International Stress Awareness Week – Online Risks in Schools

Today marks the first day of 2020’s International Stress Awareness Week (ISAW). Born from the desire to prevent and reduce stress levels, as well as promote better stress management, ISAW was the brainchild of the International Stress Management Association (ISMA).

Stress is a common emotion in most environments and stress in schools is no exception. Pupils, teachers, and leaders shoulder their fair share for various reasons. In this post, we discuss the effects online risks can have on stress levels both in and out of school, as well as advice on how best to mitigate them.

Online activity causing stress for young people

Increasingly, children and young people are spending more time online. The digital world offers a range of benefits including entertainment, socialising, and learning. However, as with most things, there is also a flip side.

The digital environment can also present fake newscyberbullyingdata thieves, and damaging experiences on social media. In 2017, schoolgirl, Molly Russell, took her own life after viewing harmful content on Instagram.

The increasing exposure to online threats is putting children’s mental health at risk. This year, the NSPCC estimated a shocking 90 cybercrimes were recorded against children every day. Additionally, the charity revealed the number of young people calling Childline had risen by 25%.

In the same report, it continued that children were using their digital identities to mask their worries: “But behind the filters, feed, and emojis, many of them are suffering.”

The Internet Watch Foundation has revealed that 46% of sexual images reported to them through their hotline is of children 10 years or younger.

The issues and crimes that children face online indicate a very serious problem, not just in terms of legality, but towards their emotional and mental wellbeing. Mental health charity, YoungMinds, states: “three children in every classroom have a mental health problem”.

Teacher and staff wellbeing

Education Support’s Teacher Wellbeing Index 2018 report, discovered that 80% of senior leaders in the education sector described themselves as stressed, followed by 64% of teachers and 62% of people in “other roles”. Symptoms of stress presented themselves as:

  • Insomnia/trouble sleeping
  • Mood swings
  • Panic attacks
  • Overeating/undereating
  • High blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Recurring headaches/migraines
  • Muscle tension

Online Harms Bill

Recognising the dangers that the digital environment can have on children and young people, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office jointly created a white paper outlining plans to make the UK “the safest place in the world to go online”. This white paper founded a new proposed bill called the Online Harms Bill. However, COVID-19 has delayed a draft bill from reaching parliament and the DCMS has revealed it is unlikely to until the end of 2021. 

Support for healthy wellbeing online

Adopting a healthier online identity and routine is paramount to helping ease certain tensions. To help support teachers, school leaders, parents, and pupils, National Online Safety offers a comprehensive suite of webinars, guides, and courses to help improve online safety and mental wellbeing.

Additionally, the Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 guidance, released by the Department for Education in September, emphasises the value of implementing strong mental health aspects within schools’ safeguarding policies.

Designed in accordance with this guidance, the Certificate in Understanding Mental Health provides education professionals with a better grasp of mental wellbeing. To successfully safeguard pupils against ill mental health, it is vital that education professionals comprehend their own and what it means first. This essential CPD course, presented by mental health expert, Anna Bateman, will explore the various aspects wellbeing including recognising the symptoms of ailing mental health and understanding prevention measures.

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