Peer pressure, social media, and puberty in the spotlight among children in Wales

In this series of blogs we’ve been looking at the issue of wellbeing across Wales. To better understand the rise of mental health concerns among school-age children in Wales, we wanted to explore what parents think may be contributing to the increased levels of anxiety. 

Last month we published our report, Disturbing currents: wellbeing and mental health of children in Wales’. According to the findings – which included surveying over 750 parents with children currently attending primary or secondary school – there were 5 key areas that parents were especially concerned about. Broadly these can be grouped into a combination of social, developmental, and environmental factors. 

1. Peer Pressure

34% of parents (both at primary and secondary school level) identified peer pressure as one of the main causes of their children’s anxiety. With the pressure to conform to social norms and ‘fit in’, it’s clear that peer pressure is playing a big part in contributing to feelings of stress and insecurity among children.

2. Social Media

The pervasive influence of social media emerged as a prominent factor contributing to children’s anxiety with 21% of primary school parents, rising to 40% of secondary school parents, rating it as one of the 5 main causes of their children’s anxiety. The constant exposure to curated images and unrealistic standards on social platforms continues to negatively impact our children’s self-esteem and mental wellbeing.

3. Puberty

The tumultuous phase of hormonal and physical change was also identified as a significant contributor to children’s anxiety (among 18% of primary and 41% of secondary school parents). The physiological changes and hormonal fluctuations during this period are playing their part in creating feelings of insecurity among both younger children and adolescents.

4. School and personal expectations

At primary school, children meeting the expectations they set themselves was rated by one in five parents as a contributory factor to increased anxiety. While at secondary school, parents highlighted the weight of school expectations as a key factor influencing their children’s anxiety. For parents with children in KS3 and KS4, “keeping up with schoolwork” and “keeping on top of homework or revision” was rated by more than a quarter of parents as one of the main causes of their children’s anxiety.

5. Sleep issues

Surprisingly not raised as a top 5 factor among secondary school parents, “Not sleeping well” was listed as one of the causes of anxiety among primary-age children. Almost a quarter of parents cited it as a contributing factor. At any age, sleep is a fundamental aspect of good mental health, playing a crucial role in emotional regulation, cognitive functioning, stress reduction, and the prevention of mental health disorders.

While the statistics regarding children’s mental health may be concerning, it’s important to remember that there are proactive steps we can take to address these challenges and foster positive outcomes. By recognising the contributing factors and implementing effective strategies, we can make meaningful strides towards supporting the mental wellbeing of our children.

When it comes to effective strategies, we had Dr Tara Porter join us for a webinar last month where she shared her views on how teachers can encourage children to open up in order to improve mental health outcomes. It really is a must watch!

And this month (21st May) we’re going to be joined for an after-hours webinar led by the mental health campaigner Luke Rees. Luke will be offering advice on motivational resilience, mental health and educational achievement. If you’d like to sign-up for this session you can register here .

The role of Compass MIS in schools

Understanding the underlying causes of anxiety is crucial for parents, educators, and caregivers and can really help pave the way for informed strategies to support children’s wellbeing effectively.

Compass MIS offers valuable tools and resources to empower schools and help identify children who may be struggling with their mental health. With Compass’ intuitive modules like Chronicle, schools gain the ability to monitor student wellbeing in real-time, identify at-risk individuals, and provide timely interventions.

Chronicle’s customisable templates allow schools to track behaviour, record interventions, and address specific needs, ensuring that every student receives the support they require. The platform’s Trigger system – with its automatic alerts and notifications – means no issues go unnoticed and interventions can be swift and targeted.

With Compass by their side, schools have the tools and support they need to make a tangible difference to the mental wellbeing of all of their students, empowering them to thrive both academically and emotionally.

Together, we can turn the tide on the rising rates of anxiety and stress among children, and pave the way for a brighter and more resilient future.

If your school is interested in delving into how Compass can help your children, please contact Claire Wensley at cwensley@compass.education.

Interested in seeing more?

See how Compass helps your school at every level, watch our 5-minute demo on demand.

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