The Internet has conquered and penetrated young people’s world by many different routes. There is no doubt about that. But, how much is too much when it comes to using the internet? Particularly today, when, according to an Ecorys and YoungMinds report, one in three Internet users globally are under the age of 18. Furthermore, the report revealed that it is not enough to impose restrictions or ban the internet for young people – rather, we need to look at long-lasting solutions. For instance, help them build online resilience, so they can reap the benefits of the online world.
“As I got towards my teenage years, when I started to get social media accounts, people used to call me names online, comment on my pictures, share content without my knowledge, tag me in inappropriate pictures, and use really hateful terms. You shouldn’t have to hide who you are online, and you shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. We need to tackle hate and encourage young people to be positive and help each other online.” Tamanna Miah, 19, experienced cyberbullying as a teenager and is now an activist for YoungMinds.
The report, entitled ‘Resilience for the Digital World’ highlighted the importance of building young people’s “digital resilience,” rather than solely focusing on protecting them from risky content online. The report also calls for a new approach to ensure that the online world does not damage our youngsters’ mental health.
Sarah Brennan, Chief Executive of YoungMinds said: “Our research shows that children and young people understand the online world a lot better than most adults. It’s important to encourage children to stay safe, but we should also encourage them to create positive content, to offer support to others who are struggling, to build empathy and responsibility, to identify and deal with challenging content, and to explore how to balance their lives, online and offline.”
Laurie Day, Director of Children at Ecorys, said: “The research aimed to draw together what we know about the digital aspects of children and young people’s social and emotional wellbeing, and to consider the risks and opportunities they encounter within their everyday lives.”
How can you help build resilience online for young people?
- Every school must plan and take action regarding how they help children develop digital resilience, and embed this in their E-safety curriculum.
- All students in schools should have engaging, accessible and age-appropriate information available about mental health, especially on the sites they use. This will act as a helpful guide if students are struggling with addiction or any other mental health problems.
- Company websites must take responsibility to support young people who may be suffering from social media addiction – by providing pop-ups that direct them to resources and support.
- Teachers, parents and professionals working in child and adolescent mental health services need to understand youngsters’ experience of the online world and help them build their digital resilience.
- Another way to monitor children’s digital footprint is to utilise e-Safety solutions for your school. Securus Software has been instrumental in safeguarding students online – our solutions are a simple and cost-effective approach to ensuring acceptable use of internet and email.