The root of the problem
When questioned as to what headteachers believe is behind the worrying trend, 58% cited the impact of social media, while 55% believed cyberbullying was a contributing factor, and 45% and noted the readily accessible online content promoting self-harm.
Additional factors included exam pressure (37%), poor digital wellbeing (32%), and a comparison culture promoting unrealistic body image expectations (29%).
With such emphasis now placed on exam grades, students are increasingly feeling pressure both in and out of the classroom to achieve academic success. But the reality is students can only reach the best of their ability and for some this may lead to feelings of inadequacy.
Team this with the pressures created from the online space, and these feelings of inadequacy can integrate into other aspects of their lives, from the way they look to the activities they do.
Understanding the new ways students cope with feelings
Our research also uncovered that 58% of young people admit to having a bad experience online at least once every week. And when asked how students cope with their feelings following these experiences, less than half admitted they would feel comfortable turning to their parents, while only 10% admitted they would turn to a teacher.
In contrast, 79% of headteachers believed that students would approach themselves or another member of teaching staff if they felt concerned about a negative online experience, exposing a worrying disjoint between pupils and teachers.
When reporting their chosen methods to deal with their feelings, 31% of students admitted they would talk to their friends online in order to feel better. Other emerging trends included writing their thoughts down on the computer, turning to social media, and searching online for others that feel the same way.
With so few students opting to confide to teachers, it’s important that school leaders and teaching staff are fully equipped to be able to spot the signs of self-harm so that the issue can be treated at the earliest stage possible.