A critical new digital service that provides parents of teenagers with information and advice on issues such as bullying, sex and communication was launched today by leading online youth mental health organisation ReachOut Australia.

The service is being made available after research undertaken by ReachOut revealed that the issues of most concern to parents with teenagers are communication, peer pressure, and school and study stress.

ReachOut.com/Parents is a free online service providing evidence-based practical support and tips that encourage effective communication and relationships between parents and young people aged 12–18 years, as well as easy-to-read information on a range of mental health and wellbeing issues. A key feature of ReachOut Parents is a peer-to-peer forum where parents can connect with each other to share experiences in an anonymous, supportive space.

‘Parenting teenagers is more complex than ever,’ ReachOut CEO Jono Nicholas said. ‘This is the first generation of parents who’ve had to deal with issues like their kids’ social media use, cyberbullying and when their kids should get their first mobile phone.

‘Today’s parents are also very time-poor, and are increasingly turning online for information and advice. While there’s lots of online help out there for parents of babies and toddlers, we have found that there isn’t much support for parents of teenagers, which is when parenting can become much more complicated. The ReachOut Parents service will provide parents with support on a range of issues whenever they need it – at any time of the day or night.’

ReachOut Parents will:

  • help parents to understand what their child is going through
  • offer suggested strategies to help parents support and have conversations with their children
  • encourage parents to read and share their insights on the community forum.

There will also be stories from parents, videos from child psychologists, and pathways for further support services if parents or young people are in serious distress.

‘Parents play a vital role in the mental health and wellbeing of their children – from the identification of an issue through to whether or not a young person will access support1 – and with the majority of mental health issues emerging during the teenage years, it makes sense to equip parents with the practical strategies to support their children.

‘Some parents will come to ReachOut Parents because of a pressing concern and they’ll find practical help and support. Others may want to be prepared for the teenage years, and they’ll find experiences from other parents who have “been there” really helpful,’ Mr Nicholas said.

As well as collaborating with sector partners, ReachOut carried out extensive research to inform the service approach, including quantitative research with 1100 parents and focus groups in both metropolitan and regional areas of Australia. The research helped identify how parents are using technology for help-seeking, the issues they wanted help with, and how they wanted support and advice presented to them.

Mr Nicholas said the research found that communication was the top concern of parents when it comes to their teenagers. ‘Although parents reported a range of concerns relating to their teenagers, such as school and study stress, peer pressure, bullying, and drugs and alcohol, their biggest concern was how to communicate with their young person about these issues. Parents reported that it can be hard to know how to broach an issue with a young person, and to know when is the right time to do that. ReachOut Parents will be able to provide them with support around this.’

Social Services Minister Christian Porter said, ‘We know that in order to help reduce bullying and to influence behaviours in youth, we must reach out to the people that most influence their lives. This service provides tools to parents, grandparents and others to help them effectively communicate with teenagers, to start conversations and to help provide our kids with coping skills and advice during what are typically tough years in a young person’s life.’

New stories, fact sheets and features, including a coaching program delivered in partnership with the Benevolent Society, will be added to the service throughout the year.

ReachOut Parents has been funded by the Federal Department of Social Services.

 

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Media enquiries

For interviews, images and further information please contact:
Leanne Budd, Communications Manager on 0457 505 342 or leanne@reachout.com

 

About ReachOut Australia

ReachOut is Australia’s leading online mental health organisation for young people, providing practical support to help them get through everything from everyday issues to tough times.

Since 1998, ReachOut has worked alongside young people to deliver online tools that address youth mental health and reduce youth suicide. An extension to ReachOut’s service for young people was launched in 2016 to help parents and carers improve the mental health and wellbeing of the young people within their family environment.

Available anytime and pretty much anywhere, ReachOut.com is accessed by 110,000 Australians each month. That’s more than 1.31 million people each year.

 

References

  1. Erica Boulter and Debra Rickwood, ‘Parents’ Experience of Seeking Help for Children with Mental Health Problems’, Advances in Mental Health, 11(2), 2013.

 

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