Certain things – such as health status, access to education – are thought to give an indication of wellbeing. This is known as objective wellbeing. It’s when an assumption is made about what affects wellbeing, and data is collected to see how many people fall into these categories. But to get a complete picture, it’s important to listen to people’s thoughts, feelings and concerns about their own lives and the things in it. This is known as subjective wellbeing and can give us a glimpse into the things that worry and concern our young people most.
According to research on subjective wellbeing by The Children’s Society, between 2009 and 2014, girls have become less happy with their appearance, friendships and, to a certain extent, with life in general.
Boys, on the other hand, were different. There was no noticeable change in their happiness, with their appearance or life on the whole. But they did show a slight decrease in how happy they are with their friends.
Another thing that was seen to affect young people’s wellbeing is their environment – who and what they are surrounded by. Our young people felt happier, more satisfied, and that life was more worthwhile when they felt positively about:
- their local facilities – ie they had things to do that they enjoyed
- how safe their neighbourhood is – including feeling safe during the day and at night
- how much freedom they have
- the local adults in their community – this included adults treating young people fairly and listening to what they had to say
Having noisy neighbours or being around people who drink or take drugs was a more commonly reported problem and affected wellbeing more than other things like dog mess on the streets.
What does this mean?
Our young people are vulnerable and their worries and concerns are affecting their wellbeing. They are growing up quickly in an ‘adult’ world, being exposed to more adult material than ever before. From clothing in our high street stores to TV advertisements and content on the internet, these influences are becoming evermore unavoidable. As adults, the decisions we make about our environment, the facilities we provide and the way we act, also have an impact on young people. It’s important that we do something now to protect and preserve our young people’s wellbeing.
What can we do to help?
Long gone are the days where children were ‘just children’, living simple lives with minimal pressures and distractions. But all is not lost. There are things that we can do to help.
The answer isn’t to wrap our young people up in cotton wool, nor is it to just accept our society and the impact it’s having. But instead, strike a balance between the two. We need to protect our young people to a certain extent, while also gradually introducing them to things that worry and concern them, so that they are equipped to deal with them.
Putting words into action
Unsure how to strike the balance? Here are a few tips
Try to introduce your children to ‘healthy norms’, that is, what is normal for both children and adults. This can help your children to recognise when something is in excess, for example, an adult who is drinking too much. Let them recognise these things and teach them about the effects. This awareness should help them to deal with the adult world and to make an informed transition into adult life when the time is right.
As an adult, where there are faults in the system that society has created to protect young people from social pressures, be active. Think before you buy. Is this game, film or piece of clothing age appropriate? Can I take steps, such as using parental internet controls, to make the internet as child-friendly as possible?
For more advice on children and the world of online interaction, take a look at our guest blog: A parent’s guide to the online world – protecting your child by Barbara Benson, Training and Quality Officer at YoungMinds.