Many today lament the inexorable truth that young people have mostly lost the ability to effectively communicate. While it might be truer that young people are simply undergoing a major change in their communication norms, it is also true that the communication that young people engage in today is less effective than in the past. Perhaps because of social media and technology and partly because of the lack of emphasis on interpersonal development, young people today are forced to engage in much less face-to-face communication than the generations that came before them. As a result, these young people suffer from a poverty of written and oral communication. These changes are not without consequence. A number of social problems can be linked back, in part, to the struggles in communication of young people today. Three social problems—lack of quality jobs, racial discrimination, and rising crime rates in schools—can be linked, at least in part, to communication problems among young people.
One of the most distinct social problems today is unemployment, especially among young people. Though the official unemployment rate has been dropping toward five-percent over the last two years, the actual unemployment rate has remained higher than it should be. According to one report, the unemployment rate for people aged 18 to 25 is 16.5-percent. This is significantly higher than the rate for people who are older. This unemployment rate is troubling, of course, but it also leads one to question the communication skills of young people. Young people are increasingly lacking the “soft skills” that they need to operate in the workplace. Working in an office is about conflict management and team building. Whether one works in the technology field, in a restaurant, or in a financial management office, in order for the organization to proceed properly, the organization must be full of people who know how to relate to other human beings. Increasingly, young people are being isolated from other young people and are not learning the soft skills that they need to be effective in these situations. Much of this can be linked to the rise of social media and the lack of face-to-face communication that young people today receive. Young people spend more time indoors than ever before, and they can become reclusive because of the Internet-based communication methods that are offered to them. While young people are given the opportunity to be more expressive today than ever before, their expressiveness online does not translate to the sorts of people skills that are needed to function in an actual workplace. For this reason, many employers who have jobs open are finding that they cannot trust younger workers to demonstrate the skills that will keep the workplace flowing in the way that it needs to.

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Racism and racial discrimination are another major social problem in the world today. One does not have to look far to see racial discrimination in the United States and elsewhere. On college campuses, students have complained that they are learning in a hostile environment. Relics to Confederate-era generals exist, and black students find themselves less likely to be given job opportunities than their white counterparts. On the police front, young black men are much more likely to be killed by police, even when they are not armed, than their white counterparts. The criminal justice system itself is rife with racial discrimination. Black people are more likely to be stopped either in their cars or walking down the street. They are more likely to be searched and arrested, even for low-level drugs crimes. When black individuals are put through the criminal justice system, they are more likely than their counterparts to be convicted, and after that conviction, they are more likely to be sentenced for longer than their white counterparts. In the death penalty context, black people are much more likely to be executed for killing a person, and when the victim is white, the death penalty is more likely to be applied.
These are all major issues that make racism a major problem that is worth dealing with. There are many root causes of racism, but one of the most important can be traced to a lack of communication skills among young people today. At the root of racism is the fact that young people cannot relate to one another on the important issues facing them. This lack of relatability can be linked to the lack of communication and interaction between people of different races. Young white students, for instance, are not privy to stories of the struggle of young black students, and as a result, those young white students can suffer from an empathy gap of sorts that makes it more difficult for them to understand.

Another social problem today is the rising rates of crime for young people in schools. Thousands of students are arrested or given citations in schools around the country today. Even young children are subject to arrest or detainment if they happen to be out of line with their behavior in schools today. Perhaps the most high-profile example of this came in South Carolina in October, when a young girl was thrown from her chair by a police officer because she refused to comply with the requests of teachers and police. While it is not at all fair to put the onus all on young people for these rising rates of crime, it is fair to say that communication struggles contribute to the result. Young people have increasing amounts of trouble communicating with their teachers on even the most basic matters. There are issues abounding, where teachers are not quite able to get through to students on issues of classroom decorum or behavior. This is especially true for students who have special needs. Young people who suffer from conditions like autism or sensory disorder are especially likely to face one of these situations because those students lack the overall skills to diffuse a situation in which police or teachers are making major demands. Students often feel pressure because they cannot communicate their needs. They have major frustrations that are not dealt with in a productive manner, and when this happens, police are often called to deal with the issue. As mentioned, putting all of the onus on students is not fair, since adults bear some of the responsibility for the problems in two-way communication. However, students and their inability to properly communicate is a part of the problem, contributing to the rising rates of citation and arrest in schools.

At the end of the day, communication skills are lacking among young people in today’s schools. Young people are much more likely today to retreat to the Internet, and their encounters with fellow students are more likely to be done through text message or online message. While this does allow students to connect to many people, and it does allow them to connect often, it often robs them of the real interpersonal communication that can be so important in today’s world. These communication issues have helped to shape some of the major social issues of the day. Because students lack the communication skills that they need, social problems are allowed to fester over time.

    References
  • Clokie, T., & Fourie, E. (2015). Growing the Person: Communication, soft skills and the broader curriculum. National Tertiary Learning and Teaching Conference, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic.
  • Richards-Schuster, K., & Aldana, A. (2013). Learning to speak out about racism: Youths’ insights on participation in an intergroup dialogues program.Social Work With Groups, 36(4), 332-348.
  • Robles, M. M. (2012). Executive perceptions of the top 10 soft skills needed in today’s workplace. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(4), 453-465.
  • Salley, B., Gabrielli, J., Smith, C. M., & Braun, M. (2015). Do communication and social interaction skills differ across youth diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or dual diagnosis?. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 20, 58-66.
  • Ting-Toomey, S., & Chung, L. C. (2012). Understanding intercultural communication. New York: Oxford University Press.