What teenagers want to know: why they phone Childline Scotland

Susan Dobson, service manager for Childline Scotland, described teenagers' contact with the helpline, highlighting the following aspects:

  • Almost 290,000 children and young people contacted Childline in 2012/13:   
    • More girls than boys (3: 1 ratio girls to boys) contact the helpline
    • 87% of young people are aged 12 to 18; 94% of direct referrals are young people aged 12 to 18
    • Online contacts are increasing
  • Teenagers are the largest cohort of young people in touch with Childline with boys tending to contact by phone and girls likely to use its online services
  • For 12-15 year olds, bullying, family relationships, and unhappiness and depression are major issues
  • For 16-18 year olds, major issues are unhappiness and depression; family relationships; self-harm; and suicidal issues, with bullying much less frequent

The issues highlighted suggest what parents should know about in order to support teenagers

Some common themes from phone and online contacts, counselling and message boards include:

  • Young people finding out about parents having an affair
  • Family conflict (between siblings and parents)
  • Fractured relationships, fears of parents splitting up and stresses about 'reconfigured' families
  • Young people often feel responsible for their parents and don't want to upset their parents
  • They often talk about wanting to leave home or go into care
  • They prefer to share what is happening with their peer group as they worry that if they confide in adults, the latter will take control
  • They feel that their parents do not want to know/will not support them

The above points indicate what teenagers need from their parents/carers and could inform the information needs of parents themselves. An important message expressed by teenagers in their contact with Childline is that they want to know that their parents love them and want to support them.

This theme was echoed in the Young Scot DVD:  www.youngscot.org

You can download Susan Dobson's presentation here.

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