A NEW government study reveals increasing mental health problems over the past decade among British teenagers – girls in particular – coinciding with social media’s inexorable rise.
Although ‘helicopter’ parents, exams, and the competition for well-paying first jobs play their part, experts see a link between the expanding epidemic of teenage mental illness and a 21st century online social life that can seem impossible to switch off, or delete.
Things aren’t helped by the ‘everyone’s a winner,’ cotton-wool culture rampant in education. Many young people see personal rejection as the slightest setback, however warranted it may be, and are unable to cope. Generation snowflake!
Trouble is, we’ve now got a society in which ‘success’ is so narrowly interpreted that virtually nobody can meet its criteria, not even celebs. You have to be beautiful, skinny, high-achieving, high-earning, popular, and in a relationship with someone who also ticks all those boxes. And it puts even more pressure on girls because they not only have to do well but look good in selfies too (though we’re now helpfully insisting boys have a six-pack as well).
Too many young people, it’s true, are over-parented, over-cosseted, and over-protected from the vicissitudes of life, whilst not being encouraged to stand on their own two feet e.g. to cook, iron, travel unaccompanied to school/work, etc. My own friend’s teenage daughters are ferried everywhere in London by her, much to my dismay. Add to this, the decreasing opportunities in schools for sport and other extra-curricular activities. Constant texting and tweeting are no substitute for a good face-to-face chat.
Have we then raised an entire generation that has been so coddled, and is so spineless, that it is completely incapable of dealing with the harsh realities of life when on its own?
What the UK educational system needs straightaway is a radical overhaul. Self-sufficiency at the very least should be integrated into the curriculum by adding compulsory courses on basic financial management, cookery, a healthy diet, etc. so that more young people are fundamentally better equipped to handle personal responsibility for their own lives. They’ll need it…
Nora Johnson’s thrillers ‘No Way Back,’ ‘Landscape of Lies,’ ‘Retribution,’ ‘Soul Stealer,’ ‘The De Clerambault Code’ (www.nora-johnson.com) available from Amazon in paperback/eBook (€0.89,£0.79), and iBookstore. All profits to Costa del Sol Cudeca cancer charity.