This is actually what it's like to be a 14-year-old girl in 2024.

22 years ago I was 14. 22 years. 2.2 decades. 8,000 days. It feels like five minutes ago.

14 was such a formative age for me. I got braces and my period (such a hormonal cliche). It was the year I moved to a new country and started at a new school. It was the year I got my first phone (Nokia 3310, I still miss Snake), the year I got ICQ and MSN chat and used one of them to ask out my first boyfriend (it lasted three days and we didn’t speak to each other once, I wish him well).

There are endless memes about how different today’s 14-year-olds are from the teenagers we were two decades ago. Even one decade ago.

Watch: 14yo Dolly took her own life after relentless cyber bullying. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

The TikTok generation seems much more polished, more sophisticated. They famously shop at Sephora and Mecca and have proper skincare routines. At 14, my skincare routine consisted of putting neat tea oil on my pimples, sun in my hair, and watching infomercials for Proactive.

I know I’m getting most of my information about today’s teens from headlines (OK fine, memes) meant to shock and shame these teenagers, and their parents.


I have three little girls. By the end of the next decade I will have had three 14-year-old girls. It’s only natural that I’m curious. I want to know what we are really in for.

So when the opportunity came up to have an off-the-record chat with year 8 students, I jumped at it. Here are some of their thoughts on friendship, technology and what life is like as a 14-year-old girl in 2024.

Violet*, 14.

"The bar is so much higher for us than when our parents went to school.

"Yes technology is super useful, especially for homework. I’ve started watching videos when I don’t understand something. I find that sometimes hearing a different person explain helps it get into my head.

"But it also adds this extra level we have to reach. There's so much pressure to make everything perfect, like having the best presentation or the most creative video, because you know everyone else is using Canva, CapCut or ChatGPT to make theirs better too.

"It makes me tired because it feels like I can never just do something simple — it always has to stand out, especially when we share our projects in class. I get anxious that my work isn’t good enough. I always feel like I could do more because my [social media] feeds are full of people doing something incredible."

Sophie*, 14.

"Sometimes I feel like I’m living a secret life. At school, with my friends I’m a normal teenager. We talk about the music we like, boys, shows we’re watching. I don’t hate it, but honestly I feel happier when I’m at home playing with my (younger) sister, Barbies, colouring, Lego, all the stuff I’m meant to be too old for now.


"There’s this assumption that teenagers want to go wild, sneak out and get away from their parents but on the weekends I just want to stay home.

"I don’t know if my friends feel the same because there’s no way I’d tell them. I’d feel judged. I just have this gut feeling that it’s weird. I feel like I’m waiting for something to click and suddenly I’ll be a proper teenager, not a kid."

Sam*, 14.

"I’m with my friends a lot at school but I can still feel lonely. Especially when I’ll look at Snap and see people are hanging out, or they’ve both just posted and you can tell it’s the same location, so they’re together but didn’t invite me. I feel left out or like I'm not living as exciting a life as everyone else.

"Even when I know a break [from Instagram, Snap or TikTok] might be good for me, I worry about missing out on things. Everyone at school talks about what they saw on social, like the latest posts or stories from the weekend. If I'm not up to date, I feel even more out of the loop, and it’s like I’m missing a part of the conversation or the jokes they're sharing.

"There’s pressure to stay connected all the time so I don't feel left behind. I worry that if I take a break, I might miss an important update or an invitation, and then I’ll feel even lonelier when I come back and don't know what everyone’s talking about. It’s tough because even though [social media] can make me feel bad, it’s also a way I stay part of the group."


Tully*, 14.

"My dad has health problems, so there are moments when I have to handle more grown-up stuff than most of my friends would. It's like I have to be more responsible and aware of how everyone around me, including my parents, is feeling.

"It can be tough because I sometimes miss just worrying about normal teenage things, but I've also learned a lot about handling tough situations and being strong for my mum. It’s a mix of feeling proud of how I can cope but also wishing things were a bit simpler.

"I follow a lot of [social media] accounts with people who are going through similar things, I like that I have access to this whole community. If I was living 20 years ago I wouldn’t have that, so it’s a good thing about all the technology we have in 2024."

Mika*, 14.

"When I was in Year 7, I went through the worst time because I was bullied at my old school. It started with just some mean comments and 'jokes', but then it got worse with girls spreading rumours and leaving me out of things. It was really hard to deal with, and I didn’t want to go to school.

"Even before I said anything to them, my parents knew I wasn’t myself, I cried a lot and didn't want to talk about school, so when I finally told them what was happening, they were really supportive. We tried to work it out with the teachers, but they were pretty rubbish. I get they’re busy but nothing really changed. So at the end of the year my parents decided that it would be best for me to switch schools for Year 8.


"Starting at a new school was scary, but it turned out to be a good decision. We’re one term done, and I have new friends who all know what happened. It felt like it’s a fresh start. Everyone is more chill in year 8. It’s been a lot better."

Listen to Kate Everett on The Quicky discussing what we can all learn six years after losing her daughter Dolly to bullying.

Sadly for every story with a happy ending like Mika’s, there’s a teen still struggling with bullying or online harassment.

This is something the parents of another 14-year-old Amy 'Dolly' Everett know too well. When their daughter took her own life in 2018 after being relentlessly bullied, Kate and Tick Everett started Dolly's Dream, as a legacy to Dolly and a way to educate people about the potentially devastating impacts of bullying.

Friday 10 May 2024 is Do it for Dolly Day. You can help make Dolly's dream of a kinder and safer world for Australia’s kids a reality by simply: wearing blue, donating or raising funds to support anti-bullying initiatives and stop other precious lives being lost to bullying.

To find our more about Do it for Dolly Day, click here.

Featured image: Getty.

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