Being a teenager is, and has always been, a testing but developmentally exciting time. A moment where an overwhelming desire to develop and assert an individual identity is accompanied with a compelling need to belong.

To be accepted, in particular, by peers. This along with all the others things pre-teens and early teens face - like body changes, new schools, increased independence, greater access to the online world and wider social horizons - mean it's an incredibly challenging lifestage to navigate.

Add to this the modern phenomenon of social media and the 'requirement' for profile management, and one might imagine it's never been harder to be a teen endeavouring to feel good. But is this indeed the case? Numerous studies, academic reports and government papers have looked at the impact of lifestage challenges on teens' behaviour, and how this in turn impacts on society in the short and long term.

Boots wanted to find how a sample of today's teenagers are doing. To find out what impacts their wellbeing. To ask them how they feel. Find out whether they feel good. And if not, why not?

The Me, My Selfie and I study, developed in conjunction with the renowned clinical psychologist Professor Tanya Byron, a specialist in child and adolescent mental health, provides an interesting insight into the state and wellbeing of 11-17 year olds and provides useful information for how we think about and support our teens.

Professor Tanya Byron says "While there are challenges, and for some struggles, in our sample, it is clear we have a generation of teens that are thoughtful, insightful and self-aware who value honesty and kindness. As adults, the less we judge this age group and write them off as challenging and difficult, the more we can enable them to navigate a complicated yet fundamental time of development as they transition into adulthood."

Despite these negative perceptions, our study shows that teens, on the whole, are happy with how they look. 63% of girls feel positive about their looks, 27% feel extremely positive. For boys, these figures are even higher, 72% feel good about the way they look. This positive outlook is also true of teens' view on their personality traits. Many are proud of who they are as a person, putting great value on their friendliness (55%), kindness (49%), trustworthiness (49%) and honesty (46%).

With health and obesity high on the national agenda, it seems a logical place to look next. Our research shows that seven out of ten teens consider themselves healthy (68%). What's more there's a recognition among teens that health plays a significant role in how they feel about themselves. 80% of teens agree that being healthy and living healthily helps them to feel and look their best. Encouragingly, 84% say they know how to lead a healthy life.

This holistic view seems to affect the way they see themselves on the outside too. Rather than change aspects of how they look, teens want to be the healthiest version of themselves. For example, 'bigger boobs' comes far down the list of things teen girls aged 15-17 aspire to have. Instead, having toned limbs are more prized (22%). The minority of teens that don't consider themselves healthy know why, citing lack of exercise, junk food and avoidance of their 5-a-day.

Professor Tanya Byron says "Public awareness of health and wellbeing has increased in recent years as public information and health promotion campaigns highlight the importance of good nutrition and exercise. In addition the development of the PSHE curriculum in schools shows how we recognise the value of educating young people on their health and wellbeing, as strategies for the prevention of obesity and ill health."

With celebrities selling books full of them, a selfie-stick designed to help you take them and charity initiatives piggy backing on their success - it's safe to say this really is the age of the selfie.

But for one in five teenage girls, seeing photos of themselves on social media makes them feel worse about themselves and this is most true for 15/16 year olds. 15% even say they "dread it" when they are tagged in a photo.

Also, it seems a huge part of this is down to image control. Girls' use of social media seems to be about curating an 'image' online - creating it and then guarding it from infringement by others. So much so in fact that only 19% of teens would describe their social media profile as a true reflection of who they are and how they feel: both good and bad.

For others, 25%, say they only post positive things about themselves on social media and 13% say their profile shows only the best possible version of themselves. While this behaviour is true of all teens, it is the girls who are far more affected by social media than boys - both the positive and the negative effects. Twice as many girls vs boys "dread it" when they are tagged in photo of girls (vs only 22% of boys) admit they 'love' getting likes and comments on photos.

Professor Tanya Byron says "Today's teens live lives that are both online and offline, their identities are created and moulded by what they see, how they present themselves and the feedback they get. This is a challenge to navigate at a sensitive time of personal, biological and brain development. Our digital natives, the 'selfie generation', have the opportunity to live their lives, 24/7, in the public eye and many do. Acceptance and a need to belong to the peer group mean that many teens can regard social media likes as authentic validation of themselves. With the opportunity to photoshop their images, our digitised teens can create a false image of themselves adding confusion to a challenging time of individuation and the development of identity."

"We need to understand this and empower our teens to develop the critical thinking skills needed to develop confidence and self-belief built around one's values and ideologies rather than an external locus of control (i.e. a sense of self developed around external markers such as looks and body shape)."

They listened to the teens and heard from them directly about some of the factors that both boost and threaten their 'feel good factor'. In doing this they identified, that with the right inspiration, help and encouragement, teens can feel better.

Young girls in particular feel they have to project an image of themselves that's unreal. They admit their social media profile and the images they post don't reflect who they really are and what they really look like. They filter and they photoshop in a bid to attract likes and to help them feel good.

Surely we all need to help move 'feel good' away from this distorted, two-dimensional version of reality and bring it back to being and celebrating the real person… so much more than a picture on a screen.

It may not be an earth-shattering discovery that many teens desperately want clearer healthier, skin and that this affects their confidence. But what's apparent is that the need in today's world of social media is more acute than ever.

Every teen has crises of confidence, the most common thing they wished for was to feel more confident in themselves. The research shows that teens are aware of the things that make them great - the aspects of their personality they value most, the talents they have, in short, their best bits… glossy hair, a cheeky smile and being a loyal and kind friend. Indeed, they want to be able to help each other and themselves. Perhaps this is where we should start looking for ideas on how to help raise confidence across the teen peer group.

This is only the start of the journey. We need to continue to listen to teens and encourage them to talk - sharing their feelings and opinions - so that we can learn and understand how, where and what we can do to provide support.

Professor Tanya Byron concludes "Despite the prevailing public perception that teenagers today are an unhappy generation, what we see in our study is that most of our teens manage to hold onto a positive view of themselves despite the challenges of the adolescent years. This is fundamentally important for all of us who raise, educate, work with and support teenagers to take on board as this data shows that many of our teens are insightful and honest and while sharing some of their more difficult feelings and behaviours, the majority in our study manage, at times, to maintain a positive and emotionally resilient outlook on themselves and their life."

"This tells us something important about this generation of teens because it highlights that they can both struggle with the challenges that their time of life throws up for them and also hold a positive mindset. Support, advice and interventions for teens therefore must not only be aimed at those who are really struggling and unhappy but also for those that take a realistic and mature view of life and come from a place of emotional resilience so that we can empower them to manage their positive outlook while navigating the challenges of their adolescence and maintain their physical, psychological and emotional health."

Me, My Selfie and I

Me, My Selfie and I

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