It’s no secret that the teen years can be challenging. Each generation of teens faces their own issues, quite often impacted by social concerns relevant to cultural influences. The worries that teens face today can look quite different from the concerns that their parents and grandparents faced.
The teen years can be turbulent with the physical, mental, and emotional changes that arrive. Fluctuating hormones can amplify stress and pressures, leaving you with a stressful teenager who cannot cope in a healthy way. Add in a global pandemic, social isolation, and problems within the home, and you have the recipe for a troubled teen.
8 Social issues impacting teens today
Recognizing the types of issues that could be impacting your teen can give you a head start in getting them help when they need it.
1. Peer pressure
Peer pressure isn’t a new social issue faced by today’s teens, but it does look a little different. The pressure from friends and others in their peer groups could range from skipping school, engaging in risky or undesired behaviors, and moving into smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse.
An unfortunate added concern today’s teens face is that they can be subjected to increased pressure and abuse from their peers. Not wanting to be met with ridicule and abuse at the hands of their peers, particularly on social media, can lead to the increased need to get approval from their peers.
2. Online bullying
While in-person bullying certainly hasn’t fallen out of favor amongst bullies, there have been increased cases of online bullying in the past few years. With more teens spending time at home and out of their schools, cases have grown almost exponentially.
Online bullying doesn’t bring with it the same risk for physical injury as bullying in school does. Still, it can lead to an increased risk of depression and other mental health concerns.
3. Depression and anxiety
Teenagers are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health concerns. This is particularly true if there is a family history of depression or exposure to trauma and abuse. Add in the hormonal fluctuations and the lens that many teens view their world with, and you do have the foundation for significant mental illness.
Depression is fairly common amongst teenagers. That does not mean it should be ignored if your teen is showing signs of depression. It is the leading cause of suicidal thoughts in adolescents. It’s important to address mental health concerns in teens and get them the treatment that they need.
4. Alcohol, drugs, and smoking
Generations of teens have faced alcohol, drugs, and smoking problems, so it is certainly not a social issue unique to today. The concern is that teens today may have easier access to these substances, particularly if there is availability within the home. Studies have shown that more than half of teens have tried alcohol and some type of illicit substance.
Understandably, teens would experiment out of curiosity, boredom, or due to peer pressure. When experimentation turns to frequent use and abuse, there is cause for alarm.
5. Issues with body image and self-esteem
Teenagers are inundated by images and messages that speak directly to their body image. Feeling that their worth is wrapped up in their physical appearance can lead to various issues, including eating disorders. Feeling like they cannot meet society’s standards for physical beauty can lead to decreased levels of self-esteem.
Eating disorders can take on many forms and can be potentially life-threatening if not addressed swiftly. Many teens who struggle with eating disorders will also struggle with their mental health.
6. Overuse of social media
Social media is an ingrained part of our lives. For teens, it can be more than a place to share photos of food and notes about their daily activities. It can become a source of stress and also a source of unrealistic comparisons. Most of us don’t post our struggles on social media. We post the great things that we do, see and experience. This can make a troubled teen feel like their life is much less important, valuable, or interesting. They can also feel left out when they see friends enjoying themselves.
Many teens and adults alike are at risk of spending too much time on social media, refreshing frequently to see what others are doing. It can be helpful to recommend setting limits on social media to benefit your teen’s mental health.
7. Underage sexual activity and pregnancy
Teens engaging in sexual activity is another issue that is not wholly unique to this generation. Neither is teen pregnancy. Studies have shown that teen pregnancy rates have been steadily declining due to educational programs and the prevalence of birth control methods.
That said, it’s still something that teenagers can find themselves getting caught up in, particularly if peer pressure combines with drug or alcohol use. As a parent, it can be hard to know what to do or how to help your teen. Education, understanding, and support can often be the right approach when it comes to handling sexual activity and teen pregnancy.
8. Stress, from several angles
You may think that we are all stressed, so just what does your teen have to be stressed and worried about?
It is important to remember that most adults have developed coping mechanisms, whether healthy or not, for dealing with the stress they are facing. Teenagers may not yet have these coping strategies in place to help them through difficulties. Add in depression, anxiety, hormonal fluctuations, and peer pressure combined with pressures from school.
Your teen could be facing unmanageable levels of stress that lead them to lean into unhealthy coping mechanisms.
What can you do to help your troubled teen?
The early identification of concerns can make a world of difference. Knowing the signs and taking steps to be vigilant in addressing them can potentially halt them and allow you to better guide your troubled teen to a healthier way of addressing his concerns.
Signs can vary between individuals and may include:
- Sleeping pattern changes, whether sleeping more than usual or developing insomnia.
- Eating habit changes, whether overeating or restricting behaviors disguised as diets.
- Decreasing interest in activities they once loved or becoming obsessed with unusual new interests.
- Dropping grades and other concerns at school, including disciplinary actions for poor behavior or skipping school.
- Isolating from family and friends. Withdrawing from social activities and time with friends.
Getting your troubled teen help in a format that can best benefit them will put your family back on the path to stability and normalcy. Therapy is one of the first steps that you can take for every member of the family. Individual and family therapy can offer several benefits.
At Help Your Teen Now, we can connect your family with the resources you need. A residential treatment center offers individualized treatment programs for teens in a stable and secure environment. Call to be connected with the valuable resources your family needs.