It is no secret that social media usage can have a detrimental impact on children and young people’s mental health. Data has proven that it can result in issues with anxiety, depression, body image concerns, self-harm, substance abuse and, as we’ve seen in recent news articles, even death.

Increase in internet and social media use by age:

5-7 year olds 8-11 year olds 12-15 year olds
5% have a smartphone 35% have a smartphone 83% have a smartphone
67% go online for nearly 9.5 hours a week 93% go online for nearly 12.5 hours a week 99% go online for nearly 20.5 hours a week
4% have a social media account 18% have a social media account 69% have a social media account
Source: 2019 OECD Report

Whilst we can’t completely control the way that young people use social media, we can
educate them on safe social media use and teach them how to raise concerns with an
adult when needed.  What does healthy social media usage look like?

  • Limiting the amount of screen time – Avoiding prolonged scrolling and fixating on
    accounts that make the viewer feel bad or less worthy
  •  Only following accounts that make you feel good – Choosing a curated list of
    accounts to follow that promote positivity, portray things realistically and
    encourage healthy behaviour is much better than persistently being shown
    unhealthy, unrealistic imagery that promotes negative behaviours.
  • Being aware of what is and is not appropriate to share.

Safe social media use for young people includes:

  • Understanding our own
    boundaries around what we are and are not comfortable sharing with a complete
  • Being kind – Understanding that leaving hurtful comments publicly can cause
    great upset and lead to bullying.
  • Not trolling others – Refusing to engage in negative and bullying behaviours
  • Not engaging in conversations with strangers – Knowing when it is unsafe to
    communicate with strangers, particularly if that person is asking the viewer to go
    off-platform or send images.

By communicating the issues around healthy and unhealthy social media use with
young people, we can help to prevent potential safeguarding issues that could put that
young person in danger.

What should you do if a young person tells you about a safeguarding issue
they’re facing on social media?:

If a child in your care tells you about a safeguarding issue related to their social media usage, then it is imperative that it gets logged as part of their safeguarding support record.

Ask them for as much information as they can provide, and encourage them to take screenshots so that they have clear evidence that they can show to the appropriate people. Log times, dates, and anything else that seems prevalent. Assure the person that they have done nothing wrong, and encourage them to have a break from their screens whilst they process what has happened.

What to ask a child who is engaged in dangerous social media usage:

  • Who have they been communicating with online?
  • What kind of thing are they asking them?
  • Where are these discussions taking place?
  • How does the conversation make them feel?

If you are concerned about the social media usage of children in your care, and would like to learn more about how CURA can help you log safeguarding issues surrounding online safety, do get in touch here.