According to the Children’s Society’s latest annual Good Childhood Report 14% of 10 to 15 year-old girls in the last year or so are unhappy with their lives — predominantly on their physical attractiveness, or lack of it. This compares with an average figure of 11% in previous years. Boys have remained at 11% unhappiness.
Th increase of 3% in girls’ unhappiness may not seem much but the data is gathered from 40,000 households across the country so it’s real enough. The Children’s Society are worried enough to say “that concerted action is needed to tackle this problem”.
What is the cause? The Children’s Society think that because girls spend so much more time than boys on the social media — without specifically mentioning Facebook or Twitter! — then this is to blame. This is probably correct. Boys who spend time on the internet are more likely to be paying video games. In any case, emotional bullying among girls is twice as common as physical bullying is among boys.
If the internet is to blame for girls’ increased unhappiness then what can be done? Nothing, to be realistic. However, the figures for unhappiness clash with other data outside the purview of the Children’s Society. Boys’ unhappiness evidently increases significantly as they grow into young adulthood because their suicide rate is much greater than girls’.
The basic reason for the discrepancy is that girls’ brains develop years ahead of boys’ brains. They become adult three or four years sooner. Between 10 and 15 years of age girls are already feeling the instinctive need to have children and, therefore, the desirability to be physically attractive in order to clinch their choice of a good fellow parent when she’d found him.
All this even if, rationally, it makes more sense these days of more equal opportunities and pay to make a good career for themselves first. And here is a chink of light as to the solution. After puberty girls and boys really ought to go into separate education streams so that girls can forge ahead at greater speed than boys.
This ought to men that if girls are taking their A-levels three or four years younger than boys then they’ll have somewhat less time to spend on the internet. Also when they get to university, the boys in their (now mixed) classes will be three or four years older and — probably– feeling less pressured than they do now.
Separate streaming is inevitable one day in those countries which free up their secondary schools and competition between them drives the less efficient to the wall. It should also solve other problems such as the one that the Children’s Society is presently drawing outer attention to.