14-18 year olds
The internet and technology has become such an integral part of everyday life for young people and is inbuilt into many of their social interactions, information gathering and presentation of their self to the wider world. Young people aged 14-18 are usually very active users of the internet and this is often perpetuated by a society which is fully immersed in the digital world. Much of our communication with loved ones, applications for courses or jobs or submitting work now happens solely online. Here are some of the main factors relating to digital wellbeing which can affect a young person aged 14-18:
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It is likely that young people may engage with technology and the internet for extended periods of time every day/ week. In 2017 over a third (37.3 per cent) of UK 15 year olds were considered ‘extreme internet users’ for using the internet for more than six hours outside of school on a typical weekend day.
This has been linked with young people's wellbeing with those in the UK giving a life satisfaction score of 6.59 out of 10 compared to 7.40 for moderate inernet users. Evidence from research points towards a correlation between extreme use of social media and harmful effects on young people’s wellbeing. Those classed as ‘extreme internet users’ were more likely to report being bullied (17.8%) than moderate internet users (6.7%).
However, not all online experiences are negative for young people and some can give them a sense of achievement and belonging and even allow them to share their talents and creative flair. When it comes to using technology and the internet it all comes down to quality and not quantity, meaning that we should focus on making our use purposeful and aim to strike a healthy balance between online and offline experiences.
Content which challenges our thoughts, values and beliefs
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Online we can see and experience things we are expecting or that are welcome and things which make us feel uncomfortable, anxious or even distressed. When young people witness things online that they weren't expecting to see it could leave them with questions or challenge their own thoughts, values and beliefs. Depending upon the nature of what they have seen sometimes it can be difficult for a young person to reach out for help in understanding what they have seen for fear of judgement or embarrassment.
This content could include adult websites like pornography or gambling, discriminatory content or messages or extreme content which could include pro-suicide, pro-eating disorders, pro-self harm and radicalisation. Unfortunately, not all online content is positive and some can have a worrying impact on the digital wellbeing of young people.
Building an online presence or 'brand'
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Due to a rise in social influencers and daily use of social media, young people may feel pressured online to look a certain way or conform to a particular ‘ideal’. This doesn't just include pressure about your body (size, shape etc) but also on what you wear (branded clothing etc.), how you pose, what filter you use etc.This pressure, along with how celebrities use social media, has promoted some young people to develop their own personal online ‘brand’. This ‘brand’ often consists of selecting a certain look and style to your photos so that all of your online content has a uniform feel. It can be achieved by having a chosen filter or style of image with the hope of receiving more likes or follows.
This pressure to conform to a certain look may leave young people unnecessarily comparing themselves to an unrealistic idea of ‘perfection’. Some people have chosen to fight back against this online pressure and become part of a body positive movement online sharing more realistic portray of body image and messages about being body positive. However, in 2017;
- 43% of young people said they worry about how attractive they look online
- 30% said they have felt sad about their appearence after seeing something online
- 45% use filters to make themselves look better online.
Using the internet as a supportive tool
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At this age, young people are likely to be using social media and other online services to meet a variety of needs around communication, information, education and entertainment. With growing independence online comes the need to critically evaluate;
how websites, social media and other online services make a young person feel and think,
how the presentation of choices online may ‘nudge’ them into certain decisions,
how information online can change views and beliefs,
how contact and pressure from peers and others online can affect behaviour and well-being,
how use of a site/service can positively/negatively impact on a young person’s health and well-being.
Being able to identify and assess features that may negatively impact on wellbeing is crucial; it empowers a young person to make more informed and reasoned choices (for themselves and on behalf of others) and recognise when further advice or support is required.
When it comes to supporting young people aged 14-18 with digital wellbeing we need to empower them to make choices which are right for them and will make their online lives purposeful, positive and inspiring.
5 top tips for supporting children aged 14-18 online
- Remember that technology is an integral part of life - It is important to acknowledge that technoology has become an integral part of life and many daily actions require its use. Young people are on the verge of entering an adult world where they will need to be efficient technology users for social interactions, employment, and life tasks such as banking. Technology and the internet should be there to enhance and simplify our lives rather than be a cause of distraction, worry or upset and we need to support young people in striking this balance.
- Use techology purposefully within your family - It is important that we model a healthy use of technology which shows young people healthy routines and purposeful use as this will have an impact on their own use and can give them ideas of how to self manage their time online. This could be as simple as charging devices away from the bedroom at night or not using devices when eating or engaging with loved ones.
- Use wellbeing controls - Lots of devices and platforms now offer tools to help you manage your time online and be aware of how your use may be affecting your digital wellbeing. Many devices allow you to turn off notifications for apps and offer a 'do not disturb' mode which can help you to use a platform or app less. Many apps and devices will now tell you how long you have spent on their service that day and offer tips. Visit the useful links on the digital wellbeing hot topic for more ideas.
- Sign post to appropriate support - It's important that young people know who they can turn to for support, whether this is a trusted adult at home or school or by contacting a helpline. Visit our 'Need help?'page for young people for further advice, support and suggested helplines.
- Stay informed - It's important that you know what to do or where to go for help if ever your child does need help with something that is worrying or upsetting them online. Visit our 'Need help?' page for parents and carers for more advice, support and reporting routes.
Conversation starter ideas
A simple and effective way to get involved in your child's online life is through discussion. An open dialogue is the best way to help your child access the amazing resources the internet has to offer whilst keeping them safe online.
- What sort of content/behaviour/activities online affect our wellbeing…positively? negatively?
- How do you decide if a site/service is having a positive or negative impact on you?
- Do you think in general we have more positive or negative experiences online?
- How would you support someone you thought was struggling with their wellbeing online?
- Who could you talk to if you thought someone was struggling with their wellbeing online?