstration at Parliament Square last year.

However, such ethical awareness did not mean teenagers were no longer rabid consumers or brand-followers, he warned.

"While they can understand the importance of sourcing goods ethically and not using sweatshops and so on... kids still may want to go out and buy a pair of Nike trainers."

Sex muddle

The internet - as well as teen magazines, and the increased availability of pornography - had also led to a much broader understanding of sex and sexuality, according to the researchers.

Sex education in Denmark and Holland had led to teen pregnancy levels that were among the lowest in the world, they said.

But UK teenage girls were five times more likely to become pregnant than their Dutch counterparts.

Mr Sanderson said there was an example of anomalies in the way today's teenagers thought.

They were on the whole quite "conservative with a small c", and 72% believed abortion was wrong, he said.

"But levels of SSIs - socially significant infections - are on the increase, especially among young women, [and] teenage abortions are on the rise.

"There is some evidence teenagers are not understanding the messages about safe sex."

'Tiny trumps'

Of the teenagers interviewed, 88% said health care should be free, and they would happily pay more tax to pay for free education and social security.

Almost eight out of every 10 of the teenagers interviewed about the euro said the currency was "a good thing", and expressed high levels of approval for the EU.

By contrast 85% said US President George W Bush was a real and present threat to world peace and stability, and 89% against the "environment".

The report coins the phrase "sunshine teens" for modern teenagers, and divides them into four categories.

"Issue touristas" are the most politically active and socially aware; "tiny trumps" are "label guzzlers" and keen followers of Pop Idol and Fame Academy; "old age teens" are responsible, conservative and concerned about their and their parents' futures; and "Loliteens" are sexually provocative.

Teen lifestyle 'health timebomb'
08 Dec 03  |  Health

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