Fear Of Crime is Making Our Teenagers Unhappy

Fear of crime is making our teens 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.

Fear of Crime Is Making Our Teens Unhappy according to latest report from the Children's Society.


Disclosure: The Children’s Society invited me to review their report.  No payment was received. 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. June 15, 2018 / 9:28 am

    That mostly shows the lack of responsibility from parent side. Their children must be aware of (at least most) dangers and be ready to face them, at least psychologically

  2. Saf
    May 3, 2018 / 10:49 am

    Great article and something that worries me for two different reasons. Firstly, my older daughter is at uni and seems to have no fear at all. To a point this is great but I wish I could make her be a bit more realistic about safety, especially at night. Then my 17-year-old has the opposite view and is fearful of being out alone at all. I try to avoid her watching or hearing too much news which scares her, but at the same time she needs to know how to be safe. Such a shame they, and us parents, have to worry about crime during a period of their lives that should be carefree. #teenstweensbeyond

    • Jo
      May 3, 2018 / 8:38 pm

      Oh Saf I know what you mean, getting that balance right is so hard. My son is at Uni and is pretty street wise to be honest, maybe because I let him off the leash a bit earlier as he is a boy and thought he could handle it. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t been involved in a few scrapes he has but he manages it well. My daughter now 15 is pulling at the leash wanting more freedom and I am holding her back all the time. Why? Because she is a girl and she is still young. She still hasn’t travelled that far on the tube or across London on her own and there have been no parties yet. It is permanently stressful being a parent for sure!

  3. November 27, 2017 / 3:10 am

    This situation is not just alarming but heartbreaking as well. It makes me sad thinking that I had a happier and freer childhood than my kids. In the U.S., a two-year increase in crime rates was recorded in more than a decade. That’s according to an annual FBI report in 2016. That’s why I always tell my teens to be cautious and not too trusting especially in social media. But that’s hard too, you know, coz I don’t want them to think that all strangers are bad people.
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    • Jo
      November 27, 2017 / 11:03 pm

      Gosh those stats are really scary. Dawn it is a fine line between making our teens aware of dangers and not scaring them so much they never want to go out and enjoy life or talk to a perfectly innocent stranger.

  4. November 26, 2017 / 9:09 pm

    Very sad that teenagers are growing up with these sort of fears shocking a very thought provoking post. It’s always my biggest fear that my older children will come to harm Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    • Jo
      November 27, 2017 / 11:01 pm

      Thank Nige for your comment. It is a fear we all have as parents of teenagers which is why supporting organisation’s like The Children’s Society is so important.

  5. November 26, 2017 / 10:18 am

    It is so sad that children can’t be children these days with all the worry of what’s going on in the world. I do wonder what kind of future they will have and what kind of world we are bringing them in to. It’s important to keep them savvy and aware without scaring them, but it’s tricky. Thanks for joining in at #TriumphantTales 🙂

    • Jo
      November 27, 2017 / 10:59 pm

      We can make a big difference to our children’s world if we want.

  6. November 24, 2017 / 3:01 pm

    I’m a bit of a fan of the Children’s Society so annoyed I missed this report. Desperately sad reading isn’t it? Kids shouldn’t be worrying about such things. Alas, I agree with you though, I can understand why they do. #ThatFridayLinky

    • Jo
      November 25, 2017 / 5:07 pm

      Yes John the golden age of the carefree childhood seems to be sadly over! It would be great though if we could all do something to getting it back in some way shape or form or at the very least making sure these valuable support services are still available. The Children’s Society plays a significant role in this. Thanks for your comment.

  7. November 23, 2017 / 2:19 pm

    This is so frustrating….it’s always the case that a few have to ruin it for the masses and it’s so depressing that teens should feel this way, when they have so much on their plate. I’m off to sign the petition now. Thanks for linking up this important post to #coolmumclub xx
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    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 3:13 pm

      That is exactly it Talya, it is depressing that so many should feel so fearful and that their happiness should be further threatened by the removal of important local funding. Thanks for your support – every signature counts.

  8. November 23, 2017 / 10:46 am

    I worked in Tottenham and Bermondsey with young people and it’s hard. When I worked, The Salmon Centre, was having a lot of its funding cut because of David Cameron’s Big Society and all the funding going to programmes that involved work linking with universities. There are so many issues in inner cities and more can be done to help young people navigate life in a positive way. You can also be streetwise and fall prey to crime. I think the important thing is to keep focusing on positive activities and experiences. London is amazing (so is the world), if we are coloured by these experiences they can bring us down. I would take the kids on Banksy hunts and get them to navigate London, collect rubbish (wash it) and create music, street photography and make short stories and poems about their area. I’d also get them to the museums and art galleries. We reworked the fresh prince of Bel Air to a tune for South London. Joy can be found and pride built upon. The more people that do this the, the more community is built. If something happens it is often out of your control but this work is in your control and can be powerful. #CoolMumClub

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 12:26 pm

      I am so glad that you have taken the time to share your professional experience. You clearly worked hard to make a difference and your story is a perfect example of how these local services are a valuable tool in creating a harmonious local community and as you say this is all within our control. Thank you for stopping by.

  9. November 22, 2017 / 2:47 pm

    Okay first I just have to ask, I thought guns were illegal in the UK for citizens? At least that’s what I’m told over here in the U.S whenever the gun control debate comes up (which is every single day). I am sorry to hear that your son went through that. I grew up on the outskirts of a major city and spent my early childhood years in the worst parts of that city so I can completely understand what you mean about being safe and the fear of crime. It seems that the more people you have crowded in one place, the more opportunities there are to commit crimes because there are more of a diverse group of people. As my teenager gets older I worry about a lot of things happening to him too. The world is a scary place and we parents can only protect our kids for so long before they have to learn how to protect themselves. That’s not very comforting. #mg

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 9:45 am

      Hi Michelle, yes you are right guns are illegal in the UK but it does not prevent some from having access to one. As I said I was quite shocked by the TV report here that showed the prevalence of weapons on the street. It seems that nowadays nowhere is completely safe from crime and as you say with regard to our children unfortunately they have to learn as we did how to best protect themselves and not putting themselves in scenarios of potential danger. Thank you for sharing your views. #mg

  10. November 22, 2017 / 11:53 am

    I am sorry to hear that you son had this awful experience. I do think that as a community we need to support children who are from awful homes and have a lack of love and guidance in their lives, if we did more to help I think they would less likely turn to crime. Of course I am not saying I excuse their behaviour it is just so sad and tragic that these potentially great kids end up unloved and turn to crime. It is hard as a parent to know how much we should wrap our children up and shelter them and how much we should let them speed their wings!? My sister was badly beaten on a train by a group of young girls being encouraged by a group of young males when she was a teenager, she had broken ribs and cuts in her mouth, it was very scary. Thank you for sharing with #mg
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    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 9:52 am

      It stands to reason I suppose that without love and guidance children will be easily led down the wrong path, but the resources provided here in the UK by our local authorities are invaluable in giving children interests and therefore a purpose. Only this week I read an article with UK actor Adrian Lester who credits the drama group at his local youth centre for setting him up in his career. A terrible story about your sister. That must have been totally terrifying. Thanks for sharing Mac. #mg

  11. November 20, 2017 / 2:24 pm

    Really important post , my teen boys love going to the football but when they go to away matches I do worry that bit more . Knife crime a huge problem right now #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 9:55 am

      The job of worrying is such a big part of our role as a mum isn’t it and it seems that every time we get over one hurdle there is another that comes along in its wake. Sometimes with many of these crimes as well I wonder how much is about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and it is scary that young people don’t seem to consider the horrific consequences of some actions.

  12. November 20, 2017 / 1:23 pm

    Close to all of our hearts this one Jo and certainly close to home. We have had some horrendous crime locally in recent times. It sends shivers down my spine. Does one fear more for boys at times like this? I would have thought so. A whole different set of worries for the girls. A sobering and very well written post, Nicky #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 9:58 am

      No pocket of London is safe it seems. We have had lots of crime in our area and when it is so close to home it is a scary reality. Thanks for your comment Nicky.

  13. November 19, 2017 / 7:14 pm

    I do think it’s another classic divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ of the country Jo. Kids from wealthy families have plenty of (expensive) after school activities to keep them occupied in safe environments whereas children from poorer families tend to spend more time in parks, streets etc. where they are more vulnerable. As they get older they can hop in taxis to get themselves home. I agree that publicly funded youth centres and activities are so vital. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 10:01 am

      There are also those have-nots that just don’t receive the emotional support they need at home to guide them in life and that is another reason why the children’s services are so vital. We tend to forget about all the invaluable support they give to our community which is sometimes lost in the bad news stories that do emerge. It is time to start championing their cause again. Thanks for your comment Sharon.

  14. 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

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 10:04 am

      Suzanne your perspective is always so interesting as your children really have been exposed to such a wide range of living environments and personal experiences, which has equipped them with a level of independence and personal awareness that many of our children lack. They all sound like very capable young men.

  15. 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

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 10:07 am

      I remember attending a security talk for want of a better word at my daughter’s school and the prevailing message was that whilst we as parents shouldn’t hide threat from our children it is important not to scare them and to put the risk in perspective as it is rare. I try to abide by this advice but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry. As with my son I thought he street wise but everyone gets caught out some times. It is a difficult balance.

  16. Oldhouseintheshires
    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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    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 11:44 am

      Crime is unavoidable wherever you live but it is clearly more prevalent in the cities and sadly the nature of it is so violent with so many vicious personal attacks involved. I shudder at some of the stories I have heard and am not looking forward to the time my daughter wants to start venturing out alone more. It is always more difficult with girls isn’t it, but you are right Sophie open communication is vital. Similarly as you know from my earlier posts I agree that the rise in social media is not helping with their anxiety levels. Thanks for sharing your experiences Sophie.

  17. 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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    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 11:46 am

      You are right Mary and someone else has raised that same point. We need to get the balance right between preparing them to deal with potentially difficult or dangerous situations and not getting them to a point where they are not going out and enjoying life.

  18. 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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    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 12:14 pm

      I couldn’t agree more Katy. Social media has a wealth of benefits but it can be become obsessive unless you have the self-discipline to monitor your usage. My daughter is the worst in our house. Thanks for your comment as always.

  19. 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.

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 12:20 pm

      Similarly Lisa my kids’ schools have been really good about bringing in people to talk them about crime and what not to do when out to attract danger etc which is great because it does equip them in some ways to deal with a scenario – not least in my son’s case to not fight back and just do as you are told…but that has worked so far, it may not the next time around. I like your idea of sending in reformed criminals…the news report on BBC showed a man who was involved in knife crime and has been to prison and how he is now using his experience to go out and talk to boys/gangs locally about crime, carrying weapons etc and in some instances videoing them and showing the videos to their parents. People like that are really admirable. Thanks for your comment and sharing your thoughts.

  20. Alisa
    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!!

    • Jo
      November 23, 2017 / 12:23 pm

      Oh Alisa! No apology needed. Clearly it is something you feel passionate about and you have made some really valuable points here, not least that the government needs to consider its priorities. Perhaps a more holistic approach is needed to tackling crime in our country and certainly keeping our local services for children is a necessity in tackling crime prevention. Hope you signed the petition!

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