Mental Health Awareness Week takes place this week (16th – 22nd May) with the theme relationships.
The relationships young people have online and offline can have a huge impact on their safety and wellbeing.
Online there is potential for cyberbullying, negative online relationships and exposure to harmful content which can effect young people’s mental health.
Earlier this year Parent Zone published a report - The Perfect Generation: Is the Internet Undermining Young People's Mental Health? – which revealed “a generation of young people torn between positive feelings towards the internet (74.5% report that it makes them happy), yet an acknowledgment that there are areas they would tell friends to avoid. 36% of young people who were surveyed admit they would suggest friends avoid Facebook if they were feeling worried or upset.”
The 24/7 nature of technology can mean that young people are exposed to online risks, and young people need to be supported to manage their technology use in a healthy and positive way, that facilitates their contact with positive support networks and protects them from triggers and potentially harmful content and contacts.
As the Parent Zone research found the internet can also provide young people with positive support networks, online counselling and advice. 28% of respondents said their first steps if they were upset or had a problem would be some kind of online help, ranging from a Google search to an information service for young people.
The important thing we can all do is to talk to young people about their use of technology and help them to navigate the complex online environment with a strong support network of family, friends, teachers and professionals around them. That’s why, this Mental Health Awareness Week, we are encouraging everyone to have a conversation with their child about their use of technology:
- Understand their interests online: What are your favourite websites and apps? Why do you like them? Why do they make you happy?
- Get them to teach you! Can you show me how to use <insert app/website>? What’s the best thing about it?
- Understand the negatives: What are the worst things about the internet? Have you ever experienced any of those issues? What would help young people to be happier online?
- Help them support their friends: How would you support a friend online who was feeling low? What would you do if your friend posted worrying messages or content online? Read our blog looking out for a friend online for more tips.
Further advice and support
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week visit the Mental Health Foundation.
Visit www.youngminds.org.uk for advice about young people’s mental health, including their parent helpline (0808 802 5544).
Visits http://www.samaritans.org if you need to talk to someone. Plus see their guide about helping a friend who might be struggling to cope, which they launched with Facebook