Every generation has its own struggles. However, it can sometimes be tough for one generation to relate to another. And understanding the anxieties and concerns of young people in 2021 is a minefield like no other. Whilst parents may want to understand and support their child, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. At Round Midnight, we work daily with young people and have identified some key challenges that they are facing today. This blog discusses these challenges; signposting parents and guardians towards things to consider when raising young people in 2021.
Education and Employment
Research conducted by YMCA found that 44% of young people have concerns about their studies and exam pressures. Moreover, education has become an area of a young person’s life rife with the pressures of competition. Academic standards are higher than ever as more people each year are expected to enter further education. Alongside academic excellence, students must prove that they are well-rounded individuals that have taken an array of extracurricular activities: perhaps taken on a job; accepted volunteering responsibilities; or entered internships.
And while that might have been pressure enough in recent years, now of course young people are having to develop high standard university applications while having lived the last academic year online. Their transferable skills of empathy and patience, and their tech skills benefiting from this, but perhaps their interpersonal and communicative skills suffering because of this necessary teaching strategy.
Despite more young people than ever gaining higher-level academic qualifications, there is a perception that young people are unprepared for work. And on top of this attitude, they are also paid less than previous generations. Particularly in the current pandemic, many young people preparing to leave school are facing uncertainties about what opportunities are out there regarding apprenticeships, internships and employment in general.
This leads itself to increased concerns about financial instability. As university and housing costs rise, young people are unable to easily chart a course for their future. Many young people are faced with remaining at home after school or university.
Mental Health Difficulties
We are currently facing a mental health crisis. More young people than ever are experiencing mental health difficulties. This can affect all areas of their life: home, school, friendships and relationships. There remains a stigma surrounding mental health and it is important that young people understand where to go for support. And while it is important for young people to know how to signpost others to the support that could help them, it is also important for those around young people to know the signs themselves. A recent study published by the NHS showed that mental disorders are on the rise amongst people under 19. Click here to learn more about young people’s mental health post-lockdown.
The rise of technology has had a significant impact on the lives of young people. Technology can be an amazing tool, however, there are also concerns about how it impacts self-perception and privacy. While social media can be praised as a way to connect with both family and friends during difficult times, it is not without its drawbacks.
And while it is a way to share creative and fun ideas, the social media world is both complex and confusing, and poses significant risks. For instance, young people first navigating social media might be exposed to inappropriate or upsetting content that they are unprepared to witness.
Furthermore, developing an understanding of creating and maintaining positive relationships online is a huge task that some young people may not be ready for. Relationships formed online need to be navigated with at least some caution while not yet aware of the potential risks that are involved with the internet. And of course we have yet to mention the risk of exposure to cyberbullying, privacy issues, and a waning awareness of reality.
And while we are in our third national lockdown, it is not surprising that young people are turning to social media rather than reality. They are cut off from their friends and classmates, left only with the internet for company. Their friends, families and the influencers they follow are all likely to be posting the highlights of their lives rather than the lockdown realities meaning the perception of the people they know online is likely to be distorted somewhat. And of course, these misconceptions, and the glamorizing of a feigned reality can cause online problems to become all to real.
Police have warned that social media is going to be the cause in a rise of knife crime and gang violence once lockdown rules are lifted:
Socialising with and having the respect of your peers is important to young people. ‘Peer pressure’ relates to the role that others can have in influencing how an individual acts. Many children may think that they are missing out or not fitting in if they don’t go along with the crowd, or the strongest voice in that crowd. This desire to seek approval may encourage them to reinforce positive habits. However, it may also encourage them to partake in risk taking behavior such as drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or being exposed to gang crime: especially online via social media as we have mentioned. The rise of sites like TikTok, Instagram and even snapchat have all been linked to gang related and violent activities.
Parents need to support young people and help them to understand peer pressure and how it can be a force for both good and bad, depending on the peers a child is surrounded with, and those they follow online.
Body Image Anxieties
Body image anxieties impact the lives of many young people during puberty. With the rise of social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, images of bodies are shared constantly. Some images are said to be illustrating the reality of bodies in a movement know as #BodyPositivity. But some only show the filtered and edited versions of bodies that social media audiences are accustomed to expect. This can send mixed and confusing messages to young people about how they should look and the relationship they should build with their body. Research by YMCA found that more than half of young people (52%) regularly worry about the way they look.
We are living in uncertain times: the global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everybody’s lives differently, but the take away here is that it has impacted everybody. Uncertainty over the future is a major concern for many young people. The pandemic has highlighted and accentuated social inequalities, people are expressing deep financial concerns as we head further into a recession, and of course many young people are concerned about climate change. All of these issues are ones that they are understandably concerned with; and yet may also feel unprepared to deal with in their current, youthful, state. They may wish to turn to adults in order to learn how to put their best foot forward in such unprecedented times, but if those adults are all on social media, who is to say what real life help they are getting.
This list isn’t conclusive. Instead, it points to a few general areas that we feel are particularly important to consider as we begin 2021. It is important to note that challenges vary depending on income, geographic location, family structure etc. Furthermore, young people’s challenges are complex, so you should approach your child’s concerns with nuance and an open mind. Gaining a deeper understanding requires patience. As the adult in the conversation you should never assume that you know how young people feel, or that you ‘fully understand’ what they are experiencing. However, it remains important to try to support young people with whatever challenges they face in the best way possible.
At Round Midnight, we run workshops with parents and guardians to provide them with a greater understanding of what pressures young people may face, with a view to opening a dialogue with their children. And in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are willing and able to work remotely to help parents, carers, guardians and teachers recognise when young people may be vulnerable to risk-taking behaviour and build confidence in care givers to help and intervene appropriately. Get in touch to find out more about the work we do with parents and teachers, both in person, and via completely remote sources.