COLUMN: Social media and children

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Parents in the UK are more likely to worry about their children’s mental well being than any other health issue (BBC January 7, 2015). So why ,in 2017, do children have such difficulties with their mental health?

Several explanations have been offered as to why this might be.

These reasons can be divided into those of nature and nurture. Regarding nature, there have been suggestions that mental health difficulties can be passed, genetically, from parent to child.

So, if a parent has a particular issue, for example anxiety or depression, it may be that their child themselves then exhibits some of these same traits. The child may not even recognise that their behaviour is a concern.

Parents therefore should be alert to these kinds of indicators in both themselves and their children.

Arguably, the biggest source of stress for many children in 2017 is social media.

Lives are lived out on various apps including Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram.

Children feel incredibly pressured to be seen to be living a fantastic life with lots of friends and doing amazing things. If a child doesn’t ‘fit’ what might be the consequences? They may be subject to ridicule, bullying and cruelty.

At the extreme, they could become one of the 16 teenagers that successfully take their life each year.

Children naturally have some vulnerabilities. These include age, gender, lack of power, resources and disability to name but a few.

These criteria cannot be changed, so it is more thinking how that child can be protected against the potential negative consequences of such things.

Things such as having a trusted adult they can share their worries with, pursuing a hobby, being interested in and attending school plus having good self confidence will all serve as positive protective factors and strengthen that child`s emotional well being.

Good mental health is something we should all be concerned with.

Being a positive role model for children can have a significant impact which includes being open and honest about moods and feelings.

Children need support so they can successfully make that transition from childhood to adulthood.

Helping children negotiate their way in an increasingly complex and pressurised society is key to keep them mentally well.