While child psychology has shown that teenagers are at the stage in their development where they may feel invincible or fearless, studies show they aren’t big risk-takers. And, in fact, teenagers have some very real, very legitimate fears. As parents, we can’t always protect our kids, but perhaps if we can better understand what teens fear most, we can arm them with a stronger sense of self that will serve them into adulthood.
So, what are the 10 top fears teens experience in 2019?
1. Peer Pressure/Not Fitting In
One of the most difficult parts of adolescence is navigating the complex social life as a teenager. Teens can often feel peer pressured into engaging in more adult behaviors like experimenting with sex and drugs. In a survey from Stage of Life, 40% of teens reported fearing peer pressure. The angst of not fitting in could easily lead to feelings of increased anxiety and depression. Roberto Rodriguez, 17, reveals that his biggest fear in life is “honestly, the feeling of being left out, like, by my friends.”
While some teens become sexually active, others are afraid to. Unfortunately, sex education is woefully inadequate in the US. It’s a difficult subject for many parents to broach, but if you learn how to talk with your teen about sex, it will ensure that if they do become sexually active, they’ll be safe and comfortable when it happens.
Whether it’s tests, auditions, dating, or life in general, teens fear failure — just like adults. Many simply don’t want to disappoint their parents, friends, teachers, or themselves, which is why it’s considered one of the top fears in 2019. Fear of failure is a pervasive emotion for teenagers
4. Climate Change
This year at DAVOS, Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg pleaded her generation’s worry over the plight of climate change to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Teens all over the world fear the inevitable effects of climate change going into the third decade of the century. Recent studies show that in the UK and other parts of Europe, teens fear climate change as much as they do terrorism. American teens share those fears as well, since they will be expected to solve the crisis.
5. Money (Poverty)
Teens, even those who aren’t in the workforce, have seen and felt the effects of the rising costs of living coupled with stagnant wages. Many of them have witnessed it with their parents, and 56.4% of teens surveyed by Stage of Life expressed that trying to earn enough money for themselves or their families is high on their list of fears. Parents teaching kids about money — and letting them make mistakes with it — can help.
6. The Future/Growing Up
Today’s teens worry about a lot more than the hottest new song or going to prom. Aside from real quagmires like climate change and social revolution, teens fear an uncertain future. They’re still dreaming of college, life after graduation and their career paths, but they fear what’s beyond the comfort of their teenage years. Adulting is hard, and they know it. If you can recall being a teenager yourself, allay their fears with some parental words of wisdom.
Bullying is no longer limited to schoolyard scuffles. Now, contemporary teens must worry about bullying in the real world and online. A 2018 Pew Research study found that 59 percent of US teens have been bullied or harassed online. Cyberbullying has become a growing problem due
8. Lost Identity
Teenagers are generally in a hurry to grow up. On the cusp of adulthood, they tend to struggle with finding themselves during this formative time. From what we know about the teenage brain, when teens lose their pre-adolescent self they’re in desperate need of a new identity. (How many of us knew exactly who we were at 15?)
While many of our personality traits don’t fully evolve until later as adults, many teens are torn between knowing who they want to be and finding who they really are. This can include exploring their gender identity and/or sexuality.
With an increase in bullying, assaults, school shootings, and other violent acts perpetrated across the US in recent years, teenagers are afraid. These kids shouldn’t have to fear for their lives when just getting an education is difficult enough. Make sure you’re there to hear their fears. And, if they seem interested, encourage them to get involved with civic groups so they can have a voice in what’s happening in society.
If there’s one fear that teens can agree on, it’s being embarrassed in front of their peers. Teens hurl dreaded ridicule from the lunchrooms to the chatrooms, and anyone unlucky enough to do something embarrassing in the digital age will be doomed to relive their embarrassment online for all eternity.
As parents, we should encourage our teens to accept those embarrassing moments. Dr. Rachel Busman, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, stresses that “being embarrassed is part of life.”
Dealing With Teens’ Fears
Whatever your teen’s fears are, they can be overcome. If you listen to what they’re afraid of, validate their fears (don’t dismiss them or you risk losing their trust), and come up with solutions together; they’ll be more apt to talk to you in the future when they need your parental guidance.
What are some of your teens’ top fears in 2019? What were some of your fears when you were a teenager? Let us know in the comments.
Top Fears 2019 — Sources
Stage of Life
Guttmacher Institute – Fewer U.S. Teens Are Receiving Formal Sex Education Now Than in the Past
Pew study on climate change
Psychology Today – Teens fearing the future
Pew study on bullying
Psychology Today — The teenage brain