What is stressing our kids? Young Australians in their own words.

Why, at a time when we’re healthier and wealthier than ever as a nation, are our kids feeling so anxious? Young boys and girls open up to Four Corners about what is on their minds.

Young Australians are rarely heard talking frankly about their place in the world, the responsibility they feel to tackle the world’s problems, the peer group pressures they face if they want to be popular, the demands to succeed at school and get a good job, and the often damaging effect that social media has on their lives.

These are some of the things that children and adolescents say make them feel anxious.

Left unsupported, kids suffering from anxiety can become depressed and even suicidal.

Recent research points to a surge in the number of adolescent girls who are self-harming.

Nearly one in five 16 to 17 year old girls are suffering from depression, and around one quarter say they have deliberately injured themselves at some point in their lives.

What is stressing our kids?

Here are the voices of young Australians, in their own words.

Boys on…

World affairs:

Sam, Cameron, Zach and Ben are 12 and 13 years old. They live in an outer metropolitan suburb and go to a local Anglican school. For boys so young, their worries are surprisingly grown up.

Video via ABC News

“The refugee incident in Europe — I found that quite upsetting to see people having to flee their homes [and] everything they know basically to try and find refuge. And the parents being split up from their kids – it’s pretty heart-wrenching.”
– Cameron, 12

“I worry about some things like terrorism, racism and poverty around the world and some diseases.”
– Zach, 12

Expressing your emotions:

Lliam is 15 years old. He says there is a lot of pressure on boys, and not expressing your emotions is ingrained in many boys through generations.

“Fathers tell boys to suck it up and just keep moving on, don’t worry about it, not going to affect you. But it does all add up eventually and you can just crack.”
– Lliam, 15


Lliam says gaming with friends offers boys a chance to communicate in a more comfortable way.

“There’s a lot of banter but we also catch up on things and problems… We have the experience of still talking through audio so it’s like being next to someone without having the feeling of actually being with someone.”
– Lliam, 15


Dylan, 14, and Lliam reveal boys are as worried about body image as girls.

“I notice girls would just think of guys as sex objects and they just want to be with them because of their masculinity and their body type.”
– Dylan, 14

“If you have a good body and you have a lot of muscles on you, you’re marked as good-looking and that’s always at our age a big factor when girls are looking at boys.”
– Lliam, 15


Ethan is 15 and constantly worries about his weight.

“I felt the need to lose weight I guess because I just thought it was embarrassing to be around my friends when they… had good bodies and I just felt crap about mine.”
– Ethan, 15

Family conflict:

Ben is 13 and his parents split up when he was four.

“I remember how my Mum and Dad used to fight … It affected me a fair bit once I got to realise that’s what happened. It affected me for like a half a year.”
– Ben, 13

Girls on…


Samantha, 13, experienced abuse on social media, and works hard to overcome her insecurities, with support from her older sister Claudia, 16.

“They can’t say it to your face so they feel like they have the power behind the screen, but that’s the thing, you can’t give them the power.”
– Samantha, 13

Peer pressure:

Alisha, 18, felt intense social pressure to fit in during her school years.

“I didn’t know what it was like to be a cool Australian girl… I felt very pressured to be something I wasn’t.”
– Alisha, 18

Social media:

Elaura, 15, believes the pressures faced by many girls on social media are damaging.

“With social media especially, you have to look a certain way, or be a type of person or something, and I feel like a lot of girls are really unhappy with themselves.”
– Elaura, 15

Sex and pornography:

Gabrielle, 16, says some girls are pressured by boys who learn about sex through pornography.

“I know there’s some boys that do think that all the girls are just kind of like sex toys, which is horrible.”
– Gabrielle, 16

Hope for the future:

Alisha is now coming to terms with the anxiety she felt in her early teens.

“I think that people forget that they do have the ability to make that change and they don’t have to feel so alone in the world.”
– Alisha, 18

Boys and girls on…

Advice to parents:

Both boys and girls were asked: Is there any advice you would like to give to parents?

“Just something so simple as a ‘how are you, how are you feeling?’ — that’s it — can change a kid’s life.”
– Gabrielle, 16

“Always be by their side to help them when they need you.”
– Zach

Facts about kids:

  • One in four kids say they worry about the future all the time
  • One third of 11-17-year-olds were bullied in the past 12 months
  • 30 per cent of 11-17-year-old boys spend 3 hours or more gaming, on schooldays
  • Nearly one in five 16-17-year-old girls are suffering from depression
  • Kids from sole parent, low income families are more likely to be anxious
  • About 135,000 young Australians deliberately harmed themselves in the past year

Sources: Young Minds Matter, Australian Government.

Watch Quentin McDermott’s report Our Kids tonight at 8.30pm on ABC’s Four Corners and online.

© 2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.


This post originally appeared on ABC News.