For children and young people the internet and social media has become an important part of their life. Used safely, it provides a great way to learn, connect and have fun. However children can also be exposed to dangers online which may include cyberbullying, online grooming and sexual abuse.
Research indicates that mental health conditions are on the rise with recent data showing that 1 in 8 children and young people between ages 5-19 in England have a mental health problem. During Mental Health Awareness Week we thought it important to highlight the impact that the internet and social media can have on children and young people’s mental health and look at practical ways to reduce the risks of them being exposed to harmful or unsuitable content and interactions.
To find out more about the effects of social media on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, Barnardo’s gathered information from 80 practitioners across more than 30 Barnardo’s services in the UK. This is what their research found:
Half of these practitioners responding said they had worked with children aged five to 10 who had been exposed to unsuitable or harmful materials online, and more than one third said children in that age group had been victims of cyberbullying.
When it comes to 11-15 year olds, 79% of practitioners responding said children they work with have experienced cyberbullying. Some practitioners highlighted that cyberbullying had led to self-harm and suicide.
78% of practitioners responding also said they had worked with children in this age group who had been groomed online and 78% also said they’d worked with children in this age group who had accessed unsuitable/harmful content.
We have produced an interactive resource with videos, information and step by step guides from reputable organisations to help you keep children safe online.
You may also find useful information and guidance from the following organisations:
We also recognise that the internet and social media use has positive and negative implications for adults too and this Online Mental Health guide from the mental health charity Mind explains the benefits and challenges to your mental health of being online, and gives ideas for looking after yourself online and getting support. It also provides information on staying safe online and getting the balance right between your online and offline life.
Please also visit our Improving Wellbeing page which has additional resources and links regarding mental health and wellbeing.