With today being World Mental Health Day, in this blog we look at how the internet can play a role in young people’s mental health and how young people are looking out for their friends and others online.
The internet can play an essential role in fostering and encouraging positive mental health for young people. At the same time, there are potential negative impacts it can have on young people, including negative online relationships, body image pressures and exposure to upsetting or even harmful content.
In our Safer Internet Day 2018 research we looked at the role technology played in young people’s relationships as well as their wellbeing. We found that almost one in five (19%) of respondents aged 8-17 have thought about stopping using social media because it has a negative impact on their mood.
What have young people talked to us about their time online
As a part of our Safer Internet Day research we found that young people had a variety of experiences online, with a majority experiencing kindness online and using technology to keep in touch with their friends, but some also experiencing others being mean or offensive online. The key findings from this research were:
- In the last year, four in five (83%) respondents aged 8-17 have experienced people being kind to them online
- Over half (54%) of respondents aged 8-17 said they would feel isolated if they couldn’t talk to their friends via technology
- Two in five (40%) say they feel left out when people post things they haven’t been included in
- More than three in five (62%) respondents aged 8-17 have seen people posting offensive, mean or threatening things online in the last year,
- Almost half (49%) of those surveyed have experienced people being mean to them online in the last year
Looking out for others
The majority of young people (78%) believe that every person on the internet has a responsibility to be respectful. Young people are looking out for one another online, with almost nine in ten (88%) young people aged 8-17 sending a kind message online to a friend who was feeling upset in the last year.
It is important for young people to look out for each other online. They can play a crucial role in creating kind, respectful and supportive online communications, by empathising with others and being there for their peers.
Young people also need to be empowered to take control of their digital wellbeing, by recognising their emotions and the way that their use of digital technology can impact on their self-esteem and mood, so that they are able to implement strategies to achieve a healthy relationship with technology. It is important too that young people have support networks – whether friends, family or school – so they feel confident to speak up about any worries they have and can get the support they need.
Knowing what to do next and who to talk to
Young people are formulating coping strategies to help them manage the potentially negative aspects of being online. When asked what they would do if someone upset them online, respondents aged 8-17 said they would be most likely to:
1. Do something else offline that I enjoy (65%)
2. Do something else online that I enjoy (63%)
3. Speak to a parent or carer (62%)
4. Speak to friends (60%)
5. Report it or block the person (58%)
However, although it is great that young people are coming up with their own ways of dealing with negative experiences online, it is important to remember that we all play a part in supporting young people and helping to create a better online world for them.
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. We encourage everyone to have a conversation with their children 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.
There are also many places that young people can go for support if they need to, these include: