More than 5,000 teens aged 16 and 17 are so stressed over problems like violence and sex crimes they cannot sleep, a study by a children’s charity has concluded.
The Children’s Society said it estimated there were 1,500 Northampton teens in that age group suffering with insomnia caused by worry.
The charity says they are more likely to go missing or be a victim of violent crime than any other age group.
They are also at a high risk of sexual exploitation and domestic violence.
Jane Deamer, director of the Northamptonshire youth charity Service Six, said the age group is subject to several unique kinds of pressures all at once.
She said : “People aged 16 and 17 are right on the cusp of changes in what they can and can’t do legally, they have all sorts of other pressures such as exams that could affect the rest of their lives.
“Its a period of transitions that they have to cope with.”
Mrs Deamer said talking to friends or family can often reveal some worries to be blown out of proportion, but said Service Six was available to support young people with any of the anxieties highlighted in the new report.
The Children’s Society figures, based on an Opinium poll of over 1,000 16 and 17-year-olds across the UK, are being released to coincide with the launch of The Children’s Society’s new report, Seriously Awkward.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds face unique problems, the national charity says, because they have greater freedom than younger children, which can put them in potentially risky situations such as being exposed to drugs, alcohol or adults who intend them harm.
Children’s services may also overlook them because they are deemed older and more resilient, but often they may lack financial independence to remove themselves from harmful situations.
And far from receiving the help they need, charity bosses claim the age group is being “systematically let down by the law” and does not get the same basic safeguards as younger children.
For example, laws exist to protect 16 and 17-year-olds against specific crimes such as assault or sexual offences. However, there is no catch-all law to protect them from sustained child cruelty like there is for younger children.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “This research reveals that a generation of teenagers are being let down by society. “All children including those aged 16 and 17 should feel safe and supported and that’s why we’re urgently calling on the Government to change the law to protect all 16 and 17 year olds from abuse and neglect, provide better services to support them, and offer special protection for those who are most vulnerable.”
For more information or to sign a petition to change the law to protect 16 and 17 year