Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

My Year of Studying Teens

Newspaper article Daily News (Warwick, Australia)

My Year of Studying Teens

Article excerpt

WHAT might 14-year-old girls want to tell their parents, but feel they can't? And how might you help your teen daughter?

Those are just two of the questions answered in a project I began 15 months ago.

Being 14 involves interviews with 200 girls, along with about 50 successful school principals, teachers, counsellors, teen psychologists and neuroscientists, CEOs, parenting experts and even police.

What began as a book idea ended up a valuable lesson in parenting. So what did I learn along the way? Here's just five tips.

Lack of sleep

Seven in 10 14-year-old girls get insufficient sleep, when nine hours is the minimum required. Dr Chris Seton, a pediatric and adolescent sleep physician at Sydney's Westmead Children's Hospital, says many of his patients continue to have their mobile phones in their room overnight, but others are simply weighed down by non-stop extracurricular activity. And here's the consequence: a 14-year-old with 30 minutes of missed sleep records a measurable IQ difference of up to 10 points. That should be enough for all of us, as parents, to consider this a vital health issue.

Anxiety

An epidemic in anxiety is spreading across our schools, with teen girls now calling Kids Helpline because they missed out on an A for Maths, or entry into a top extension class.

In fact, Kids Helpline has had 22,000 contacts with 14-year-old girls in Australia over the past four years.

Shouldn't we be concerned that instead of bursting through the door at the end of a day's schooling and talking to us, many of our girls are calling a counselling service to learn how to talk to us?

Online porn

Online porn is now becoming a dominant "sex educator" for our teen boys, and police and educators say this is impacting on how girls are treated, and how they see themselves.

It's also heartbreaking that these girls can write an essay on the United Nations or argue a complex debate, but when asked whether they have a boyfriend, their default is about whether they "deserve" attention, or whether they were "pretty enough" to have a boyfriend.

Our sons need to learn the importance of respect and our daughters need to value it more than an invitation to the next school dance! …

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