by Shelley Metcalfe of Digital Resilience
The number of schools clamping down on the use of smart phones during school hours is increasing as a number of reports point to the harmful effects of social media on young people’s well-being. With speculation that social media may be fueling a mental health crisis and research suggesting that heavy use is linked to poor mental health in teens, it is evident that young people need greater support to deal with the pressures of growing up digital.
Social media can also undoubtedly also have positive impacts on the lives of young people – building friendships, honing communication skills, as well as being a potential source of advice and emotional support. It is clearly here to stay. So how can we help build young people’s resilience to any difficulties they do experience online?
Using these simple strategies, you can help the young people in your life be prepared for the challenges of the digital age — and know how to respond positively if they do arise.
Prepare them for when they are upset by something online (it could be inappropriate content that slips through the filters, worrying or abusive contact or just an upsetting comment from a 'friend'.)
Ø Familiarise them with possible issues in advance, forewarned is forearmed.
Ø Show them how to block individuals and where to report incidents.
Ø Emphasise the importance of telling someone and talking it out.
Show them how easily digital pictures can be manipulated
Ø Explain how Snapchat and Instagram almost always use filters to make images look better.
Ø The story of social media star Essena O’Neill who quit Instagram is a is a useful one to share with any teen that you think may be suffering from feelings of inadequacy arising from excessive social use.
Help them to think through the potential consequences of what they post online
Ø Show how everything is easy to share with a wide, public, and unknown audience.
Ø Explain how screenshots and local copies of their pictures and posts mean that nothing is ever really deleted.
Encourage in-person socializing
Communicating solely via screens can be highly isolating, so enable them to spend time face-to-face with friends. Social media scholar and youth researcher danah boyd argues that “teens turn to, and are obsessed with, whichever environment allows them to connect with their friends. Most teens aren’t addicted to social media; if anything, they’re addicted to each other”.
Ø Suggest they call a friend for a chat if they are feeling out of the loop.
Ø Provide or help them find time to physically be with their friends, enjoying their company and developing relationships that they value.
Start talking today, talk little, and often
Ø Drop in handy tips on a daily basis, chat through hypothetical scenarios, and offer up ideas to avoid tricky situations.
Ø If you’re not sure where to start, Common Sense Media and NSPCC’s Net Aware are good resources for finding out about the sites, apps and games young people are using, and the potential risks involved. You can then discuss the potential risks on the platforms they use or plan to use and, together, come up with ways to minimize those risks.
Ø Encourage them to talk to their peers. (Net Aware also helpfully give advice from other young people.) Chatting with other young people about potential risks - and how to deal with them - will build their resilience to any challenging encounters they may have.
Blog provided by Digital Resilience, a social enterprise that develops digital literacy and life skills for young people. To find out more about their work, visit www.digitalresilience.org.uk or follow them on twitter.