Have you ever wondered about the impact of the internet on your child’s mental health? Research shows that one child in 10 has a diagnosable mental health issue, and many experts say that number could be even higher. Through Parent Zone’s work with schools, health practitioners and parents, we know that they’re worried about this trend, and some wonder if technology could be partly to blame.
In my report, The Perfect Generation: Is the Internet Undermining Young People’s Mental Health? we set out to discover what young people really think about mental health and the internet. We talked to people aged 13 to 20 around the UK, as well as to teachers, deputy head teachers and school nurses.
Is the internet bad for your mental health? What young people think:
Many comments highlighted how the internet can have both a negative and positive effect. “The internet definitely amplifies everything – the good and the bad. You just have to choose the right route,” was one response.
Another made a similar point: “Harmful sites […] are too easily accessible. These can either trigger the beginning of a mental illness or exacerbate it. On the other hand, the internet can make it easier for some to reach out for help, and one can also find others online struggling with similar difficulties.”
The study also revealed that just over a quarter of young people would turn to the internet first if they had a problem, but more than 60% would prefer to talk, in person, to someone they trust. The most common reason that children said they wouldn’t reach out was because they were worried about disappointing their parents or feeling awkward around their friends.
How can we help?
Nearly three-quarters of schools have dealt with a pupil with a mental health problem that they think was made worse by the pupil’s online activity. And lots of teens felt adults would be more able to help them with digital problems if they better understood a young person’s perspective.
The internet is now where social dramas play out, and where teens experiment with relationships. It’s a tool they use to study and discover the world. As parents, we need to do what we’ve always done: talk to our children, be there for them, and make sure they know we love them no matter what.