Teenage Mental Health – Internet: Helpful or Harmful?

IMG_0363

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:
http://www.barbican.org.uk/film/event-detail.asp?ID=16477

If you leave a comment, please be respectful of myself and each other x

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Teenage Mental Health – Internet: Helpful or Harmful?

  1. I definitely agree that the internet can be harmful. While it can be an irreplaceable resource for research, staying in touch with people, and getting the latest news, it can also be dangerous. One of the most prominent examples I can think of is pro-mia and pro-ana websites that promote eating disorders. Also, pro-cutting websites that post pictures of self-harm which may be triggering to sufferers can be extremely influential. The potential for the internet to incubate this dangerous content which is then accessible to anyone with a phone or a computer is scary. Its definitely something that needs to be paid attention to.

    Like

    • I totally agree Ayla, and thank you for your comment! I think your totally right it’s a wonderful resource and it’s safe to say it won’t be going anywhere, but there are some very dark corners online and young people can’t and shouldn’t be monitored by parents etc 24/7. So I think the best way to approach it is to give people proper education in how to use it. Like you say about the self-harm websites (I hadn’t even thought about these!), we should try to teach young people not to replace real life human interaction and support with what you can find on the internet. I’m really glad to hear you agree, I often find it difficult to bring the topic up because people are so pro internet they struggle to see (or refuse to acknowledge) any negatives that come from it. Thanks again, definitely nice to hear your point of view! 🙂

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s