Young people now lead almost seamless online and offline lives

Given the fact that young people now lead almost seamless online and offline lives, it is clear that the internet and technology must have effects on mental health and wellbeing. Evidence is emerging all the time as to the risks, and the opportunities that online activities, including social media, can have for young people, and indeed adults.

We have been involved with several exciting projects aiming to explore the often unreported benefits of digital technology for young people. We are keen to highlight the need for further research and the potential for new positive developments. Through the Right Here project, in partnership with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we have developed new approaches to supporting the mental health of 16 to 25 year olds, with much focus on the significance of digital technology. With the Innovation Labs project, young people have worked with mental health and digital professionals to co-design seven ideas for development. All these ideas utilise digital technology to provide highly personalised services and support.

It’s vital that adults understand the digital lives young people live and can guide them to develop their informed digital citizenship. This should include developing the ability of young people to regulate their own use of online activity.

Parents play an important role in influencing how children engage with their world and guidance to support them to understand this emerging virtual life is useful. However, it is equally as important that we encourage children and young people to become rounded and resilient people who can live balanced lives in all environments. There is work to be done beyond the family home to guide the development of safe and enjoyable online environments where young people can learn and have fun.

Much of the world has changed since our own childhoods and some of these changes will be permanent. We may not be able to enable our children to reclaim the childhood of our youth but we do now need to stop and take stock to ensure that we are doing all we can to ensure that our children can navigate the world they live in now.