Written by anonymous teen, learner at St. Benedicts College, Bedfordview, Johannesburg

With the exams coming to an end, many teens (and their parents) are relieved and look forward to a much need break before the business of the new year. But for many others, as much as 1 in 5 youths in South Africa, have attempted suicide with the highest risk group being 10-19 years old. It is tougher than ever to be a teen in a highly competitive fast changing society they live in. Teen behaviour can typically be described as impulsive and unpredictable, with mood swings. But clinical depression is not just moodiness. Speak to your health care professional to get a clear diagnosis, or consult with your local clinical psychologist or us at PsychMatters Centre to get the right treatment for your child. The South African Depression and Anxiety Support Group has a toll free suicide help line – 0800 567 567 to assist a teen in crisis.

A learner at St. Benedicts College, curious-minded and interested in the field of psychology, wrote an article relaying his thoughts and feelings about being a teen today.

Being a Teen in the world today is very different to how it was 100,50 or even 10 years ago. The evolutions of digital technology and the immense increase in population has resulted in the teens of today facing much more advanced problems and problems teens of the past would never in thought of. Teens today have higher levels of stress and anxiety according to the APA (American Psychological Association) than that of their adult counterparts. I put out a census to 800 of the teens in greater Johannesburg and received 87 responses back in which teenagers expressed what is driving their anxiety levels through the roof. 4 major topics came up, these were social media, a struggle of sexuality and acceptance, pressure placed on them by school and parents, and the idea that everything they are doing now is not going to be good enough because there will always be someone better that comes along after.

Social media has evolved so much over the centuries. On one hand it can be a powerful tool for both teen and adult alike, but on the other hand it can make a teen of today’s life very difficult. All the time we are hearing,” Watch what you put on the internet kids because it will be there forever,” which has never been more true. More and more employers, universities and schools are looking at what people post and are tagged in to watch out for what people got up to as teens. This aggravates our stress levels because it means, kids cannot simply be kids and we have to be even more mindful of how we spend our time and who we associate with because we are always being watched. Social media is also a new platform for cyberbullying and increases the amount of FOMO ( fear of missing out ) teens experience. Teens love it but at the same time, teens hate it.

Sexuality in South Africa is a topic that is very taboo. On one side of the coin international support for the LGBT community is growing and overseas they are widely accepted and proud of who they are, but on the other side our generation of teens in South Africa is at a split. One half of our teens are open and accepting of diversity and change but the other half is still filled with homophobia and other conservative ideals, however members of the LGBT community fall on both sides. This results in teenagers not accepting themselves for who they are and hiding who they are away which causes unnecessary stress and paranoia.

Teenagers of today have an incredible amount of stress placed on them by their parents and their school. Teenagers are finding it difficult to manage the little time that they are given. We often hear parents reminiscing about the good old days of getting out of school and only having to come home at sundown to start their work, or older siblings talking about Saturdays of cartoons and spending entire weekends at friends’ houses. Unfortunately, teens of today get much less of that and rather we receive stressful deadlines and copious amounts of work that we drown in all the time, the only teens that seem to be on top of their work are merely ignoring work they hadn’t done yet. Schools make things worse by making every piece of work we do important for the final exams and force us to keep work from grade 10 that we will use in matric without any revision on the subject matter almost two years down the line. Parents have set extremely high standards and schools work to reinforce them. Often, we miss out on that party or that weekend away with friends because we are so far behind on work, that we won’t even see again, that we have to stay at home and skip the joys of being a teen. This increases stress levels significantly as teens do not have a way to release their stress and often it comes out on harmful ways.

Often, we have adults pushing us to be our best, guiding us towards what they think will be a brighter future. They shepherd us to what they believe would give us happiness and they aren’t wrong to do it. Teens today however are beginning to feel that teen efforts are in vein because in such a fast expanding World nothing will ever be good enough to last them long enough like it has been for people of the past. Teens are finding that more work equates to less reward and it increases their levels of stress significantly.

In conclusion the teens of today are plagued by social media and are forced to hide behind walls and pretend to be someone else as a result of homophobia and not accepting themselves for who they are. Teens are also put under tremendous strain by adults who enforce their own agendas believing what they are doing is right when in fact they are permanently harming the child and do not realize the effects of their actions. Lastly teens are filled with dread as they lack the self-confidence to believe that they can keep up with an ever-expanding works with less and less opportunity.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. As teens work to better understand each other, the less we worry about social media’s grip on us. The more time we spend together the more we become comfortable with who we are and grow to accept one another for who we are. The more pressure our parents and schools place on us the tighter we hold onto our friends for support and lastly the more scared we are of the future, the more we come together as teens of today and I believe we are a generation that will do great things because we are a generation that never gives up and we are a generation that is quickly breaking the thoughts of the past and learning to love each other for everything we are. So, amongst all the hardship and strife, we will excel.

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