Technology and Children’s
Mental Health

In a Media Use and Attitudes report published earlier this year, it was revealed that of the UK homes with children aged between 0-18, 97% of them had access to a device connected to the internet— a statistic which firmly underlines technology’s ubiquitous presence in the lives of children and young adults.

With this trend unlikely to subside anytime soon, as children of all ages become more proficient and confident digital navigators, it’s imperative that stakeholders adopt a considered approach to minimise potential risk while ensuring not to devalue the far-reaching benefits and opportunities that technology can provide.  

From parents and teachers being educated on the pitfalls surrounding online behaviour that might affect a child’s mental health and well-being to technology providers providing the tools, software and content to safely traverse the digital space.

In education, the seismic impact of the pandemic, combined with pressurised testing and grade attainment has increased anxiety levels for students, while the influence of social media often only goes to heighten the malaise. Never has it been more important to create a safe environment for children and improve learning outcomes for those with mental and behavioural health conditions.

children using a laptop at home

Safeguarding children’s
mental health

Social media and excessive screen time have been linked to contributing factors to children's mental health in recent years. The World Health Organization estimate that globally, approximately 14% of 10–19-year-olds experience mental health conditions of some form—while a study conducted in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK revealed that social media platforms such as Instagram can have a negative impact on young people's mental health, contributing to feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem.

While the use of social media can have detrimental effects on a child's mental well-being, it's crucial to remember that not all online experiences are negative—quite the opposite. Positive social connections and access to an unlimited scope of educational resources are just some of the ways in which children can benefit from digital technology and improve their sense of social value and educational growth. Again, the onus is on parents and teachers to guide children on the responsible use of technology and help them develop a healthy association with digital media.

This can include limiting screen time, applying age-sensitive filtering software on devices, and encouraging an open dialogue about online experiences to help them be aware of the potential impact of social media and excessive screen time on their mental health.

children using a laptop at home

How can technology help?

Written in 2017, The Digital Childhood Paper made clear that in today’s technology-dependent educational environment, children should not be denied access to the wealth of information available online for the benefit of their academic development, while also recognising that a framework needs to be put in place by parents, education leads, and technology service providers to ensure that any online ventures are made safe.  Through online safeguarding techniques deployed into school policy, high-quality training, and clear lines of communication between teachers and parents on best practices, a roadmap for responsible internet use for children can be developed.

Training for staff

In the government-mandated Keeping Children Safe in Education initiative, set standards were identified to ensure that all staff were required to enrol in online safety training, both during the induction process and at regular intervals thereafter. Alongside this focused training, teachers are also urged to be proactive in their approach to online safety and explore means to further improve their safeguarding techniques within the learning environment. 

Such strategies can include subscribing to newsletters from recognised online safety organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation. These valuable resources can support staff as they look to stay abreast of online trends and the potential risks associated with technology. In short, it’s crucial that staff understand the potential warning signs that a child may display when experiencing online abuse or when exposed to harmful material. 

Safeguard your school

One practical solution that schools can adopt to help safeguard children’s mental well-being when accessing online material is the use of intelligent, cloud-based web filtering software. Instead of a blanket approach to restricting inappropriate web content, advanced filtering software can help combat some of the more sophisticated safeguarding concerns.

Standard filters, for instance, fail to identify the risks associated with social media, while harmful content concealed within emails and cloud documents often remains undetected by less comprehensive filtering systems. Flags for instances of cyberbullying, self-harm, or suicide risks can also be missed using outdated software—meaning vital intelligence doesn’t reach the assigned safeguarding lead or staff member who needs it most.

students using a laptop in the classroom

Advanced cloud-based filtering software

State-of-the-art monitoring systems, such as the signature-based web filter from Securly, use advanced AI software to observe students’ internet habits and provide education leads with hyper-specific data. From emails and search engine usage to social media activity and once-inaccessible cloud documents, Securly will recognise those vital red flags that other software might miss. From contextualised negative sentiments to the onset indicators of cyberbullying, self-harm, or suicide risk. When seconds can mean the difference between intervention and catastrophe, this critical intelligence can then be delivered instantly to either school staff members or designated safety leads.

Securly also combines advanced AI alongside online specialists to further safeguard the online experience for children. Available round the clock, these specialists can virtually monitor children’s mental and emotional well-being— instantly flagging any concerns to the relevant channels. 

Online counselling for children

When used responsibly, technology has the inherent power to connect, support and enhance the lives of its users. While face-to-face mental health services were an impossibility during the pandemic, therapy sessions were able to be moved online to help those suffering from any number of mental health and anxiety issues either caused or heightened by the enforced isolation of lockdown.

The improvement of online children’s counselling services is one of the unforeseen success stories following the pandemic. As confident digital natives, children often use the internet as a conduit to share experiences, so the idea of online therapy seemed like a natural environment in which to open up and talk about their difficulties, in a safe space and with a trained professional.

How can Computeam help?

Here at Computeam, we understand the critical role technology plays in both the challenges and opportunities related to children's mental health. We are committed to the practice of working with schools, educators, and parents to help leverage technology's positive impact while mitigating its potential risks. If you’d like to find out more about some of the services available to help create a safe online space for your students, then please do get in touch.

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Posted on November 24th 2023

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