On the face of it today’s young people have never had it so good. Teenage pregnancies are down, fewer of them smoke and they drink less than previous generations.
So what have they got to be depressed about?
Well they spend an awful lot of time on social media, posting selfies, seeking approval from others. “Like me, like me” they seem to beg.
It’s a recipe for disaster and means they are continually comparing themselves with others. And it’s all artificial.
They spend hours making themselves up for selfies. I’ve taken loads of photographs at parties and invariably the women want to check the photos to make sure they’re OK.
Whether its posting selfies or posting posed photos on Facebook using cats, cuddly toys and even their babies as accessories, it’s all about wanting approval. Over half of teenagers are said to spend more than three hours a day on social media. (I’ve posted before about my views on Facebook)
And this is the most risk-averse generation we’ve seen for ages and maybe that’s part of the problem. No-one dares misbehave any more in case it gets on social media (as it will) and is then held against them later in life e.g. at job interviews.
It’s been said that young people work harder at schools. I don’t believe that for one minute. Exams are easier, course work is often group work and there has been such grade inflation over the years (at all levels in the education system) that you can’t rely on the grading system.
Nonetheless there has been a 10% increase in girls being treated for depression and a 50% increase in self-harming. For boys there has been a decrease over the same 10 year period.
The psychological distress reported includes sleep loss, inability to concentrate, feeling unhappy and worthless. Girls report suffering these twice as much as boys (30% of girls).
Whether or not social media is totally to blame it clearly plays a part. The head of the charity Sane believes the internet has played a huge part. No longer can students get relief from school or peer pressure at home. It’s now always-on.
But lets not forget pushy parents. Kids from better off families report higher levels of stress and anxiety. Lower status children seem to suffer less – perhaps because they have lower expectations, or maybe because they are more resilient.
Schools which have banned smartphones report better results. Parents need to think about reducing screen time and switching off the wi-fi.
As I’ve posted before about smartphone users – Get a Life!
The government has promised to put £1.4 billion into providing mental health support for young people. Maybe we should start helping them closer to home.