For parents, family and friends, it may seem the only way to reach a teenager these days is through the screen of their smartphone.
But teens are afraid of more than just looking up from the screen. They have anxiety and stress about school and their parents’ expectations of them.
We talked with a dozen teenagers and asked them straight out: What scares you? What stresses you out? Do you feel pressure to perform?
We asked. They answered. So we compiled their answers into videos about their fears, stresses and the pressure they get to perform.
Check them out.
Teens and fears are like the peanut butter and jelly combo of high school. Even the hit ‘90s TV series “Saved by the Bell" aired an episode called “Fear of Falling." But today, teenagers’ fears are amplified by social media and an increasing pressure to perform.
We talked with a dozen teenagers about their fears, which ranged from making their own choices, doing well in school, fitting in and to the future ahead. There’s even a text-worthy acronym for today’s teenage fears: FOMO, or fear of missing out. In fact, more than half of teenage girls have a fear of fitting in at school because of their appearance, according to research.
Bill Prasad, a licensed professional counselor, had this to say about teens and their fears today:
“What we have is the perfect combination of technology, hormones and culture brewing up a cauldron of intense depression and anxiety for some teenagers. It has become very difficult to be a teenager," Prashad said. “Now it has always been difficult to a certain extent to be a teenager but it has become even more difficult now. We’re finding that teenagers are more easily overwhelmed. They are more fragile and they are less resilience. They are having a very hard time coping.”
Stress can come in many forms, but for today’s teenagers, it seems it comes most often in the form of school – whether it’s through schoolwork, daily drama from their friends, their teacher, getting the grades they or their parents expect, and even the grades they need to get into the college of their dreams. Social media was also a cause of a lot of stress for teenagers.
Prasad also spoke to how parents can better understand what is stressing their teenager.
“One of the things that you do is have a discussion," he said. "A lot of parents want to sit down and interrogate the youngster, ask them repeated questions. Kids get on the defense and that’s when you start getting the one word answers: ‘I don’t know. It’s OK. Yeah.’ That’s not what you want. Engage in a conversation and don’t be judgmental.
“What you’re trying to do is flesh out what is the teen thinking and feeling, trying to get a sense of what is going on in their world. Get to know the teen’s friends. Get to understand what’s happening with the teenager in school.
“Do all of those things and you should be able to piece together a picture. There is no one golden question you can ask and get one golden answer. You’ve got to piece together all the aspects of a teenager’s life to put a puzzle together.”
Pressure to perform
Peter Berg knows a thing or two about the pressure to perform for kids these days. From 2006 to 2011, Berg was the executive producer for the “Friday Night Lights” TV series about the trials of small town Texas football players. Then in 2013, he produced an HBO documentary about the unrealistic expectations and behaviors by some parents of juvenile athletes.
The pressure to perform, whether internally or outside expectations, was great for many of the teenagers who spoke with us.
Prasad also spoke about teenagers and their pressure they feel to perform.
“It’s a performance-driven society at times because the deliverables are immediate, in that, the response is coming in immediately," he said. "The grades are coming in immediately. Then people are talking about the grades. It’s getting through the high school population whether one little girl did well or one boy didn’t do well.
“There’s a tremendous amount of shame. And that shame is being felt very, very quickly and it is extremely difficult for the teenagers to handle that."
© 2017 KHOU-TV