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Welcome to the The Cap from The Common Parent – our very own recap series of the topics and trends impacting teens and tweens today dedicated to keeping the common parent in the know.
 
📮 In today's Issue, we cover a topic that warrants our attention:
🚩 What is it? 
The CDC recently released a Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report and its findings show that teen girls are struggling. The Report is based on studies conducted between 2011–2021 and provides the most recent date and 10-year trends on health behaviors and experiences among high school students in the United States related to adolescent health and well-being.
 
Teen girls are experiencing record-high levels of sadness, violence and suicidal behavior while LGBTQ+ youth are facing increased levels of distress and hopelessness. Clinically, therapists have been seeing the signs of an emerging mental health crisis in youth firsthand and the CDC’s Report now confirms it with tangible evidence.
 
You can read the full CDC Report HERE.

🚨 Why it matters:
The Report shows that adolescent girls are bearing the brunt of a national youth mental health crisis.  Some of the most troubling statistics from the teen girls surveyed being:
  • 60% reported experiencing “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness”
  • 30% had seriously considered suicide
  • 18% admitted to experiencing sexual violence
  • 14% had been forced to have sex at least once
As parents it’s important to know that there are a number of things our girls are facing.
 
Sexual Violence: 
  • These higher rates of sexual violence towards girls would help to explain the decline in their mental health as a group. Among the root causes, there is a growing body of research that supports a link between pornography and adolescent dating violence and sexual aggression.
 
Pandemic: 
  • Another notable contributor is the global pandemic and its disruption to typical socialization patterns and behaviors. With COVID-19 lockdowns, most of our teens missed out on years of critical in-person adolescent socialization. Instead, screen time, isolation and social media stepped in as substitutes for meaningful gatherings and fulfilling face-to-face connections and activities.
 
Rising Rates of Depression & Anxiety: 
  • Although it would be easy to blame the pandemic for the rise in mental health challenges in our teens (and all of us for that matter), it isn’t that straightforward. Teen depression doubled between 2010 and 2019…well before COVID-19 lockdowns went into place. Mental health issues among teens have been on the rise since at least 2012 and continued to rise during the pandemic years at about the same rate.
 
Social Media: 
  • Perhaps the biggest culprit is the increased time on social media, which can be especially more dangerous for young girls given everything they are faced with (sexual exploitation, body image issues, comparison, cyberbullying, targeted ads and more) – all of which studies show girls experience more. Over the past decade, the number of American children and teenagers admitted to children’s hospitals for reporting suicidal thoughts has more than doubled. Between 2007 and 2015, the suicide rate for 15-to-19-year-olds shot up, increasing by 31% for boys and more than doubling for girls. 
 
“We have a lot of correlative data showing that social media use, especially at high levels, is associated with mental health problems,” Jamie Howard, Director of Trauma and Resilience Service at the Child Mind Institute.

🎒 The Cap:
As parents, the CDC’s Report can be overwhelming and heartbreaking. However, having the knowledge and understanding of what our teen girls are up against is the first step toward how we can help as their parents, caregivers, educators, coaches and leaders:
  • Check In and pay attention.
  • Improve their sense of connectedness. The CDC points to a large body of research showing that the more keyed in kids are to family and school, the better off they are. “Those young people who feel that sense of connectedness will, 20 years later, have better mental health, are less likely to have attempted suicide, and less likely to have used substances.”
  • Help them forge healthy in-person social relationships with their peers. After the pandemic, we need to help them learn to connect again.
  • Encourage them to cut down on screen time and social media. Reinforce in-person interactions at home by declaring “no phones dinner” and encouraging schools to establish “social media-free zones” to limit the recreational use of phones during the day.
  • Create weekly rituals together. Take a walk, visit your favorite coffee shop, grab an ice cream, do something spontaneous. They may not show it, but these small moments of togetherness are big to teens.
  • Lead by example. Set the rules around devices and social media use and follow them. Be someone they can mirror now to set the tone for healthy habits moving forward.

☀️ The good news:
Yes, teen girls are not okay right now, but they can be. In addition to the steps we outlined that we as adults can take to help our girls, doing our part to lessen the stigma around mental health could also have a great impact in encouraging young girls to speak up.
 
The younger Generations (Millennials and Gen Z specifically) are paving a better way for Gen Alpha and have are showing to be more open to talking about and seeking help for mental health concerns. According to the American Psychological Association, 35% of Millennials and 37% of Gen Zers reported receiving therapy or mental health treatment in 2019. 
 
Gen Z and Gen Alpha are the first generations to have the benefit of learning about the positives and negatives of social media by watching the example of their parents instead of having to learn exclusively through experience. 
 
By prioritizing adolescent health and well-being, we can turn the tide.
 
More Sources:

Founders of The Common Parent: Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer (Cat & Nat)
The Cap Contributors: Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer, Kelly Kresen, Cath Tassie, Lauren Bechard, Sam Phelan and Allie Coughlin
Special thanks to the CDC, Child Mind Institute and Dr. Damour

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The contents of The Cap and The Common Parent platforms ("Content") are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, therapy, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your situation.