Racism; bullying; drugs; problems at school: just some of the issues young people from all communities say they want to talk about. But alarmingly, research for BT and ChildLine found that only 47% of UK youngsters believe that adults listen to them, and act on what they hear. And adults agreed, with only 57% saying they take into account young people's views.
The research, which reflects the opinions of 98% of the UK youth population, also highlighted society's best and worst at hearing. Friends and parents top the league of good listeners, while shops, government and local councils could all do much better. And youngsters want doctors, teachers and the police, in particular, to listen more. `Young people have got a lot to say but they are not heard. Some people are not letting them get it out,' said one contributor.
Something both adults and young people agree on are the benefits of seeking youngsters' opinions. Listening more could resolve social problems, improve understanding between adults and young people and boost youngsters' confidence.
These benefits lie behind BT's `Am I listening?' campaign, which aims to ensure that all young people are heard. The campaign, launched last October aims to involve both adults and young people from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible.
`Listening to young people can be a powerful force for good, breaking down barriers between different ages and strengthening relationships between different communities. We want to reach young Muslims, their parents and spiritual and community leaders in this campaign and involve them in the debate.' says Beth Courtier, Head of Charity Programmes, BT.
The campaign's main focus so far has been developing a stronger partnership with ChildLine, the UK's free 24-hour helpline for children in danger or distress, which BT has supported for many years. BT's huge fundraising appeal will help the charity, which currently counsels 1,800 young people a day, to provide the resources to answer many more calls.
BT is also working with young people themselves to help make adults better listeners, including the UK Youth Parliament, which has 400 members (ranging from 11-18) nationwide.
The next phase of the campaign is the Big Listen, a week of awareness and fundraising from 13-20 October 2003, to highlight the importance of hearing young people. Youngsters (and adults) can join in events including an online debate and school-based activities, or organise their own events, perhaps focusing on issues of local concern. The Big Listen will also raise funds for ChildLine. There are several ways to donate, including online.
`Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives children the right to say what they think and be listened to, yet the majority of UK youth don't feel this is the case,' Beth Courtier says. `BT believes that when all young people are heard it will help resolve real social issues and make a major, positive contribution to a better world,'.
For campaign information, and to donate, go to www.bt.com/listening.