SINGAPORE - Expectations to perform well at school are a known source of stress for young people in Singapore, but students told Education Minister Chan Chun Sing at a dialogue on Friday (July 30) night that another is the social anxiety of missing out on the experiences of others.
The eight students were from secondary schools and junior colleges including St Patrick's School, Queensway Secondary School and Temasek Junior College.
Some students told Mr Chan that scrolling through social media often breeds the fear of missing out, otherwise known as Fomo.
Singapore Chinese Girls' School student Andrea Gracia Andradi said that many young people get anxious when they see others having fun while they are cooped up in their rooms studying.
"I think a lot of youth nowadays feel that they are missing out on a lot of fun things," said the Integrated Programme Year 4 student, "especially because our society can be so pressurising and it really puts restrictions on us".
Tampines Meridian Junior College student El'Yez Mu'Arif recounted how witnessing friends being outside while he was stuck at home was initially unbearable.
The first year junior college student said: "Seeing my friends go out all the time is like: Oh, again, I can't stand this."
Acknowledging that social media adds a new layer of stress where people would in the past be blissfully ignorant of what others were doing, Mr Chan said: "I think learning how to cope with this is also very important because, otherwise, you would be beholden to the entire social media feed and your whole psychology will be driven by this, and that's unhealthy."
Stellar grades and parental pressure to attain them are another point of stress.
"Parents have a really big role in children's lives," said second-year Tampines Meridian Junior College student Shreya Chandrababu.
"We always try to live up to their expectations."
"But sometimes, especially in Singapore, our success is determined by our grades," she said, adding that there are parents who expect children to study all day so they can get into a good university.
The stress arising from parental expectations of academic achievement has come under scrutiny in the past, most recently in the last two weeks, and many parents, including Mr Chan, have reflected on how success is defined.
Said Miss Shreya: "Sometimes parents might forget that mental health is a thing that they have to consider for their children."
Students said pressure also comes from within in the quest for excellence.
Cedar Girls' School Secondary 4 student Alea Hidayati Osman acknowledged her own expectations are sometimes as high as her parents.
Integrated Programme Year 6 student Chan Yi An from Dunman High School said: "It's very easy to get lost in the gaps in the sense that if you put too much pressure on yourself, you also kind of get a bit of tunnel vision at times."
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