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Youth worker blames 24/7 social media for "unhappy" children

Thu 07 Jan 2016
By Hannah Tooley

A Christian youth worker has said that constantly accessible technology is responsible after a charity said that the UK is home to "deeply unhappy" young people.

Children's charity ChildLine has suggested that the problems young people are facing are different to the challenges faced by children 30 years ago.

Modern day problems like cyber bullying and social media appear to have a big impact on children's confidence and self-esteem.

Premier Youth work deputy editor Ruth Jackson told Premier that: "

"We're never going to be as savvy with technology as our young people are, but I think there's something to be said for us going to the young people and saying 'look what apps are you guys using, what is it that you're looking at, can you show me how to use it?'

"And I think there's a sense of empowerment when young people show their leaders how to use stuff, and then that opens a conversation."

ChildLine said that in 1986 top children's concerns came out as sexual abuse, family problems, physical abuse and pregnancy.

However, last year the main issues that children were concerned about included family relationships, low self-esteem and unhappiness.

Bullying, including cyber-bullying and self-harm, were also on the list, but they were not 30 years ago.

Ruth Jackson explained why she thought this was not the case in the past: "bullying and things like that would stop when you left the school gate, unless someone followed you home.

"The problem with social media is that it's 24/7, particularly with smartphones it's there as soon as you wake up.

"There's lots of statistics to say that teenagers check their phone the minute they wake up."

She added that churches need to reiterate that God loves young people just as they are: "There's a lot of be said about repetition being needed in children and youth ministry - even if you put it incredibly articulately and beautifully and even if it's said by someone amazing that's not necessarily going to get through."

The way children are expressing their unhappiness is also changing, less than one in three of ChildLine's counselling sessions were via the telephone in 2015, 71% of contact involved email or online chat.

A 12-year-old girl said: "I feel like crying all the time. I'm constantly worried about what other people are thinking of me and it's really getting me down. I use social media sometimes but that just makes me more depressed as I hardly have any friends online and no one likes my posts/photos."

More than 35,000 counselling sessions by the NSPPC-run service in 2014/15 were related to low self-esteem and unhappiness.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: 'It is clear from the hundreds of thousands of calls ChildLine receives that we have a nation of deeply unhappy children. The pressure to keep up with friends and have the perfect life online is adding to the sadness that many young people feel on a daily basis.

"The worries that young people face and the way they talk to us have dramatically changed since ChildLine was launched, and we will change to make sure that no matter what, young people will have a place to turn to whenever they need it. Times may change but one thing stays the same - our vital helpline is often the only place that many young people feel they can turn to."

Listen to Premier's Hannah Tooley speak Ruth Jackson here:

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