School children with devices

Mental health in the online world: promoting ‘digital wellbeing’ this Children’s Mental Health Week

Bullying in schools is nothing new. But where previous generations of children could go home to safety, the viral nature of today’s digital world means students have no escape. Children can be on the receiving end of humiliating or degrading messages, images or videos 24/7.

Not only this, young people can be exposed to harmful content such as exploitation, grooming, eating disorders, gang membership, radicalisation, and trafficking. The result is a surge in the number of children and young people suffering from mental health issues caused by their online activities.

Promoting digital wellbeing amongst students

Smoothwall’s research revealed that 60% of school children have a negative experience online at least once a week. Indeed, two in five school children have expressed that they want teachers to do more to help them feel safe online. And this feeling is one that seems to be mirrored by teachers, with 79% of headteachers believing that more importance should be placed on the digital wellness of students.

To promote digital wellbeing amongst young people, Smoothwall has compiled some simple tips to help keep students feeling happy and safe online:

1. Acknowledge the filters – remind your students that people often share content that has been specifically selected and edited to present a particular version of themselves. It’s rarely an accurate portrayal of reality.

2. Encourage them to be kind – remind young people that what they say online is just as relevant in the real world – encourage them to avoid doing or saying anything that they wouldn’t say to face to face.

3. Ensure they understand privacy settings – make sure your students know how to change privacy settings and block and report other users across all platforms.

4. Be aware of how long they’re online – The Office for National Statistics has found a “clear association” between longer time spent on social media and mental health problems amongst children. It’s important that young people have some screen-free time. Why not encourage the children in your care to set aside some time each day to do something else e.g. physical exercise, reading a book or meditation?

5. Encourage them to talk to someone if they’re struggling online – in Smoothwall’s research, only 5% of children said they would confide in a teacher if they were being cyberbullied. Whether it’s a friend, family member, teacher or a helpline, remind them that there is always someone there to listen.

Some students may continue to experience harmful content online. In this instance, early identification is key to ensuring that the necessary support is provided at an early stage. This is where digital monitoring solutions can help.

Spotting those suffering in silence

Mental health problems are reported to affect one in ten young people. However, an alarming 70% of children and young people who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

Identifying at-risk students is now the task at hand for schools across the UK. But the good news is that technological advances in digital safeguarding and active monitoring make this easier than ever before.

Effective digital monitoring software will assess a user’s online behaviour, such as internet searches or keyboard strokes. Any activity that is flagged as a risk will be escalated to the relevant designated safeguard lead (DSL), allowing the child to be provided with the necessary support to ensure their welfare. Digital monitoring will only capture behaviour that is deemed a potential risk to a student’s safety and wellbeing, meaning it does not invade on their privacy.

For further in-depth information about the role of digital monitoring, how it can support schools to protect students from mental health concerns, and how it can be successfully integrated into your schools existing safeguarding strategy, download our free whitepaper  ‘A School’s Complete Guide to Active Monitoring’ below.

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