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Healthy Awareness: Teenage Girls Struggle in Today’s World

Can you remember your high school days? What were they like? Well, today, especially for girls, it can be challenging. These are the years they try to find their “identity” or who they are. It is natural for teens to congregate into groups of similar interests or what we call “cliques.” This is called “in-group bias,” where one tends to favor one’s group. Sometimes, some girls become isolated, especially in today’s world, where technology has intensified bullying, making it immediate and lasting.

I was talking with a mother of a middle school student whose previous close friend had decided to be with the popular girls’ group and exclude her. In being a member of a group, one is expected to be like the others and do as they do. They are expected to act a certain way if they say negative and hurtful things about another. If she does not behave like the majority of the group, she becomes an isolated outsider. It is rare for members of the in-group to stand up for the victims and voice their differences.

Hurtful statements about another girl can appear on Instagram, where the most popular girl in school calls another girl “ugly or fat .”A cell phone with this recording can be held up in a crowd for all to hear, and the girls will laugh at the one being picked on, causing her to feel desperate and alone.

The girl’s mother may try to contact the bully’s mother and talk about the inappropriateness of this behavior and how it affects her daughter. But that is not always possible, mainly because the mother does not want to be confronted concerning her daughter’s hurtful behavior. In addition, Instagram lasts just 24 hours, making it difficult to trace, if not impossible, to verify what is happening.

In a Facebook study, teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. Perhaps one of the causes of Social Phobia Disorder? Also, teens use social media sites such as Snapchat and TikTok, which create more social comparisons, pressure, and negative peer interactions. Teens measure their self-worth in the “likes” and followers they have.

With the pandemic due to Covid, a study found that 70% of 240 teenage girls missed seeing people a lot. In losing their social life, teens used these apps on their smartphones. They spend hours studying the posts of celebrities, friends, and strangers, which set up expectations that are non-obtainable. This becomes especially problematic when a young teen struggles to develop an identity. The modern internet culture emphasizes physical beauty, conflict, competition, and “catastrophizing.” Self-esteem is negatively affected.

In a survey in 2021 of more than 17,000 teens by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (February 2023), 42% said they experienced persistent sadness or hopelessness. A majority of the girls (57%) reported persistent despair versus 29% of the boys. Nearly 1 in 3 girls seriously considered suicide, with 13% stating that they attempted it in the past year.

Another source of teen anxiety concerns their future due to climate change and social upheaval.

These are especially hard times for teens, and as a parent, you need to listen to your teen and be socially supportive. Social support is linked to resilience to bullying. Help them get in touch with their feelings and give them some ways to deal with them. And talk about how social media overemphasizes the importance of self-perception and body image. Have your teen value other qualities such as artistic, scientific, literary, intelligence, caring, and empathy abilities. Valuing the role of women in society is also essential for girls.

If you need more help, you might seek psychological help. Your medical doctor can give several referrals and contact your insurance company for referrals.

Suicide Hotline of Southern CA: 714-894-4242 or 562-596-5548 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255