How can schools take part in both Children’s Mental Health Week and Safer Internet Day
In 2023, Safer Internet Day (7 February) and Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12 February) fall within the same week. With just a few weeks to go until both, we’ve shared some ideas on how schools can take part in both campaigns.
What is Children’s Mental Health Week?
The theme this year is Let’s Connect. When we have healthy connections – to family, friends and others – this can support our mental health and our sense of wellbeing. And when our need for rewarding social connections is not met, we can sometimes feel isolated and lonely – which can have a negative impact on our mental health.
For Children’s Mental Health Week 2023, Place2Be is encouraging people to connect with others in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways.
What is Safer Internet Day?
Safer Internet Day is the UK’s biggest online safety awareness day, and in 2023 will take place on 7 February 2023, with celebrations and learning based around the theme ‘Want to talk about it? Making space for conversations about life online’.
Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre, we are celebrating by putting children and young people’s voices at the heart of the day and encouraging them to shape the online safety support that they receive.
How do online safety and mental health work together?
With young people spending more time online, we know that this time will have an impact on their digital wellbeing and mental health, both positively and negatively.
An estimated 1 in 3 children globally are already an internet user. A recent UNICEF study found that more than a third of young people in 30 countries report being cyberbullied, with 1 in 5 reporting to have skipped school, as a result.
However we know that many young people also gain great experiences from being online, not only for talking to friends or family, but also for finding support, gaming, researching and much more. In 2021, Safer Internet Day research found that over half of young people (58%) say playing games online changes their mood positively, and 59% say it makes them feel good about themselves.
In schools, conversations you start about online safety and the impact it has on mental health can help young people to feel empowered to speak out and talk to an adult if they ever feel concerned about something they see or experience online.
The benefit of celebrating both Safer Internet Day and Children’s Mental Health Week
By incorporating Safer Internet Day into your Children’s Mental Health Week celebrations, you can ensure that your learners are thinking about their wellbeing, whether they are spending time online or offline.
There are a few easy ways you can do this:
Talk to your students about building relationships online
There’s little difference between life on and offline for the current generation of children and young people who have grown up with unfettered access to the internet. But with growing concerns around e-safety, it’s essential as a teacher to discuss why building online connections could come with certain risks and real-life ramifications.
The Safer Internet Day resources for 11-14s creates opportunities for your students to reflect on different forms of online communication, explore the influence of tech on their relationships and interests, and discuss the positive and negative impacts of online trends.
Create space to talk about specific online issues
The issues that young people face online, and the impact that these will have, will vary from school to school, and it is important to create a space where young people can talk about the things affecting them online, whatever that may be. The resources for Safer Internet Day are all about starting these conversations and supporting the young people you work with when they reach out.
As difficult as these conversations can be with your students, it’s essential to have an open and honest dialogue to help them with anything they might be experiencing online. The approach should always be to remain calm, mindful and non-judgmental.
If you think any of your students have been affected by cyberbullying or grooming or think they might be at risk, signpost all the ways they can seek help from an adult within their support network. It is important that you follow your school’s safeguarding policy and procedures if you are concerned about a student.
A recent Stem4 survey found that 97% of children as young as 12 are now on social media. While many of them will find these to be enjoyable, fun communities to be a part of, 70% said it makes them feel stressed, anxious and depressed. There is also increasing concern about the rise of mental health disorders such as body dysmorphia and other acts of self-harm.
Some students will feel comfortable discussing their more difficult experiences on social media, while others, especially those at risk, might go under the radar. As schools, you can help support them by creating a safe environment to discuss some of the advantages as well as the disadvantages of life online.
We recommend reading advice on Childnet on what to do if your students see something online that upsets them. You could also share Place2Be’s tips on healthy ways to use social media with parents and carers.
Tackling disinformation (fake news)
Children and young people are constantly bombarded with misinformation in an increasingly saturated media landscape online. You can speak to your students about how it’s not always easy to decipher between real and fake news. Sometimes it is done to encourage more divineness online or to cause harm to individuals/groups in society.
Childnet have created information and advice around key online issues, including fake news, for young people aged 11-18. These pages can be useful for your students to read through to find out about issues they may be facing online. Safer Internet Day resources from 2021 also focus on misinformation and fake news for all ages.
Mental health support
While we champion preventative measures and early intervention for a safer internet and support for children’s mental health, however, there will be many students who have already been affected by online content or abuse or practices. Place2Be has shared some tips on supporting the wellbeing of children who may have seen upsetting content online.