Online Risks Series #6: Social Media & Mental Health

From next week schools will start welcoming some children back into the classroom in what is sure to be challenging transitional period for themselves and for the children as they begin to adjust to a routine shaped by Covid-19.

Pupils, who won’t have experienced any close physical contact with their friends for over two months, will face the task of having to adhere to social distancing measures and rigorous levels of cleanliness; a test for adults, let alone young children.

This of course all comes off the back of a lengthy national lockdown. For many children, feelings of loneliness, separation and isolation will have developed and are likely to have impacted on their mental health and wellbeing.

A further contributory factor could be the 24 hours coverage of the pandemic on the news, the internet and on social media. All of which could cause distress, as well as confusion.

That why it’s important that as parents and carers, we are alert to these potential triggers.

The impact of social media

In today’s climate, social media does tend to afford individuals the opportunity to portray their life in an overwhelmingly positive light, whether this be through little snippets of activities, exaggerated posts or even filters.

As adults, we are frequently able to see through the majority of this. But as a child, it does sometimes become difficult to distinguish between what is fact and what is fiction.

Since lockdown commenced, there has been a spate of posts themed around ‘throwbacks’ and looking at holidays or trips that families may have taken prior to the restrictions. If as a parent or carer, you’ve had to cancel your upcoming holiday, posts such as this may make the subject a difficult one for your child to comprehend.

Subsequently, you could face questions such as “Why can’t we go on holiday this year?” or “How come they are allowed out and we’re not?”

How we as parents and adults can help

Being proactive around the above subjects is crucial to helping your child and in supporting their mental health and wellbeing. It’s important so that they can understand and come to terms with the potential pitfalls of social media and how it can often distort reality.

That’s why in order to educate your child, it’s important that you understand the online world as much as possible – in order to inform, you must have the full picture yourself.

Social media can develop into an addictive ‘getaway’ from normal life and it can become easy to be sucked into what others are doing and how ‘great’ their life may be. Try to focus on the positives to be had away from the internet and, in these unprecedented times, how invaluable time spent with those in your household actually can be.

How National Online Safety can support parents and carers

We’ve created an online safety guide which looks at social media & mental health and the impact it has upon children and young people, besides a library of other topic specific guides that tackle the subject from a number of different angles.

Find out more

Click here to view our full range of courses which are designed for the whole school community and provide further advice and guidance on mental health as well as a range of other online harms.

You can also download our online safety guide on social media & mental health, which takes a detailed look at the subject and how to approach it.

Still Have Questions?

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