Teenage angst: then and now

Teenage life is stressful, but is it getting more so? The National Citizen Service (NCS), youth programme asked Mumsnetters to take a trip down memory lane and compare the stresses of modern teen life with those of their own teenage years

1. Technology is now a matter of life or death

"I used to stress about whether my frosted-peach lipstick suited me; nowadays I see teenagers flipping out if their phone battery is about to die - it literally is the end of the world for them! How did we cope with a landline, and our mums interrupting us constantly to tell us off for clogging up the line?!"

2. But it does make it easier to find your tribe

"As a teen, I found being a black-wearing Goth type in a small town hard - an online community would have reduced that (and let me shop more!)"

3. FOMO (fear of missing out) today is ever-present


"When I was a teenager, clothes and accessories were a big deal - the latest jeans or rucksacks. Today the biggest pressure for teenagers is to have the latest phone or tablet, the best profile on social media, and the most friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter..."

4. Still, at least the threat of atomic apocalypse has receded 

"As a teenager, my main stress was nuclear war. I was convinced we would be annihilated by the Russians."

5. Body image pressure is definitely getting worse

"I think there is more pressure to be physically perfect - no body fat, no unwanted hair, smooth skin, etc. The pressure is there for both boys and girls."  

6. But 'secretary' or 'nurse' are no longer the only career options for girls

"If you're a girl there are few jobs you can't do."   

7. The growing-up process has accelerated 

grand theft auto
"I used to get stressed out over my hair. My son is 12, and gets stressed out because I won't let him play an 18-certificate game with killing in it..." 

8. But it's easier to be yourself

"My 14 year old has openly gay friends. I think teens can be themselves more and seem to be more accepting of difference. They seem to be generally more confident and comfortable in their own skin."

9. Education is more competitive

"I think there is more pressure to do well academically. Back in the 80s I just moseyed off to a very good university with rather indifferent grades, and got a full grant. Now my DS is faced with mega-competition to go to a good university - plus the fees don't bear thinking about. Even if he becomes an investment banker, he'll have to live in my spare bedroom until I pop my clogs."

10. ...and being a teenager costs more

"When we were teenagers we seemed to be able to spend all day in town on a fiver - we were happy with window shopping and a coffee. Nowadays, everything seems to cost so much more: the cinema, clothes, the right trainers..."

11. But, on the upside, friendships have a greater chance of survival

best friends
"Technology also has its benefits for teenagers. When we moved to a different town, Facebook softened the blow of moving away from friends: it meant the kids could keep in touch with their old friends. They still talk to some of their primary school friends nine years later, which wouldn't have been realistic in my teen days."   

NCS is a two-three week youth development programme open to all 16 and 17-year-olds across England and Northern Ireland, costing no more than £50. It is recognised by UCAS and employers alike and takes place this October half term. Sign your teenager up now at www.ncsyes.co.uk

Need help coping with teenage stress? Visit the NCS advice hub.

Liked this? Try these:

Living with teenagers

Life skills for teenagers

Talking to teens about sex


Last updated: almost 3 years ago