As the years have gone by and the internet has advanced we’ve seen amazing, ground breaking things happen as a result: The Arab Spring, millions raised for charities like Cancer Research UK and the Teenage Cancer Trust, lost children found through the efforts of thousands of strangers sharing photos..
But with all of this good, comes some bad.
The bad that I’m referring to is the effect the web can have on young people. Having such a huge, easily accessible and easily exploited resource left at our fingertips can have dangerous results which are often dismissed as trivial teenage problems.
I’m talking about mental health. Being switched on 24/7 and easily reached at the click of a button means there’s little escape from the gossip,stresses and even torment that a lot of young people experience on a daily basis. There’s a need in the culture of young people, myself included, to know everything. Everything that’s being said, being done or being seen. This feeling of having to be connected is not necessarily the cause of, but I argue is adding to, the growing mental health issues among young people.
You can use the classic “solution”: ‘Just switch off your phone then’ or ‘Don’t read your twitter if it’s such a big deal’ – but that really doesn’t solve the problem. The internet has now become another area of society, it’s so entrenched in our culture that by not having social media profiles you’re effectively excluded from a social sphere. To do this by choice is completely fine, but to do this because you have no choice through fear of what people will say to or about you is no more acceptable than being scared to go to school because of the bullies in the classroom.
We need to be educated in how to use the internet safely, appropriately and moderately and those who are using it as a tool for targeting other need to be dealt with accordingly. It’s ridiculous to tell the victims (who have done nothing wrong!) ‘don’t use it if you don’t like it‘, segregating them further from their peers and seriously expecting all of their problems to melt away as a result.
Anxiety and mental health is a topic very close to my heart and my reality. Myself and the young people I teach have been working on an event highlighting the topic for a very long time.
We’re screening a film called InRealLife at the Barbican Centre about the effect of the internet/technology on young people and their mental health. I can honestly and unbiasedly say that this event is going to be extremely interesting, opening the long avoided gates of discussion on mental health in young people.
There’s a Q&A afterwards with the director Beeban Kidron (also directed Bridget Jones Diaries) a YouTuber and a Neuroscientist. The panel is diverse in opinions as the film takes a seemingly negative approach to the effects of the internet, whereas Ali Jardine (YouTuber) is pro internet and Kate Mills (neuroscientist) will be giving us a purely factual and physical account of the effects of the internet on the teenage brain.
My students will be co-chairing the Q&A so it’d be amazing if some of you come down and have your say on the topic – I’d love to hear what you all think!
You can read more and buy tickets here:
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