In recent years, attention has slowly drifted from the roles played by adults in the growth of global culture to that of youths. There is a common thought worldwide that youths are the most receptive and susceptible to foreign cultural practices. Put simply, youths are often ready to embrace new and foreign cultures without taking into consideration the implications of the same, a move that is widely considered rebellious (Heaven and Matthew 1). Essentially, as childhood is associated with acceptance and adulthood with conservatism, so is youth related to rebelliousness. The fact that global traditional cultural practices are slowly undergoing disintegration can be attributed to the engagement of youths in cultural borrowing. There are significant changes in the modes of dressing, language, ideologies, as well as aesthetics. There have been commitments by youths in all corners of the world to reject ancient cultures as they aim to identify with what they want to become. Critically, to associate the modern culture to youths, it is imperative to come to terms with who a youth is.
From a Western cultural perspective, youth is any individual who is no longer a child and is not yet an adult (Heaven and Matthew 1). Nevertheless, as adults, youths are endowed privileges and rights to consume alcohol and to take part in electoral processes. From a United Nations perspective, a youth is an individual, who falls between the ages of 15 and 24 years although this has been extended up to 35 years in political contexts. The culture of youths is dynamic and undergoes gradual changes, perspectives attributed to the influence of media through advertisements and programming. There is no doubt that today; a significant percentage of individuals in the media and technologically literate sector comprises youths (Kahn and Douglas 1). In fact, the culture of youths in terms of dressing, language, and behavior has attracted the attention of multinational corporations that have initiated the manufacture and trade of commodities that actively target them as consumers. In respect of the mentioned perspectives surrounding youth culture, this paper seeks to compare youth culture in the US and Saudi Arabia.
Youth Culture in the US
The US has often attracted attention when the term culture is mentioned. Irrefutably, the US has been at the forefront in the exhibition of Western cultural practices, which in the recent years, have been embraced by youths in the country. However, a critical examination of the youth culture in the US requires an understanding of what the concept ‘culture’ means. Typically, culture deals with various fundamentals of human life and experience, which include what people know, what they do in everyday life, as well as what people make and use. The cultural behavior of today’s youths has triggered debates worldwide on what they out to do and wear particularly in public. One of the key cultural aspects when focusing on youth culture in the US is language. The latter has enabled communication between people of different races and places of origin. The national language in the US is English, and it is widely used in religious, social, political, and economic contexts. The youths in the US have also embraced the English language although transformations have been made to the same resulting in a rise in the use of slang (Lam 79). American youths give preference to the use of slang language in day-to-day communication, and this has resulted in communication conflict with adults. Words such as ‘gonna’, ‘nigga’, ‘babe’, ‘wheels’ and several others have become common among youths in America, and thus, gives a precise description of their culture. It is argued that the slang language used by youths in America differentiates them from youths in other countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UK.
When it comes to food, American youths are known for their preference for light snacks and junk foods (Lam 85) that have contributed to the high rates of obesity among youths in the country. It is common for American youths to go out as individuals or as groups in restaurants and big hotels where they order fast foods. This culture differentiates American youths from adults because the latter prefer substantial and well-cooked foods.
Moreover, the prominence of American youth culture worldwide can be attributed to the fashion and lifestyle. Their passion for music cannot be doubted, and this is highlighted by the quality videos and audios produced by American youths and that are available on online platforms such as YouTube. In fact, the American youth’s preference for music can be attributed to the influence of media like films, programs, and the one-on-one experiences they have with musicians in the country (Motley and Geraldine 247). Household names in the global musical industry such as Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and others have been seen as role models to a significant percentage of American youths and have played a crucial role in shaping the youth culture and desires in the country. Furthermore, it goes without notice that American youths act in a media-rich environment coupled with a bedroom culture (Mesch 51). This implies that almost 90% of America youths have access to technological devices such as television, radios, computers, smartphones, and these have played a significant role in the rapid change of their attitudes, values, and behaviors. Research indicates that the attitudes and behaviors of American youths today cannot be compared to those exhibited by youths in previous generations. The extent of behavioral decay shown by American youths today raises more questions than answers prompting the enactment of policies and legislations to counteract the decay. American youths are digital achievers and their talents when it comes to the use of technology are not a surprise (Ito et al 4). The fact that American youths have been immersed in a technology-rich culture has influenced their skills and interests in various ways, both negatively and positively. On a negative perspective, the rise in criminal activities in the streets of American towns and cities is owed to the youth’s ready access to technological devices that introduce them to criminal or illegal activities. Without a doubt, the number of American youths abusing drugs and other substances has risen significantly in recent years, and the role of TV programs and Internet platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in this cannot be ignored. Apparently, the thoughts, views, and processing of information by the today’s American youths cannot be compared to those of their predecessors. Modern American youths are actively involved in experimentation and their dependence on information technologies is at an astonishing level. It should also be noted that American youths are always eager to become multimedia producers rather than mere consumers of the same, and this contrasts the behavior exhibited by adults in similar contexts.
Apart from their access to technological communication devices, the culture of American youths today has been influenced by their access to technical facilities such as automobiles (Ito et al 8). Today, almost every youth in the US is conversant or knows how to drive a car. The knowledge has resulted in the youths engaging in drunk driving, which is one of the leading causes of accidents and other fatal incidences in the US. On several occasions, American youths steal and drive cars belonging to their parents or relatives, and this has been one of the key causes of conflicts between the youths and law enforcement agencies in the US. Of course, this culture has been influenced by car advertisements aired in television programs, which are seen to celebrate dangerous driving, excitement, irresponsibility, as well as gendered control of space.
Another culture exhibited by American youths today is the resentment towards the authorities (Lam 90), which is coupled with the affection for the underdogs. Research shows that American youths are often at the forefront in breaking laws, and once this occurs, any attempts by law enforcement agencies to curb the committed criminal activities often face challenges. Only a few American youths often have the courage to report criminal offenders to law enforcement agencies, and this has been a major barrier to the implementation of criminal legislation and policies in the US. This contrasts the situation in other countries where youths willingly report offenders to law enforcement agencies. This culture is worsened by the programs or films watched by youths in various platforms, particularly on the Internet. Notwithstanding the numerous positive contributions made by the Internet, it remains one of the factors promoting the culture of the American youths where the resentment to authorities is unavoidable.
Notably, in the modern world, the involvement of the youth in irresponsible sexual behavior has become rampant, and seemingly, it has become a norm in the modern society. American youths have not been left behind in this as they exhibit irresponsible sexual behavior both in the presence and absence of adults (Lam 93). In fact, in the American society today, every individual between the ages of 15 and 24 must have engaged in sexual behavior or must be having a sexual partner. The rot has been transferred to educational settings where it is common to see girls pregnant at tender ages. Without a doubt, this is one of the most dangerous and worrisome youth cultures in America. With the existence of sexually transmitted diseases and the risks posed by the same, American youths ought to refrain from irresponsible sexual behaviors. The existence of this culture among American youths can be attributed to graphic sexual images on magazine and newspaper covers, billboards, as well as internet sites. The modern times remain the most challenging particularly for youths in the US, and thus, political authorities need to salvage the situation through the enactment of laws and policies that will champion for the arrest and charge of youths that engage in the mentioned behavior or culture more so in public places.
The fashion and dressing styles embraced by youths in America today are also of great concern to individuals and religious organizations that champion for the embrace and exhibition of high moral standards (Lam 97). In TV programs, concerts, and worse still in religious contexts, American female youths are slowly embracing a culture where the clothes that are worn leave some parts of the body exposed. During concerts, female youth musicians, and other artists often wear clothes that expose their thighs, breasts, backs, and other parts to audiences, a culture that was nonexistent in the preceding generations. The culture is slowly spreading to other regions of the world as corporations are manufacturing and selling clothes that promote the same. American youths give preference to modern fashion and clothes, and these have played a fundamental role in shaping their culture and identities.
Youth Culture in Saudi Arabia
The significant difference between the youth culture in America and Saudi Arabia cannot be ignored. Being an Islamic state, Saudi Arabia emphasizes the exhibition of high or exceptional morals and values by youths. The culture of Saudi youths is strongly influenced by Islamic religious beliefs (Murphy 6), the significance of the family life, and the fact that digital communication has been integrated into their traditional lifestyle.
There are doctrines stipulated in the Islamic religion that Saudi youths are obliged to follow, and this is one of the reasons for the rejection of the Western cultures such as those in the US. Unlike the US where female youths have the freedom of wearing skimpy clothes that expose their sensitive body parts, female Saudi youths are often traditionally dressed from head to foot in black (Murphy 6). In respect of their religious beliefs, female Saudi youths find it immoral and unacceptable to expose their sensitive body parts to the public. Moreover, unlike the youth culture in America where female youths have the freedom of leaving their parents’ house to live alone when reaching a particular age, youth culture in Saudi dictates that female youths have to live in the same house with their parents up to the time of marriage. Arguably, the existence of this culture among female Saudi youths is as a result of the influence of the Islamic religion.
The difference between the youth culture in Saudi Arabia and that of the US is also highlighted by the fact that Saudi youths have great respect for their parents, the elderly, family, and authorities. In fact, the family is considered one of the strongest institutions in the Saudi youth culture, and thus, it influences the ambitions and expectations of the youths. It is argued that almost 98% of Saudi youths are proud and treasure their parents, and this contrasts the situation in the US where resentment to parents and authorities is predominant. Unlike American youths who spend most of their time in recreational platforms with friends, Saudi youths spend most of their time socializing with parents and other relatives, a level of interaction that is preferred by most adults. As American youths who have grown up in a technological world dominated by the Internet so are Saudi youths. However, the internet neither influences the latter’s culture nor is it regarded as being in conflict with the traditional youth culture of Saudi Arabia. The culture of Saudi youths stresses the integration of new modes of staying informed as well as continuous communication into traditional lives (Fuller 3). Despite being part of online social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, the youth culture of Saudi Arabia has not been influenced by the same as seen in the culture of American youths. It is argued that the youth culture in Saudi Arabia is influenced by the strict laws and policies enacted and implemented by law enforcement agencies. Cultural practices such as riding bikes, wearing short skirts or dresses, or wearing trousers to pass as a man is prohibited for female youths in Saudi Arabia, and a violation of the mentioned can get a female Saudi youth arrested. In such a case, the influence of policies and legislations on the youth culture in Saudi Arabia is underscored.
Saudi youths do not engage in irresponsible sexual behavior as the contact or consistent communication between male and female youths is prohibited. Incidences or cases of early pregnancies in educational institutions are minimal, and dropping out of school because of the influence of narcotics is not common in Saudi Arabia. It is also rare for Saudi youths to participate in sports activities because of the absence of facilities that promote such activities. Male Saudi youths are not allowed to visit shopping malls unless they are in the company of a female relative. Same-sex marriages that are common in the youth culture in the US are prohibited in Saudi Arabia, and individuals who are involved in the same are often prosecuted as per the laws of the country (Harb 4). Like other Muslim communities, Saudi youths dedicate time for religious activities, and this is a very rare experience for the youths in America. One outstanding fact about the youth culture in Saudi Arabia is that it is controlled by elders, family, and authorities rather than resources such as the internet as seen in the youth culture in the US.
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