Children plagued by low self-esteem and loneliness

New figures show a 9% increase of counselling sessions for children with low self-esteem, according to ChildLine as the service marks 30 years

girl on tabletIn 1986 when the round-the-clock service began children were mostly concerned about family planning problems and sexual abuse.

ChildLine's revealed new figures as it approaches its 30th year which show children are struggling to cope with the pressures of modern life, creating a generation of children plagued by loneliness and low self-esteem.

When ChildLine began it broke the greatest taboo by putting sexual assault on the agenda. Because the service was a safe and confidential place to ask for help, it enabled children to break through the shame and fear that had for generations silenced sexually abused children.

But today their confidence is being destroyed by a constant onslaught from cyber-bullying, social media and the desire to copy celebrities as they strive to achieve the ‘perfect’ image.

In 2014-15 there were 35,244 counselling sessions for low self-esteem, an increase of 9% from the previous year.

Over 4 million children have been helped by ChildLine since it began. And recently, young people have been coming forward in their droves to confide just how desperate, alone, and sad they feel.


Unhappiness top concern for young people

Last year fewer than 1 in 3 counselling sessions took place via phone with 71% involving 1-2-1 chat or email. This is the third year in a row that ChildLine has counselled more young people online than by phone, as the trend to reach out via the internet continues.

These latest figures from ChildLine reveal that girls are more likely to be affected by low self-esteem and unhappiness – it was their second highest concern and the fourth for boys.

"I used to go onto a lot of social media sites and socialise, but now that I don’t have access I feel really cut-off and isolated. I don’t really have many friends in real-life and spend a lot of time in my bedroom on my laptop. I don’t have much confidence in myself and I feel as if my life is really depressing."
14-year-old boy

Tellingly it also seems to strike with the start of secondary school and continues throughout teenage years, with more than half of contacts coming from 12-18-year-olds contacting ChildLine to talk about the problem.

Online chat better than phone support

When ChildLine launched in 1986 children exclusively made contact by telephone – street corner boxes or home lines – or freepost letter. Their main worries were about family problems, pregnancy, and sexual abuse.

But latest figures show children are now more concerned about the pressures of social media and battling low self-esteem and unhappiness. Increasingly children are going online to talk about their problems as they find it easier to communicate this way.

"I hate myself. When I look at other girls online posting photos of themselves it makes me feel really worthless and ugly. I’m struggling to cope with these feelings and stay in my bedroom most of the time. I’m always worrying about what other people are thinking of me. I feel so down."
13-year-old girl

Social media leaves children feeling isolated

Many children reported the ever-growing influence of the internet in their lives was leaving them feeling isolated, with many saying that social media led to them comparing themselves to others, and feeling inferior, ugly, and unpopular as a result.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:
Peter Wanless"It is clear from the hundreds of thousands of calls ChildLine receives that we have a nation of deeply unhappy children. The pressure to keep up with friends and have the perfect life online is adding to the sadness that many young people feel on a daily basis.

"The worries that young people face and the way they talk to us have dramatically changed since ChildLine was launched, and we will change to make sure that no matter what, young people will have a place to turn to whenever they need it.

"Times may change but one thing stays the same - our vital helpline is often the only place that many young people feel they can turn to."

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