As parents we know that teenagers are vulnerable.
But 82% of adults are unaware teenagers feel under pressure.
What are the facts?
Rates of anxiety and depression amongst teenagers are soaring. The statistics are terrifying - report after report has come out over 2016 highlighting the issues.
- One in three teenage girls in England and Wales suffers from anxiety, according to a survey of 14-year-olds for the Department for Education.
- 37% of girls reported feeling unhappy, worthless or unable to concentrate, more than twice the percentage of boys reporting such feelings, a rise since a study in 2005. The figure for the girls had risen by nearly four percentage points since 2005. (NHS Survey Oct 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/03/quarter-of-a-million-children-receiving-mental-health-care-in-england)
- One in four (26%) of women aged 16 to 24 had anxiety, depression, panic disorder, phobia or obsessive compulsive disorder. Overall, 19% of women of all ages had one of those, compared with 12% of men. (Government funded survey Sep 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/29/self-harm-ptsd-and-mental-illness-soaring-among-young-women-in-england-survey)
- In the past three years, hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders have also almost doubled.
- 93% of teachers reported seeing increased rates of mental illness among children and teenagers with 90% of teachersthought the issues were getting more severe. (Parent Zone survey 2016)
Why is this happening?
Prof Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “These figures highlight worrying trends. Society is changing – even in the last seven years, social media, for example, has increased in popularity and the number of platforms people might be present on has multiplied.
“As a result, young people are facing unprecedented pressures, not just over the emergence of cyberbullying and revenge porn, but constant exposure to unattainable aspirations of what they should look like, and be like.”
We are educating young people for a world that is unlikely to exist in 20 years' time and, arguably, not equipping them with the skills they need for the one that will.
The impact of social media
Social media doesn't create bullying or anxieties about body image (it's worth noting that rates of bullying haven't risen in the last 10 years). But technology can amplify problems or give them new forms of expression. Cyberbullying can be particularly painful. But the trouble with seeing social media as the problem is that it's the technology that then gets addressed rather than the underlying issues. And after the digital detox, the problems remain.
For most people, the effects of technology are noticeable in the changes, mostly small but cumulative, in our moods, manners, feelings and ways of going about our lives.
What can parents go for help?
There are lots of organisations and books available to help parents of teenagers to be aware of the pressures their children are facing and advice about how to deal with them.
Here are some of my recommendations: