What do teenagers fear the most?

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 Photo: Getty

A new poll investigating teenagers' biggest fears has revealed some surprising results. Researchers from the UK's national citizen service surveyed teenagers aged between 14 and 18 and compiled a list of the top 10 things that teenagers dread the most.

Rather than the big milestones such loosing their virginity or applying for university, the top answers were going to a job interview, sitting an exam and talking to their parents about sex.

Psychologist Jocelyn Brewer says that she isn't surprised that teens dread conversations about sex with their parents. "Those conversations are generally pretty awkward, and potentially more so in migrant families where the culture of origin might be less liberal," she says.

A sign of the times, the list of fears also included technology; having their phone confiscated, coming in at number 7, and being banned from social media at number ten. However Brewer says that it is surprising that these items didn't rank higher in the list.

While the list shines a light on the issues that teenagers are grappling with, it didn't investigate where they can go for support. According to Brewer there are actually many avenues for today's teenagers to seek help or advice.

"At school there are generally year advisers and welfare/wellbeing/pastoral care team members or mentors that are around. Kids generally tend to be able to name at least one teacher they like and therefore could trust," she says.

Brewer also notes that some schools offer teacher mentors or alumni mentors. "There are a range of mentoring programs around which buddy uni students and other adults up with kids," she explains.

Closer to home, Brewer notes that teenagers might have an older sibling or a trusted family member that they can confide in.

Of course sometimes a situation may arise that is very difficult for a teenager to talk openly about. In these situations Brewer says that confidential helplines such as Kidshelpline and Reachout can be a huge source of support.

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With the rise of social media in the last decade, teenagers are also turning to the Internet to seek support and discuss their fears. Brewer notes that this can be both a blessing and a curse as the Internet holds both reliable information (usually via official or reputable websites) and a lot of miss-information.

"Many kids are savvy enough to 'ask google' on issues but the proliferation of either incorrect or out of date information on the internet's less reliable sites can be confusing," she says.

While teenagers may dread talking to their parents about sex and other personal topics, they are conversations that are worth having. So how should parents bring up sensitive issues in a supportive way?

Brewer's advice is to start early. "Parents can't expect to suddenly start a deep and meaningful convo with their kids in the hallway randomly when they come home from a party. Being able to communicate effectively and in a meaningful way with teens starts early and extends through the grunts of adolescents," she says.

Brewer continues: "The main thing is that it doesn't seem confrontational or snoopy, and to do that, a routine of having chats about what sorts of things are happening in the local neighbourhood, on the local news is a good foundation for a teen to open up."

Teenagers also need to feel like they can disclose personal information without it being used against them at a later date, notes Brewer. "So if a teen admits that they went to party and someone shared a joint around, but that they didn't try it – the parent would be best to avoid banning them from parties," she explains.

The problem with this approach is that it creates a space in which a teen might choose to tell a white lie or not fully tell the truth, warns Brewer.

So if you are planning to talk to your teenager about their fears, your safest bet might be to start with number eight on the list… 'being told to tidy their room'. Surely you can't go wrong there.

The full list: What do teenagers dread the most?

1. First job interview

2. Sitting an exam

3. Talking with their parents about sex

4. Going on a blind date

5. Writing a CV

6. Visiting the dentist

7. Having their phone confiscated

8. Being told to tidy their room

9. Being grounded

10. Being banned from social media