Fear Of Crime is Making Our Teenagers Unhappy

Fear Of Crime is Making Our Teenagers Unhappy

Growing up as a teenager in the 1980's in the idyllic English countryside I had very few worries and certainly none that kept me awake at night. Our teenagers today, however, are not so lucky.  Young people's happiness in the UK is at its lowest point for seven years according to The Children's Society, Good Childhood Report 2017.

What is making our teenagers unhappy? Families struggling to pay bills and lack of emotional support at home were among the pressures mentioned, but according to the report's findings, fear of crime is the biggest concern.  A total 2.2 million of those interviewed cited this as the thing that worries them the most.

One in three girls surveyed said they were concerned about being followed by a stranger and one in four boys were worried about being assaulted.

As a parent of both sexes and living in London, these figures and statements don't surprise me.  Stranger danger is omnipresent.  As for being assaulted, sadly there is rarely a week goes by without reports of an attack somewhere in our capital.

One of my worst fears during my parenting journey to date has been that I won't be able to protect my children from danger.  Now as they grow up and become increasingly more independent I fear they won't be able to protect themselves.  My teenagers have become  used to me frequently asking them to "be careful" every time they venture out.  There is, however, more to it than just being careful.

Being streetwise is a good skill to have and a prerequisite to keeping safe whether you live in London or any other major city.  Our teenagers need to know how to be observant and aware of their surroundings and not to put themselves at risk.

We have a duty of care to our teens to guide them on that, but of course it does not provide a cast iron guarantee of avoiding danger.  Despite everything my eldest has fallen victim to crime twice this year, but in both scenarios knew compliance was better than resistance and thankfully escaped shaken and not physically harmed - albeit poorer.

The report's findings reflect the trend illustrated by the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed police recorded crime had risen by 13% in the 12 months to June.

Crime is of course nothing new, but what is disturbing nowadays is that it is so prevalent and so violent.  The use of weapons and now acid to cause serious injury is commonplace with no thought given to the consequences. In fact the ONS figures revealed a 20% rise in gun, knife and other serious violence.

News At Ten featured a series of reports earlier this month on violent crime which made for frightening viewing.  Aside from the staggering increase in the total number of offences committed, it was the frequency at which they occurred that struck me.

Every 14 minutes, there is a knife crime committed across England and Wales.  In London the number of incidents where shots are fired has doubled to two a day and one-in-six gun crime victims last year were aged 17 or under.

It is shocking and upsetting in equal measure that this is the cultural landscape our teens are growing up in.  Add to this the fact that as a result of living in fear of crime in their neighbourhood some teenagers are resorting to carrying weapons to protect themselves and thereby driving this increase, then the reality is even more horrific.

The teenage years are such an exciting time, it is a shame that for so many it is a period dominated by problems and fear with an inevitable long term impact upon their well-being.

What can be done to help? First and foremost these unhappy teenagers need support but if it is not available at home where do they turn?  For many the children's services provided by their local authority are a valuable resource, providing a much needed safety net not only in times of crisis but in a preventative scenario too.  As a rule those adolescents lacking the support of a stable emotional and financial family environment are the most vulnerable and arguably more susceptible to turning to crime themselves.

Youth centers give teenagers a place to meet and make friends, as well as a chance to take part in workshops, recreational activities and short courses. Youth workers operate outside of the centers, getting to know young people in schools, on the streets and in parks.  They also work alongside specialist teams responsible for youth crime prevention and issues connected to serious youth violence including gangs.

Unfortunately funding is being cut for these valuable local services that help our country's children.  This situation has various permutations and far-reaching consequences,all with potentially devastating results for the next generation.  As parents we owe it to all our country's teenagers to speak up on their behalf in a bid to help make life a little easier and our teenagers' world a safer and happier place.

How?  Well charity begins at home and in a week when the focus is very much on the needs of children, we can lend our support to the efforts of the Children's Society and sign their petition to ask for more funding to maintain local youth services.

It is not a time to turn the other cheek.  We can all make a difference to the society we live in.  Our teenagers today are tomorrow's adults and at the moment they need our help to reverse the decline in their well-being before it hits crisis point.

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post. All views and opinions are my own.



Editor's Note: The Children's Society is a national charity that runs local services and campaigns to change the law to help this country's most vulnerable children and young people.  The Good Childhood Report 2017 is the sixth in a series of annual reports about how children in the UK feel about their lives produced in collaboration with the University of York.  It is the most extensive national programme of research on children's subjective well-being in the world.




  1. November 18, 2017 / 7:16 pm

    I guess it depends where you raise your children. Our two youngest spent their teenage years living in Pretoria, where fear of crime was rife, even in our own homes, on them moving back to the UK, they immediately felt a lot safer and now living in a small town, it’s not something the teen worries about. however the older child is now in the Army and is based in the Middle East, therefore he has different risks in his day to day life. The eldest child was also in the army so on his return to a small town he also has a different view on crime and personal safety. Child 3 however has lived in cities for his adult life, London, Cheltenham and Leeds and is now travelling around Australia, he has always had a greater awareness of his personal safety from living in Cities than his brothers through their choice of work and location. tweenteensbeyond

  2. November 17, 2017 / 5:38 pm

    I am bringing my children up in London too, and mu daughter gets public transport to school, which is a bit of a worry. I do play lightly of ‘things that could happen’ but similarly do not want her to be totally naive. I agree that cutting funding to youth clubs and the like is a disaster. Food for thought #tweensteensandbeyond

  3. November 15, 2017 / 7:53 am

    Reading the post and comments today is really hard as a mum of teenagers. I agree with all of what you say and I also agree with Lisa in the comments and what she mentions about social media. Don’t be fooled by this not being an issue outside of London either. Although we live in rural Wiltshire, my children go into Bath or Bristol by train or bus and they have been exposed to crime and it frightens me. My son’s Friend was mugged and attacked aged 14 by a group of older lads for no reason and my son has come across an array of drugs and he is 15. My daughter (at 17) is very cautious when going out and always sticks with friends but she has seen someone slip something into her friends drink at a party. It’s all v v worrying but at least they tell me and there is an open communication between us which I really think is vital when mothering teenagers. But did we see crime growing up and were we exposed to it? Yes. There is a reported rise in anxiety amongst our teenagers and young people but I wonder if it is because a whole host of reasons and agree that social media plays a massive part in this. Great post Jo. Xxx #tweensteensbeyond
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  4. November 15, 2017 / 12:40 am

    I think there’s narrow path to be walked between warning kids, making them aware of potential dangers, and scaring them so much they’ll never leave the house. I’ve always been concerned that my youngest seemed to take the possibility of street crime a bit too lightly, especially as she frequently travels to London alone, but when I’ve been out and about with her recently I realised she IS taking care, and was probably just trying to reassure me. #tweensteensbeyond
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  5. November 14, 2017 / 7:06 pm

    I would also think another reason that young people’s happiness in the UK is at its lowest point for seven years is smart phones (vs. cell phones). Social media has exploded and teens put too much worth in likes and favorites and such. I know it’s something we struggle with in our house, just letting them have phones but making sure they don’t get wrapped up in other people’s social media prowess.

    Thoughtful post here! #tweensteensbeyond
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  6. November 14, 2017 / 4:04 pm

    Hi Jo

    So scary isn’t it? Living in west London I am also aware that it’s a hotbed of criminal activity – more so than many places in the UK and all three of my teens have experienced it at varying levels. My son has been mugged more than a handful of times, thankfully not harmed much but shaken up, of course. I don’t actually know any of his friends that haven’t been mugged or attacked in some way. I do feel the schools that my kids have been to have had some pretty intense and informative assemblies with police and other professionals to explain many dangers and how to deal with them/report them etc…and even though that may equip them a little, it’s awful that the even need to be worried about these things.

    Personally, I think the government should send in reformed criminals who teenagers can relate to (or who they would listen to) to talk about their own experiences and why they behaved as they did and how and why they changed their ways. Also, sports men/women or business men/women who have grown up surrounded by crime but have forged a positive life for themselves to explain the power of being kind/positive thinking and discipline of sports/education/creativeness etc…

    Really thought provoking post Jo – thank you.

  7. November 14, 2017 / 10:54 am

    I often wonder about the impact of these ‘reports’ and ‘news-stories’ on people. Whilst I don’t wholly discount them, I do think that Bad News Makes Better News in the world of media and so these incidents are widely reported, making out that there are so called epidemics where they don’t exist. I am not saying this is categorically the case, it’s just something that I wonder about.

    We do have a problem in our area with a small number of teenagers causing trouble with vandalism and just downright nasty behaviour (killing wildfowl in our local lake). But I find it really hard to believe that these kids are the majority. I do think that the government is a very big part of many problems because the approach to provision for children feels very chaotic. On the one hand, kids have the national curriculum (which in my opinion is a joke) rammed down their throats to ‘prepare them for the future’ (though what that future looks like is a mystery to me- it certainly can’t be based on reality and is not future proofing). On the other hand, when support services for young people could truly be of benefit to communities, the funding is cut. So our society is being shot in the foot twice.

    I don’t think this country is putting its best foot forward when it comes to children. Sometimes I wonder what in the world our government actually values!

    Sorry for the ranty essay 🙂 Can you tell you struck a nerve? I’m not even sure if any of this makes sense!!

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