New study warns of confidence crisis amongst British teenagers

Sky Academy has published extensive new research examining the confidence issues faced by young people aged 11-24 in the UK.

Sky Academy has published extensive new research examining the confidence issues faced by young people aged 11-24 in the UK. The findings paint a stark picture of British adolescence as one in three young people surveyed (33%) claim they are not confident.

The study, which was carried out in collaboration with YouGov for Sky Academy, features findings drawn from over 1,600 young people aged between 11-24 years old and 600 parents of children aged 11-24 across the country. In response to the findings, Sky Academy has launched a Confidence Month, in a bid to highlight the importance of confidence in young people's development. As part of the campaign, Sky Academy will showcase its initiatives which aim to build practical skills, experience and confidence to unlock the potential of one million young people by 2020.

Confidence is lowest among 17-year-olds

The research identified that by the time young people reach the age of 17, nearly half (45%) claim they are 'not confident'. The pressures of exams, relationships and defining their identity can have an impact on confidence. At the age of 17, some teenagers also experience increasing levels of self-doubt as they are exposed to a constant tension between wanting to be the same as their friends (49%) and wanting to stand out as an individual (44%).

Despite this decline in confidence, the findings indicate that nearly two in five (37%) social media users aged 14-17 surveyed online feel they can be more confident via these channels than in person. While 31% of young people aged 14-17 claim they can be more honest on social media about issues that worry them. This demonstrates that as young people mature, teenagers prefer to seek support and advice from online followers and friends.  However, the use of social media does not necessarily translate into increased confidence in reality, as it only provides a buffer to the outside world.

In contrast to this, the research identified 11-year-olds were the most confident age group in the study (73%). This age group is largely built up by close friends and family, ensuring young people can try new things, practice and voice their opinion in an environment where they will be reassured and encouraged. Receiving supportive feedback was identified as a fundamental factor behind this confidence boost, with 82% of 11-year-olds receiving praise from their parents.

The confidence curve

The findings suggest that as young people mature they go on a confidence journey. Confidence peaks amongst pre-teen children as they have less to worry about and seek external validation from parents, teachers and club activity leaders. The pursuit of self-discovery and facing constant unfamiliar territory at the height of teenage years causes a dip in confidence levels as young people become more worried about how they come across and express themselves in front of others (64%).  It is not until young people build life experience and develop a clearer sense of identity in their late teens and early twenties that confidence begins to return.

The confidence gender gap

As part of the nationwide study, the research discovered a noticeable difference between the confidence levels of teenage girls and boys. Despite out-performing boys by 8.4% in the 2015 GCSE results (grades A*-C), girls' confidence levels were still lower than their male counter parts (67% vs. 60%). When asked to select what affects their confidence, the biggest factor girls' identified was 'appearance' and the 'clothes they wear.' Over two thirds (66%) of girls' confidence is influenced by how attractive / unattractive they feel, compared to just 46% of boys. 

The gender divide continues as figures reveal that girls are more likely to struggle with new and unfamiliar experiences, which make them feel unconfident. The research found that 61% of girls struggle with confidence when starting a first day at school, college or a job, compared to only 46% of boys. These findings suggest that girls prefer to seek protection with familiar people and situations.

Confidence trumps being naturally clever

Figures confirmed that both parents and young people aged 11-24 believe confidence is an important factor to achieving life success. Learnt attributes such as communication skills (98% parents, 95% kids), confidence (97% parents, 90% kids) and resilience (96% parents, 91% kids) were identified as more important factors in being successful compared to innate attributes such as being naturally clever (72% parents, 67% kids).

Despite the pressures placed on young people to study and do well at school, 82% of parents surveyed believe 'appearance' is a vital element in being successful, while 72% rate being naturally clever as being important.

Parental role in boosting confidence

Throughout the teenage years, parents remain a critical source of support. However the findings suggest there is a considerable disconnect as parents have an inflated sense of their child's confidence. Overall nearly one in four parents think their child is not confident, yet the number of kids aged 11-24 saying they lack confidence is one in three. Similarly, parents underestimate the impact of certain situations on their child's confidence. While 32% of children say they feel nervous when around peers they believe are popular or attractive, only 9% of parents realise this is an issue for their child. When delving deeper into the findings, mothers and female guardians were identified as being the primary praise-giver (78%) closely followed by friends (74%). Fathers and male guardians were regarded lower with 66% of young people claiming their dads offered them a substantial confidence boost.

Sky Academy Ambassador Jessica Ennis-Hill said: "Nothing is more powerful than confidence. In my career it was my parents who first gave me the encouragement and confidence to overcome boundaries and achieve my goals. It was then about hard work and determination to build the skills I needed to succeed.  I'm thrilled to be involved in the Sky Academy Confidence Month and I hope to inspire and encourage a newfound confidence amongst young people."  

Child confidence expert Annette Du Bois added: "Today more than ever before, young people across the UK are feeling emotional imbalance, general insecurity, low self-esteem and a lack of confidence, creating anxiety and mild to excessive unhappiness. The modern and complex world has created the fertile ground upon which emotional and psychological pressures are felt much earlier on. Trying to keep up, gain acceptance or fit in, both online and offline can lead to a decline in wellbeing, life-skills, and social interaction. By learning effective, easy to apply, purpose-designed tools and techniques to build confidence, young people develop lasting self-belief to reach their full potential in life."

Lucy Carver from Sky Academy said: "It's clear from these findings and our own research that confidence plays a crucial role in helping young people succeed and unlock their potential. Having worked with over quarter of million eight to 24 year olds so far, we know that by providing real experiences, Sky Academy builds skills which ultimately build confidence. It's our aim to help one million young people by 2020."

Youth Sport Trust Director of External Relations Phil Chamberlain added: "This research demonstrates the worrying and stark reality of the issues faced by young people today. Our work, through programmes such as Sky Sports Living for Sport is vital in addressing these problems.

"As with this survey, our own research through the Class of 2035 report has told us of the increasingly important role technology plays in young people's lives and we will continue to develop and innovate to meet their needs. Sport provides young people with opportunities to build their confidence, resilience and creativity and Sky's ongoing support allows us to reach more people than ever before year on year."

Sky Academy Confidence Month

Today (23 September) Sky Academy launches a nationwide Confidence Month. The initiative will be supported by a host of ambassadors including Jessica Ennis-Hill, Davina McCall, Alfie Deyes, Sir Chris Hoy, Ella Eyre, Justine Roberts, and Melvyn Bragg. Over the course of the next month, the ambassadors will be taking part in various Sky Academy initiatives up and down the country to engage with young people and share their experiences of how confidence has played a positive role in their career. 

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