Being mindful of the journey

Journalist and author, Madonna King, aims to help parents navigate through a variety of issues in her new book Being 14, a work which also gives young teen girls a voice in a world where they often feel no one is listening to what they are really trying to say.

King interviewed almost 200 14-year-old girls for the book, including day students and boarders in both public and private schools across Australia, and found often the same replies from a group of articulate and thoughtful young women who are often too easily labelled “evil princesses” and “difficult.”

What King found was young teens confused and vulnerable, trying their best to navigate  through an adolescence very different to that experienced by their parents and all they want is someone to listen.

King, a mother of young daughters herself, stated in an article on Mindful Parenting in the June 2017 issue of the Australian Boarding Schools Association magazine Lights Out that the following points are really important for parents and educators to consider:

  • Seven in every 10 14-year-old girls get insufficient sleep. This is not solely social media’s fault but can also be attributed to number of extra-curricular activities. They need at least nine hours at this age as it has been found 30 minutes of missed sleep can record a measured IQ difference of up to 10 points.
  • A common act of revenge amongst peers who have fallen out is the act of setting up fake social media accounts. This can have dreadful effects when the victim is set up and blamed for alleged spiteful and abusive communications.
  • Police and educators advise at least one third of teen girls will send a half naked picture of themselves to someone else. King explores the motivation behind this in her book and looks at why it is often the “good student” who falls foul here.
  • Frenetic home lives can add to the obsession with social media. After a disagreement with friends a young girl can come home, go into her room and stay there where the issues grow and grow. While teens are now more connected than ever, they can still feel utterly alone.
  • The ages 12-25 are crucial in the brains development, with the part that provides reasoning skills still developing over this period. Thus why some 14-year-olds may appear disorganised.
  • School refusal and self-harm are on the rise in what appears to be an anxiety epidemic for this age.  There are reports of students seeking counselling for not getting A grade marks  and this age group has made contact with Kids Helpline 22,000 times in the last four years.
  • Parents are encouraged to know and understand the social media their children are using. A 14-year-old with 650 friends on one social media platform could literally have 325,000 people able to contact her because of the number of followers each of her friends boast. Head of Taskforce Argos (the undercover police unit that tracks online sex offenders) Jon Rouse points the finger at parents saying it is up to us to be educated on this.


King covers issues in Being 14 as varied as pocket money and teen parties, self image and academic pressure, and relationships between teen girls and their mums and offers advice on keeping those ties strong.

The input from her interviews gives young teen girls a real voice, they confide what they really want us to know and the resonating wish is that we not only hear them, but that we really listen to what they are trying to tell us.