Judgement and pressure from Society ‘worst thing’ about being a teenager

Survey highlights the existential conflict of being a teenager in Britain in 2013

The charity Family Lives finds that despite the strains of being a teenager, Family (141 respondents) was by far the most important thing in their lives followed by friends (126), school and education (41).

Key findings of the survey include:

Porn & Sex:

Less than 30% of teens surveyed said they had watched porn online, with 62% answering that they ‘never’ watch it.  61.3% of survey respondents also felt that access to online porn should be restricted.

Over 21% of respondents -75% of whom were female- said they had had unprotected sex. Over 30% of all those who answered ‘yes’ were under the legal age of 16.                

Teenagers today – undervalued and pressurised:

43 respondents said that they felt judged and pressurised from society with 36 surveyed citing lack of freedom and respect as the worst aspect of being a teenager.

20 of those surveyed by Family Lives felt that the pressures of schools and exams -with 17 respondents stating stress and emotions- were the major impact on the teenage years.

Puberty and hormones –particularly the arguments that can arise during hormonal imbalance-  were cited by 16 teenagers as the worst thing about this period.

When citing what they thought was the worst thing about being a teenager, one respondent stated:

“That I sometimes don't get taken seriously and get treated like a child. However, I think I have an understanding that is similar to most adults. I also think that I shouldn’t have to be an adult to make a change.”

Teenage Fears:

32 respondents’biggest fear was losing loved ones. 29 had concerns about being alone and 23 felt anxiety about the reality of their eventual death, whilst 21 felt that failure and an unsuccessful future were a real cause for concern.

Teenagers and Bullying:

58% of those surveyed had been involved with bullying in some capacity. 29% said they had been bullied online. 13% cited they experienced bullying as a result of race, culture, sexuality and weight discrimination.

Less than 2% stated bullying experienced was physically violent, with most harassment being online and emotionally based.   

When asked how bullying could be stopped, 44 respondents were pessimistic stating: ‘I don’t know’ or ‘It can’t be done.’ Those who did make positive suggestions chose ‘raising awareness of the consequences of bullying’ and ‘providing more support groups’ as the best ways to cut down on bullying. 23 teenagers called for stricter punishments for persecutors.

Teenage Parties & Risky Behaviour:

28% of surveyed teenagers had had parties without their parents’ knowledge, but only 9% of those said that anything had gone wrong. Where events had escalated, breakages, hospitalisations, thefts and parents catching their daughters in bed with boyfriends were cited. One teenager caught in bed was a 13-year-old girl.  She did state however that she had not had unprotected sex. 

When asked: What’s the worst thing you have done without your parents’ knowledge? Teenage answers centred on alcohol, sex, dating, drugs, self-harm, and lying about their location.  Worryingly, seven respondents told Family Lives they had attempted suicide.

Smoking and drugs:

Over 30% said yes to smoking and/or drugs. 30 out of 235 respondents had smoked cigarettes, although many stated they had tried them once but didn’t like them, or had only smoked occasionally.  Aside from cigarettes, the most popular drug was cannabis.  A minority of respondents had experimented with MDMA and cocaine.

Binge drinking:

70% of teens said they never binge drink, whilst 17.6% said they did occasionally.  None of Family Lives’ respondents stated they drink daily, though 3 people (1.8%) answered ‘a few times a week’.

Teenage advice For Parents?

When respondents were asked what they would do if they themselves were parenting a teenager, some highlighted that their parents didn’t relate to this generation, with others adding that if they were parents they would do things like monitoring online activities.  One teenager replied:

“Love your teenager even when they least deserve it. Never let their self-esteem drop at home as well as outside. Having a good open relationship, I think honesty is key so it doesn't matter what the issue so long as everyone is honest and open with no judgement and complete understanding.  Second thing is trust. Parents need to have a trustworthy relationship with their teens. If you can't give them freedom they can never prove their maturity.”

Parental Understanding:

When asked: Do you think your parents understand you? Around 55% said ‘sometimes’. Many teens also cited the generation gap as a reason for misunderstanding between teen and parent.  Relatively few however blamed their parents directly, with only 7 respondents out of 235 saying their parents don’t listen.  One teenager replied:

“They think I’m a happy child but I’m far from happy . They don’t understand why I self-harm or why I do anything to be honest.”

Best part of teenage years

Youth and the lack of responsibility it carries were considered the best thing about being a teenager.  Teens who responded seemed to be very aware that this period of their lives won’t last forever and they are enjoying the fact that they don’t have to worry about financial pressures. 

Anastasia de Waal, Family Lives Chair says: 

“The results from our survey highlight that sometimes it's easy to forget that while being an adult has all sorts of stresses and strains, being a teenager isn't always that great either. Teens are at a difficult age when they're no longer seen as either children or as adults. Secondly, their hormones are racing, they're under pressure from friends and the media to keep up, and schoolwork and exams feel like the most important thing in the world. Teenagers that we are in contact with face a myriad of family, social and personal issues that can impact on their mental health and wellbeing.  It is of particular concern, that some of our teenage respondents contemplated and attempted suicide. School, stress, puberty, relationships, and how teens feel they are treated, viewed and judged by the outside world can really impact on friends and family.  Of particular interest is that when offering advice to parents of teenagers, respondents recognised the potential dangers of unsupervised online access.

Ultimately, our survey shows us that the needs of teenagers – and those who love and care for them- are increasing in the digital age and as a society we must ensure that we are all equipped to provide support and guidance during what can be a difficult time for teenagers, parents, carers and the wider family.” 

Parents concerned about teenage family matters can call Family Lives’ free 24 hour helpline, Parentline, on 0808 800 2222 or visit http://familylives.org.uk/advice/teenagers/ for support.

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Notes to editors:

For media enquiries contact Family Lives Press Office via press@famillylives.org.uk  

235 teenagers responded to the Family Lives online survey with ¾ of respondents being female.