UNICEF released the report “The State of the World’s Children 2011: Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity” that outlines challenges adolescents face in health, education, protection and participation, and the need to give young people a voice and help form the future by taking action immediately.
This collection of detailed vulnerabilities of adolescents and calls for action begins with a simple but powerful quote made by a young woman in Bonn at a United Nations consultation on Climate Change. She asked, “How old will you be in 2050?” Hundreds of delegates the next day arrived in T-shirts displaying their ages in 2050, showing the audience we are leaving this world with all its economic, health, environmental, safety, and education flaws as a burden for the next generation.
Over the last 20 years, the UN invested in improving child mortality rates, which they have successfully decreased by 33 percent in children under the age of five. However, attention is shifting from this improving demographic to one that is steadily earning even more devastating mortality rates: adolescents. UNICEF uses the following example to illustrate the global concern: in Brazil, 26,000 children under one were saved between 1998-2008, leading to a sharp decrease in mortality, yet in the same period 81,000 adolescents aged 15-19 were murdered. UNICEF says it is not their goal to save young children only for them to die in the second decade of their life.
Among the many detailed concerns is one that we follow especially close at LifeBound as we focus on giving students the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. UNICEF found in their studies that the younger generation of “digital natives” (a name assigned to those born after 1980) experience more obstacles in technology than adults often assume. They list 3 divides that must be bridged for a generation of digitally-literate youth:
1. Basic access to technology and the related infrastructure, like electricity
2. The skills to use technologies once they are accessible
3. Limited knowledge on how young people navigate in the online world
Being connected in the digital world doesn’t only mean knowing how to text a friend, type a paper or find friends on Facebook. Technology has created fresh and faster ways to communicate, taken creativity from physical to digital with videos, digital art, and audio, and given young adults the ability to create new jobs in these somber economic times.
One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is connecting with the schools and associations around the world in the K-12 International School realm. These people are making many cutting edge connections with learning, technology and experience-based activities for students. The more we learn and observe what people around the world are doing, the more we can prepare students to be ready for the global world, working side by side with people from some of the most remote regions of the world.