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The challenges facing today's teenagers

Children and young people face many hurdles as they grow up, but being a teenager can be uniquely challenging. Learning how to navigate this takes time and support. However, often teenagers’ needs are being overlooked. This is when little becomes a lot. Too many young people face abuse, exploitation, and isolation, and help is only offered once things have got out of hand. We can't forget, teenagers are children too, and they need our help. In this blog we explore some of the challenges they face, and why it is vital they get the support they need when they need it.


Sexual exploitation online

Girl sits on bed sad

Sexual exploitation

Alarmingly, every year thousands of teenagers are sexually abused and exploited. An estimated half a million children will experience some form of sexual abuse each year in England and Wales alone, but only a fraction of these crimes are reported to the police. That’s hundreds of thousands of young people left to deal with the immense challenges they’re facing alone, without the support they desperately need. 

Sexual exploitation

Too many teenagers are suffering in silence, isolated by fear and manipulation. They are groomed into thinking they are in a real, safe relationship, that their exploiter is someone that they can trust. The perpetrator preys on their needs, fears, and wants, forcing them to do things like share intimate photos of themselves. And if they don’t agree, things can quickly become threatening. Often, teenagers made to feel guilty and ashamed, thinking that they’re to blame for what’s happening or that no one will believe them if they speak up. This kind of trauma can have an impact for years to come. These teenagers are still children. They need our help

That’s why we work to keep young people safe from harm. We educate parents, carers, young people, schools, professionals, and others on how to spot the signs of sexual exploitation and what to do if things don’t feel right. And we’re for teenagers who have been exploited, too, giving them access to the trained therapists and resources they need to begin to process what has happened and move forward with their lives.

Tackling criminal exploitation

Tackling criminal exploitation

Criminal exploitation is a huge and growing danger for today’s teenagers, too, as criminals target their vulnerabilities to coerce them into doing things like carry drugs or steal. Right now, high living costs are putting families under huge pressure, with many unable to afford even the essentials. For teenagers, this kind of uncertainty and stress at home can make them a target for criminal groups. They might offer a young person the chance to make ‘easy money’ and help their family, or an environment that feels exciting away from the pressures of home. Criminal exploitation can happen online and offline, with teenagers being targeted in their communities, on social media, and elsewhere.

School boy in uniform

Teenagers are children too

To make matters worse, when what’s been happening is discovered, these teenagers are often treated as criminals – punished, instead of supported. Their fear of those exploiting them means they stay silent. So, at a time when they most need protection, they could be charged and even imprisoned.  

But they are still children. They cannot deal with these challenges or rebuild their futures without our help

Our specialist practitioners help them to process what has happened and feel safe again. By listening and letting them know that they’re not alone, we support young people to build the strong, healthy relationships they need to move forward.

We take a closer look at new methods to criminally exploit children in our blog.

teenagers in the park

Teenagers are children too

Across the country, teenagers' needs are being ignored. Teenagers are children too. Don't let them face life alone. 

Your regular support makes sure a child won't have to face life alone.

Recognising young carers

Young carer helps mother

Recognising young carers

Across the country as many as 120,000 young carers look after a family member or close friend. The true number is likely to be even higher – lots of young carers aren’t aware that they qualify as one, and for some it can feel difficult to talk about. This means that too many young carers aren’t getting the recognition or support they deserve. Forced to balance school and their social life with caring duties can be an impossible task, and the strain can take its toll. On top of this, inaccurate perceptions about young carers and their lives – that they won’t be able to achieve as much in the future, that their parent or carer isn’t looking after them properly – have a huge impact. But with the right support, young carers and their families can thrive.

Recognising young carers

We have campaigned for young carers to be recognised at government level. We also run the Young Carers Festival every year with YMCA Fairthorne Group to give young carers a space to have fun, unwind, make new friends, and share their stories. But there is still more to do. Young carers tell us that they often feel overlooked, isolated, and misunderstood. They need more support from professionals like social care and schools. That’s why we work with young carers to empower them to understand their rights, find time for themselves, and share their experiences at the highest levels. They are the experts on their own lives, and they know best what help they need.  

Missing from home

Missing from home

Each year, as many as 100,000 children and young people go missing or run away from home. It is every parent's worst nightmare. Sometimes, teenagers go missing because they want to run from something – like problems at home, bullying at school, or mental health issues. But sometimes, they go missing because they have been exploited and coerced to leave their home.  

Criminals target teenagers online, targeting their needs, fears, and wants. The anonymity of online spaces means that the young person might not know who they’re talking to. They might think it’s someone their own age who wants to help them, or be manipulated into believing that they’re in a real relationship. In all cases, once they have run away, teenagers are in real danger. They are still children, far from home and not knowing who to turn to. They might be alone and scared, or put their trust in the wrong hands. Even if they want to return home, they might be too scared for fear of being in trouble – or they might be prevented from doing so.

Girl at bus stop on mobile phone

Missing from home

We can all play a part in preventing teenagers from being exploited in this way by learning to spot the signs that a young person might go missing or is being groomed online. We work closely with the police and local authorities to provide one-to-one support for young people who have gone missing. We’re there to listen without judgement, working to understand what caused the young person to leave their home and how we can address those challenges together. Our help means they no longer have to struggle alone. And you can help us support them too

Be the change

Things cannot continue as they are. It’s vital that teenagers get the right support as soon as they need it, so that together, we can stop crisis in its tracks. By reaching teenagers where they are, we can tackle the struggles they’re facing today and make sure they can build the skills and support systems they need to protect them long into the future. We will continue to work with teenagers to campaign for change, putting their voices and experiences at the heart of all we do, so that the next generation can grow up safe, happy, and hopeful.

Together, we can build a society where every teenager gets the right support at the right time. Teenagers are children too. Don’t let them face life alone.

By Edward Herbert

Boy in blazer

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Teenagers’ needs are being ignored, with those who face abuse, exploitation or neglect only receiving help at crisis point. But you can change that today.